Patagonia Company History
The first iteration of the Patagonia brand got started in 1957, when founder Yvon Chouinard went to a junkyard to purchase blacksmithing tools. Chouinard's vision was to forge re-usable pitons for rock climbing. He sold them for $1.50 each. For the next few years,
Chouinard forged pitons during the winter months, and spent the rest of the year climbing in Yosemite, Wyoming, Canada or the Alps. He supported himself by selling gear out of the back of his car, scraping by on fifty cents to a dollar a day. According to Patagonia's
official company history, "Before leaving for the Rockies one summer, (Chouinard) bought two cases of dented, canned cat tuna from a damaged-can outlet in San Fracisco.
This food supply was supplemented by oatmeal, potatoes, and poached ground
squirrel and porcupines."
However, the impoverishment was not to last long. In 1965, demand for Chouinard's gear was strong enough that he could no longer hand-forge his products. Chouinard entered a partnership with Tom Frost, and together they
redesigned, improved and manufactured Chouinard's original line. By 1970, Chouinard Equipment had become the largest supplier of climbing gear in the United States. It was also around this time that Chouinard entered the outdoor
At the time, outdoor fashion trended mostly toward khaki and gray. Climbers often sported tan cut-off chinos and thrift store white shirts. Chouinard bucked the trend a bit with a regulation rugby shirt, also acquired second-hand. The
fabric was rugged and the collar practical. Chouinard had unintentionally added a new product line to Patagonia.
As the brand grew, so did its technology. Patagonia is often credited with introducing the concept of
"layering." This approach relies on an underlayer of clothing to wick away perspiration, a middle layer for insulation, and an outer shell to
repel moisture and block wind. By the 1980s, Patagonia was a well-recognized brand, both fashionably and functionally. It continues to develop environmentally-friendly fabrics, consumer-friendly styles and sport-friendly
gear and apparel.
(Adapted from "Patagonia: A Company History and Evolution of Clothing and Design")