It’s not often an event can bring together the likes of Wayne Lynch, Jack McCoy, Dick Van Straalen, Peter Harris and Dick Hoole under one roof. Such is the respect for the newly refurbished Patagonia store in Burleigh that the surf industry legends didn’t hesitate to attend its launch on a blustery winter Friday night.
Patagonia is a highly respected, socially responsible, outdoor clothing and equipment company. While catering to a wide variety of sports, the Burleigh store maintains a strong emphasis on surf culture. Short board pioneer Wayne Lynch is an ambassador, as is Northern NSW’s Dan Ross. Blank GC’s Pip Andreas and Erin Bourne were stoked to hang out with the elite bunch of gnarly dudes on the night. Even though the legendary surf film-maker Jack McCoy recoiled in disbelief at Pip taking a photo of him and fellow legend, board shaper Dick Van Straalen, with just her iPhone! Journalists indeed.
Pip Andreas caught up with General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Dane O’Shanassy on the night.
Is this refurbishment part of a rebranding of all Patagonia stores in Australia and New Zealand?
No, just Burleigh. We decided to open a store in Burleigh Heads a number of years ago because it’s a historical part of surfing and Patagonia has a strong surf arm of the business. Unlike the southern part of the Gold Coast which is certainly more commercial, we felt this is the place to have a more community minded store.
When you say “community minded”, what do you mean?
We will be holding events like movie nights and book launches here, but we’re also interested in supporting local grass roots environmental groups. Everywhere that Patagonia has a store, we seek out small local groups that are trying to make a difference to the environment in their area. Patagonia has a local grant making operation as well. Globally we give 1% of annual revenue to grass roots environmental causes. Last year in Australia we gave about $65,000 in grants and this year we are looking to push that up to about $100,000.
Which local Gold Coast organisations are you supporting?
We are still trying to find that out. Part of the call out tonight is because we a really interested to let people know about our support, and to come into the store and let us know what they are doing. One group we have supported in the past is Boomerang Bags. One of our old staff members Jordan has been a tour de force in that operation. We’re looking for individuals where having three or four thousand dollars can make a huge difference, rather than writing a cheque for the big end of town. The Gold Coast is a tricky place to find these people. It’s almost like a real city!
Yes, it’s a real city!
So, it’s about finding out about who cares about protecting the Burleigh Headland, who cares about keeping rubbish off the beaches, here, not just nationally. We support the Surfrider Foundation, but we also want to show customers here that we care about the place where we do local business.
How is Patagonia caring for the environment in the production of its clothes? I know you use Tencel for example.
We do. We also use organic cottons and recycled polyester. It comes back to Patagonia’s mission, make the best products, products that people need, cause no unnecessary harm to the planet in every aspect of the business, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis in the way we do business.
What about your supply chain? Where do you get your stuff made?
All around the world: Asia, Central America, North America. We see our suppliers as partners and have a huge commitment to transparency. Log onto our website, navigate to The Footprint Chronicles and you’ll see a map that shows every factory, mill and farm that we source our goods from. We’re trying to hold ourselves to a standard of accountability, and have a sustainable yet profitable business.
Is this part of the Conscious Capitalism philosophy?
Conscious Capitalism is a relevant philosophy in the way we do business, but I wouldn’t say that is the core tenet to Patagonia’s focus. We have a particular focus on grass roots environmentalism as where we want to make a difference. But we have participated in the Conscious Capitalism summits in the past.
Patagonia encourages people to buy one jacket and keep it for years. How does that work as a business model?
I think this phenomena of throw away product is fairly recent. In our parents or grandparents generation, people designed things to last. This concept of planned obsolescence and make it as cheap as you can is kind of recent. I think people understand it’s not a sustainable way of living. There’s an economic factor as well. If you only have to buy one of something instead of 10, then you’ll buy something that lasts.
We found that encouraging people to buy one jacket creates engagement with our customers. We let people know that when the jacket is at the end of its life, it will be recycled responsibly.
So people can bring their old Patagonia clothes back to this store. What do you do with the old clothes?
We have a global supply chain of recyclers, in particular we use Tienjin in Japan which recycles polyester. They can then, manufacture new Patagonia products from that. We don’t have that in every single circumstance in Australia. Often we take the zippers or buttons off and use them in new products. It’s a journey. We haven’t figured out everything yet.
We’ve had some criticism about the toxic DWR coating we put on jackets to waterproof them. People have asked why we don’t use beeswax. Through our research, we found that DWR coatings were really durable so we could make our jackets last 8 to 10 years versus a beeswax jacket that would last 1 to 2 years.
We’re a company that acknowledges we’re on a journey, We haven’t got all the answers, we’re not perfect, but we try to evaluate every decision we make.
Erin Bourne spoke with Dan Ross about the Patagonia culture and being an Ambassador.
What is the basis for the ambassador role?
Been through the surfing professional side of things. It’s different to a sponsorship, this is a family based kind of deal, giving feedback on the products. Basically they say ‘take this and go surf in super cold water tell us if it’s good.’ It is product testing and within that it’s all about the stories that come out of that, and the trips with other ambassadors.
What trips do you do?
Patagonia organise the trips, I guess little missions around things they want to be tested. I was recently in Uluwatu in Bali with Gerry Lopez for a 7 day yoga retreat there and brought all his knowledge around that. And surfing and catching up with other ambassadors. Sharing those events and moments, hanging out.
Do you have trips with ambassadors for other sports or just with surfers?
No, they do cross-pollinate a little bit. A lot of the snow ambassadors also surf and even the kite surfers. I was a couple of years in Fiji with Rio …….. and the wind came upLearn more about how they work there equipment, the challenges they face and how each other interact with the ocean. We get together and plan the next mission around finding good waves and fun but there is also initiative within that travel. Like the Bali trip we were working with the group Project Clean Uluwatu. Finding out what they are doing and what the challenges. So we understand more the places we go, what the challenges are and how a company like Patagonia can help.
And how can the individual help?
Exactly, even more so. On a level of educating, and the things each person can do which comes down to daily choices. I’m actually working on a project ‘One for Life’ based around reducing the amount of single use plastic ending up in the ocean. We’re building a cool re-useable glass water bottle that we want to use as a push for this project. We will use surfing as a platform to promote and talking platform to try to reduce the amount of waste in our playground. Within those little projects we link in with similarly aligned organisations and people. As you start searching for it you realise there are a lot of crew out there doing things to help. Even more so to that point, I got approached by two 11 year old kids in America, they had heard about ‘One for Life’ project and were inspired and started ‘Your own bottle is better’. I actually had a Skype call with them to discuss the challenges we were facing and what they wanted to do with theirs. That for me is some really powerful stuff, that the younger generation want to do something. For me it’s a process of continually learning through the people I already know within Patagonia and the extended family from that.
So with this push for all things sustainable and environmentally friendly, how does Patagonia achieve this?
They have a few programs like the Common Threads program or the Worn Wear campaign. I thought this was really cool, they encourage the stories that go with the articles of clothing that have been really well worn and passed around through generations. There are a number of recycle projects. The one thing as a surf ambassador we’re really excited about is the Yulex, plant based bio rubber for wetsuits.
You’ve been wearing the new Yulex wetsuits?
They’re awesome, better than Neoprene I believe. Having said that though you almost can’t really tell the transition in them. The thing that I’ve noticed the smell and the feel of the suit after a while, it’s hard to explain without cliché but it’s more the smell. There is no chemical type smell, you definitely notice it. It’s been an exciting project to work with them on, testing the durability and give feedback on performance. There is no compromise on performance, it’s a big step in the wetsuit industry. Even better they’ve opened it up to everyone. To put it out there and say ‘we’re doing this, if you like it jump on board as well’.
I believe they are working on offering it to other companies, they’ve done all the research and developed this product and if everyone followed suit it would make a bigger impact. This particular project really stays true to the ethos of Patagonia, where it’s not about the profit so much as about making a positive difference in the world.