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152 Green Clothing, Form or Function 2009-11-18

synchilla pullover

So if Patagonia, is Clothing Done Right, do they do anything wrong? Reading about their environmental practices from the Patagonia site, the company’s manufacturing creeds are painstakingly fair and green. Case closed. But, not so fast there.

What led me to this topic was a conversation my wife and I had about Friday’s blog. She loves Patagonia, but ... Except for some technical outerwear, Patagonia has styled themselves away from her. She used to buy their simple tees and various pants for work; but now, she shops elsewhere. Their styles have changed. The shirts are no longer simple and the pants have become hip huggers. My wife will be quick to tell you, forty-something year old school teachers do not wear hip huggers. She now buys her school clothes from L L Bean. Patagonia offers green clothing; but if they allow their designers to follow the fashion trends, the clothing will never be everlasting.

As mentioned in Clothing Done Right, I have a thirty year old bunting pile jacket that is still wearable. It is threadbare; but still stylish. The color and design of the jacket were basic and everlasting. It was not a fad design or color guaranteed to be prehistoric in just a few years. The jacket’s functional style outlived it’s simple threads.

For clothing to be truly green and sustainable, it should be made with sustainable organic or recycled materials, using fair and just manufacturing principles, and be styled for the ages. The garment should be someone’s best friend for years. But if a garment’s style is only current for a couple of years, then it does not matter how the garment was made, it has a short life span. (Patagonia has a garment recycling program.) A not so green garment that may be worn and passed down until it is worn out is probably more sustaining.

I am not advocating that everyone wear drab style-less clothing; but rather that the manufacturers incorporate a thirty year plan into every garment. Where will the garment be in thirty years? Will the garment’s style still be wearable? Will the fabrics last? Will the color’s popularity endure? The fashion industry needs a good dose of sustainable function added.

Patagonia revolutionized the garment industry by changing their cotton clothing line to incorporate only organic material. They sold the idea to other buyers, sellers, manufacturers, and to consumers. Possibly now, the next step will be to incorporate a philosophy of life long design into their clothes. And then, change the industry again!

Note: The men’s clothing line is not nearly as effected by style as the women’s. The women’s styles have few "non-fad" options. The old synchilla pullover (pictured above), is about twenty years old. The colors are so 1980s. I cannot even believe I bought it much less wore it. It was even one of my favorites! It is a good example of way outdated colors.

Note again: Patagonia is not the only green clothing business with an eye on fashion. Tree Hugger has lots of green fashions displayed on their pages. The clothing is so stylish, it is probably out of style before it leaves the store! It is good for the earth to be green, but with a long lasting style, it could even be better.

Note again, again: Patagonia is a great company, they still have room to grow just like all of us do. I still buy my clothes from them, but perhaps only in styles that look like they will stand the test of time.

Happy green trails.


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