Patagonia Changes Branding Policy, Allows Limited Direct Embroidery
Remember when Patagonia decided to put a pause on all direct embroidery on its products due to sustainability concerns? In April 2021, it felt co-branding garments would lead to forgotten items, a shortened lifespan, and ultimately textile waste. However, the company has recently decided to change course on this decision after finding a more responsible way to approach the promotional products industry.
Patagonia will again permit co-branding of its garments — only allowing back yoke and sleeve embellishments, according to Apparel Resources. The news was announced in an email sent by promotional products distributor Driving Impressions, which is a supplier of Patagonia gear.
The decision to allow limited embroidery comes with the expansion of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, which lets people trade in used Patagonia gear for store credit or purchase pre-worn gear at a discount. This spring, the program will now accept co-branded garments with the option for store credit being slightly different than standard pricing to account for the removal of any embroidered logos.
“They have developed new solutions to either remove, repair, or repurpose embroidered Patagonia products to better extend their usable lifespan and to keep them out of the landfill,” Driving Impressions noted in the email.
While limited co-branding is permitted on a project-by-project basis, Shaun Willhite, Patagonia’s corporate and team sales manager, tells Apparelist the company “still prefers no logo options to ensure the longest life of each item.”
When branding is needed, responsibly sourced zipper pulls are preferred over embroidery because “you can easily remove a company logo for the weekend or when changing jobs,” explains Willhite. “Our intent with these updates is solely based in responsibility for the products we make. Patagonia’s mission is to ‘Save our Home Planet.’”
What Promotional Products Distributors Have to Say
“Our clients never stopped asking for the Patagonia brand, and we’re excited to be able to offer this purpose-driven retail brand again,” notes Mel Hubner, director of social impact and sustainability at Brand Fuel, a Certified B Corp. Speaking to the Worn Wear program expansion, Hubner added: “This will raise the bar for other suppliers, and it will create a greater collective impact in preventing our industry’s products from ending up in the landfill.”
While things like removable hem tags and logoed zipper pulls were workarounds for branding Patagonia garments for the last 11 months, the addition of direct embroidery is a game-changer, according to Mitch Silver, VP of marketing and sales at Printable. “Our clients are really going to like this alternative sleeve or back-of-neck location option,” he added. “Many of them don’t necessarily want left-chest embroidery anyway.”
While the company is allowing direct embroidery in a limited fashion, this does not open the floodgates for distributors. At this time, Patagonia will distribute to the promotional products industry via Driving Impressions on a limited basis, Willhite says.
“Patagonia’s primary business is outdoor retail with saving our home planet as a guiding principle in everything we do,” he affirms. “Promotional products have never been a primary focus for Patagonia. That said, we’ve built a great business the last couple of years in the promotional products industry without permanently-added logos. We’re not trying to grow our logo business. We’re simply experimenting with offering logos on a limited quantity of orders in a responsible way.”
In its email to customers, Driving Impressions noted that “orders will continue to be approved and accepted on a per-order basis.” To avoid any hiccups, it tells distributors to send in end-user information for pre-approval before pitching Patagonia to customers.