By creating eco-friendly apparel and working with
the community to preserve the environment,
Patagonia is setting the new industry standard
When it comes to being
clothing brands usually
don’t come to mind. For
many years, outdoor performance apparel
has been associated with being durable
but bulky, sacrificing fashion for functionality.
But Patagonia is breaking down
these stereotypes. Founded in 1973 in
California by rock climber Yvon
Chouinard, this American-based apparel
brand caters to both traditional and trendy
outdoor adventurers. And if there’s one
country that knows anything about trends,
it’s Korea. So it comes as no surprise
when the company opened up its Korea
branch in July of 2016.
With Koreans becoming more health conscious, “well-being” products and exercise apparel are always in high demand. Although Korea’s overall fashion market has fluctuated in recent years, the outdoor clothing industry has shown relatively steady growth. Thanks to such demand, Korea boasts the second largest outdoor goods market in the world despite the country's diminutive size.
“Korean consumers are very interested in outdoor culture,” says Tony Choi, Country Director of Patagonia Korea. “Awareness of environmental issues is also growing. Patagonia’s philosophy of creating environmentally-friendly and durable products combined with Korea’s interest in outdoor activities meshed
together really well.”
In a nutshell, Patagonia’s vision is to make high-quality apparel without harming the environment. Most notably, it transforms used plastic water bottles into polyester fabrics and uses organic cotton free of pesticide or chemicals. The company also works closely with the local community, including grassroots groups to protect the environment. Last year, the company launched the ‘Worn Wear’ campaign, fixing worn out shoes and frayed clothes for customers to minimize the effect that unnecessary spending has on the environment.
But it’s not just nature that Patagonia is passionate about. The company knows well that Korean consumers are heavily driven by trends. To meet the ever-changing demands, Patagonia released an exclusive line of limited edition products from its ‘Pataloha’ (a combination of the words 'Patagonia' and 'aloha') collection for the Korean market. Due to its deft eye for style, Patagonia recorded a 15 percent growth in the first quarter of this year alone. On average, each of the 31
stores in Korea saw sales rise by 20 percent. Following an intricate step-by-step strategy,
Patagonia opens three to five stores
every year. In 2017, the company plans to
expand the total number of stores to 35.
Another reason for Patagonia’s success in Korea is the appeal it has to consumers from all walks of life. Choi says that most Korean consumers used to buy outdoor products related to light activities like hiking. The trend is changing, as Koreans are showing a growing interest in more extreme sports, like mountain biking, climbing and surfing. And to
meet such shifting demands, Patagonia has expanded
its product line to include swimwear,
skiwear, sundresses and underwear. From
socks and sweatshirts to wetsuits and
waders, it’s clear that Patagonia Korea is
redefining the outdoor apparel industry.
Like any company entering uncharted territory, there were a number of obstacles facing Patagonia when it initially came to the Korean market. “Korea’s outdoor product market was stagnant when we first tried to enter. And as a new brand in Korea, operating a stable business was a bit of a challenge. But despite all these factors, Patagonia has become the only outdoor apparel brand that has shown positive growth,” says Choi. “Just like there are so many different cultures, there are also
many different markets. To be a successful
company, you need to implement
a flexible business strategy that
takes into consideration such diversity.”
Although an internationally recognized
brand with a global network, Patagonia’s
Korea office works closely with local
businesses to promote its fashionable yet
functional apparel. With the exception of
manufacturing, all other aspects of business
operation and management are conducted
with domestic companies. Choi
emphasizes that Patagonia actively plans
on establishing long-term partnerships
with them to help Korea’s economy
When asked about the company’s vision beyond Korea, Choi says Patagonia has already entered the Japanese and Australian market. It is also actively doing business in
other Asian countries like China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Considering that Asia makes up a significant portion of the global market, it plans on actively engaging and investing in the Asia region. And with its unwavering passion for creating green fashion, Patagonia Korea is sure to help the rest of the fashion industry clean up its act.