Saturday, August 12, 2006

Outdoor Retailer Summer Mkt-Patagonia Footwear

Patagonia is one of my long time favorite outdoor companies and I have been a loyal customer literally since their first fleece jacket in the 1970's. So it was with great interest that I visited Patagonia Footwear. Patagonia had tried footwear a few years ago on their own and now has licensed to Wolverine whose brands include Merrell.

So what did I expect and what did I see.

Well, I expected a strong focus on environmental responsibility, social responsibility, and sustainable practices. I saw this in spades with very innovative uses of hemp, leather processed to high environmental standards, natural latex, and recyled materials. It seems like they really looked at every step of the process of making footwear and did not merely pay lip service to these responsibilities. Just about every company at OR is starting to think and act this way. As the originators of this kind of responsibility in apparel I expected nothing less.

I expected subtle and relatively timeless designs. Yes, the designs were beautiful, the color palettes subtle, the detailing on the women's shoes very stylish. In fact while the folks in the booth told me distribution would be in speciality retail as for Patagonia apparel I see strong potential in places like Nordstrom and most especially in Europe.

I expected to see performance models in keeping with Patagonia's tradition of making products which are as useful on a summit as in the city. I did not see performance or innovation in performance. Companies can't do everything but I would have expected some surprises such as a high performance shoe which looks great at work, for travel and could double up as a high performance trail runner.

Conclusion: Patagonia has created a first line which is functional in the city, traveling, on the water and on some trails. It's very stylish and leaves a low footprint. It's an extension of their sportswear lines not their core mountain origins.

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