What's the history of Patagonia?

Yvon Chouinard's taught himself how to blacksmith in order to create climbing equipment

Yvon Chouinard, who began his career as a climber in the early 1950s, is credited with starting Patagonia.

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Chouinard, billed as both an outdoor enthusiast and environmental activist by Forbes, had developed a lifelong love of rock climbing, which later led to the creation of an outdoor retail chain that has dozens of locations around the world.

By 1957, as he continued to pursue his hobby, Chouinardbegan to teach himself how to blacksmith in order to create climbing tools. With his new talent, the passionate climber was able to make his first pitons with an old harvester blade, according to Patagonia's website.

He then tested out his product on his friend, T.M. Herbert, on "early ascents of the Lost Arrow Chimney and the north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite," the company said.

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Shortly after, his friends "had to have Chouinard’s chrome-molybdenum steel pitons," Patagonia said.

Chouinard's business started to take off, albeit slowly. According to the company, Chouinard was able to create two of his pitons in an hour's time. Each one sold for $1.50, Patagonia said.

He created a shop in his parent's backyard in Burbank, California. However, most of his tools were portable so it was easy for him to travel.

For some time, he supported himself by selling gear from the back of his car although Patagonia noted that his profits at the time were slim.

By 1965, he partnered with his friend and fellow climber, Tom Frost, and cultivated Chouinard Equipment. For nine years the duo redesigned and improved climbing tools. They wanted to make them stronger, lighter, simpler and more functional, according to Patagonia.

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By 1970, merely five years into the business, the company was billed as the largest supplier of climbing hardware in the United States, Patagonia said.

Unfortunately, at the same time, "it had also become an environmental villain because its gear was damaging the rock." As a result, the two minimized their piton business. However, two years later, they introduced aluminum chocks "that could be wedged by hand rather than hammered in and out of cracks," the company said.

As the years progressed, so did the company's product inventory. By 1972, the company started manufacturing clothing. The first few items included rugby shirts from England, polyurethane rain cagoules and bivouac sacks from Scotland, boiled-wool gloves and mittens from Austria as well as reversible beanies from Boulder, the company said.

The very first Patagonia store opened in Ventura, California in 1973 where the company's home base remains today.

The designer of outdoor clothing and gear has since provided customers with droves of gear that cater to a range of sports from surfing to fly fishing and mountain biking.

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