Yvon Chouinard, Ventura, California
Little did we know this blue prototype fleece developed in ’76, which we referred to as rare Siberian blue poodle fur, would be the grandfather of all fleeces.
I knew that people like myself were seeking the joys of outdoor activities in greater numbers and they needed warmer, lighter, quick-drying clothes that did not bog down with moisture as did the cotton and wool garments then commonly in use. I came to believe that the solution was synthetic layers: a base layer to wick, a fleece layer for warmth and an outside layer for wind and moisture protection. Once we came to that conclusion, Patagonia’s team proved they were up to the task of creatively identifying and developing the necessary fabrics.
As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention,” the “necessity” in this case being the need for a nonabsorbent insulating layer and the “invention” representing the resourcefulness of my wife, Malinda Chouinard, who was willing to try even an ugly fabric intended for toilet seat covers because we suspected it best fit our needs. That’s how synthetic fleece was born. We made the first fleece jackets out of a near-bankrupt company’s left-over inventory of muddy, nondescript tan and bilious blue fleece, but it did indeed work, although it pilled badly, which made it look even worse. It has evolved, through trial and error, from that “base” into today’s fleeces.
This first fleece jacket hangs proudly on the wall at Patagonia headquarters, but I had to take it down and try it on for old time’s sake.