Patagonia, Fall 1997

Sep 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

The Patagonia catalog has always been about powerful imagery, and making that imagery grab the reader, tell a story, and sell a product. And throughout its 96 pages, this Gold Award-winning catalog edition exemplifies that Patagonia tradition. As one awestruck judge exclaims, “What can you say? Patagonia is perennially the best of the best of the best.” Another judge sums up the Patagonia magic this way: “It’s what a great catalog should be: an excellent marriage of product, market, and creative.”

That three-way marriage isn’t evident immediately, however. While the front cover shot of a steep snowy mountainside is bold and dramatic and speaks eloquently to a market of adventurers who know the Patagonia brand and depend on the company for high-quality outdoor apparel, no product is pictured. Indeed, it’s difficult to make out the lone person in this shot (which cleverly wraps around to the back cover as well). The mountain, half in sunlight and half in shadow, is empty save for one tiny figure-a speck, really-skiing down a nearly vertical incline that’s identified as “Elephonte, a 3,000-foot vertical run in Valdez, Alaska.” The photograph is vintage Patagonia, selling lifestyle rather than product and using action to get a recipient to open the catalog. “The skier schussing down the steep mountain face begs every person who yearns for freedom to open this book,” says one judge. Another panelist looking at the cover simply whispers, “Fantastic.”

Inside, the aforementioned three-way marriage of creative, product, and market takes over. Crisp, oversize product shots share space with high-drama photos of the products in use, pulled together by copy that’s packed with information and benefits. As one panelist says, the copy is “personal, concise, filled with great imagery, and readable. You run out of superlatives.”

The same level of praise is showered on the merchandise. “It’s the perfect meld of product and outdoor lifestyle,” one panelist notes. As for the design and product presentation? Another perfect 10. “Patagonia shows the product in use, pulls that product out of the shot, and puts it on the page, then it takes that product apart and explains it.” For instance, a spread highlighting Activist fleece shows tops, tights, and bibs, describes the fabric and its various uses, and then adds an action photo of a daredevil parachuter wearing the apparel.

Covering all its bases, this Patagonia catalog also offers a full range of customer services, including a toll-free outdoor information line, a voice/TDD service for the hearing impaired, and fabric care information. Gold Award? You bet.