Patagonia Sportswear, Winter 1999

According to the Annual Catalog Awards judging panel, Patagonia’s new catalog does a number of things to distinguish itself from other sportswear books. First, Patagonia makes great use of its inside cover to explain its iron-clad guarantee policy as well as its commitment to the environment. In fact, the catalog provides a legend that shows readers what kind of recycled materials are found in each product. And 1% of all sales are donated to preserve and restore the natural environment. The catalog itself is printed on recycled paper, of course.

The catalog is readable and friendly, with dynamic copy describing the action shots and discussing Patagonia employees’ conservation efforts. The cataloger also invites customers to send in photos and stories about the products for use in future books.

Persuasive, concise copy gives readers the product information they need, as well as gift-giving suggestions and washing instructions, which judges found particularly helpful. Here, Patagonia takes its environmentally friendly message to another level by telling customers how to clean apparel without resorting to toxic dry-cleaning methods.

Compared with Patagonia’s typical catalog efforts, which sell high-performance gear for extreme-sports enthusiasts, this title clearly targets the more mainstream consumer. Patagonia is careful not to overwhelm customers with too much technical copy about its signature rugged wear. Instead, the catalog conveys the message that the apparel is multipurpose – for dress and for sport – with copy and headlines such as “a shirt for all seasons.”

The judges unanimously applauded the catalog design and production. As one judge said, “The catalog effectively uses graphics and white space, tying them in to its theme of appreciation of nature.” And another panelist added, “Good graphics and design, coupled with good copy, equals great sales numbers.” But several judges did note that sometimes the expansive and breathtaking action photography command too much space on the page at the expense of the product shots, leaving the latter too compressed to sell as effectively as they might otherwise.

Overall, though, the judges were highly impressed by Patagonia Sportswear’s debut. The spin-off is sure to delight Patagonia’s existing customers as well as bring in many new buyers.