Patagonia is a world leader in the “responsible outdoor wear” segment. Think “Body Shop for outdoor and recreational clothing and gear”. Like most successful companies, Patagonia spends a large amount of money building its brand.

This it does not only by sponsoring outdoor events and sportsmen and women but also by ploughing money into research for more sustainable clothing, equipment, fabrics, packaging and so on – and creating great online content. As a world leader, Patagonia’s innovations pave the way for others to follow. The company is a major influencer.

African companies like Cape Union Mart, the South Africa-based outdoors retailer that stocks a wider variety slightly cheaper gear, from K-way, through to Hi-Tech and international brands like Salomon, are forced to keep an eye on Patagonia’s progress. K-way itself, a home-grown outdoors specialist, like many other localised brands the world over will keep an eye not only on Patagonia’s fashion sense but also on its materials and behaviour, in order to build a local following and at some level, also to compete.

So, the company’s announcement on Friday (September 25) that Ryan Gellert will become CEO of Patagonia Works, the umbrella company for all its ventures, from clothing to smoked salmon to documentaries, is big news for the outdoors world. Gellert has overseen Patagonia’s business across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa since 2014. 

“The board took a lot of factors into consideration and ultimately felt Ryan’s deep commitment to Patagonia’s mission and values—that the company has had since the beginning—and his experience leading internationally, best positioned us for success in these uncertain times,” Kris Tompkins, a Patagonia board member, said in a statement.

“Further, Ryan’s attentiveness and dedication to seeing others excel, and his passion for our product and activism, made him the right choice for Patagonia’s next chapter.”

According to Outside magazine, Gellert, 48, “is an avid climber and backcountry snowboarder who has ridden all over the world. He previously worked for 15 years at Black Diamond Equipment in a number of roles, including as brand president. (Black Diamond beganlong ago as an offshoot of Patagonia.) He has a law degree from the University of Utah, an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology, and has been on the board of directors of the Access Fund and Protect Our Winters”.

Outside also said the company had announced on Friday that Jenna Johnson, 44, would be the new head of Patagonia, Inc., “responsible for the direction of Patagonia’s business units such as apparel, packs, and other gear. Previously, Johnson, an avid rock climber, had been vice president of technical outdoor for the company, leading groups that built products for everything from trail running to snowboarding. She has an executive MBA from the University of Washington”.

Patagonia has a presence in South Africa via the Gone.Outdoor Supply Co , and has been involved in some of the trail running events we have reported on here, at SPNAfrica News.

Toni McCann after Friday’s July 31 record run, with top veteran athlete, Pieter Calitz. Photo: Stephen Granger