As a sustainable clothing company, Patagonia has taken a different tack with its product lines and regularly opts to use chest-sized billboards known as t-shirts to send powerful activist-oriented messages out to the world.
One of the more controversial Patagonia campaigns of days gone past was its “Fuelish” shirt that featured a gas pump that, instead of a nozzle at the end of the hose, had a handgun. I’ve long been a fan of the shirts and have owned two. When these were lost in the recent Thomas Fire that burned down our house, I was disappointed, but before I could head over to ebay to find a replacement, I ran into the next generation of the shirt at my local Patagonia store.
In the updated version of the Fuelish graphic t-shirt, Patagonia opted to shift the message towards the future. It turns out, they believe that the future is electric. Erick Lord, product line manager at Patagonia, shared a bit of the behind-the-scenes details of the evolution with us:
“The logo team has always had a fondness for the old Fuelish graphic,which depicts the gas pump turning against itself. For the spring 2018 season we knew time was right for a forward looking follow up that unquestionably makes the statement that the future is clean! It’s one way to help drive the conversation toward a solution, rather than getting hung up on the problem.”
Focusing on solutions is, time and time again, significantly more effective and easier for people to grab onto. Translating global problems like climate change, rising tides, and harsher storms into solutions that individuals can grab onto in order to take action today is a wise move. Not next week, not next year, not in 2025 when that one concept car that will solve all of our problems and be our best friend comes out, but today. Plug-in vehicles are on dealer lots today that can solve transportation needs for most commuters in most markets at a variety of price points.
In Bossypants, Tina Fey broke it down like this: “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” Plug-in vehicles are an actionable way for just about everyone to get involved and make a conscious, visible decision to switch from fueling up at the gas pump to charging up with electricity.
Patagonia took this to heart, weaving the new message into its popular “Live Simply” line of clothing. “The focus of our Live Simply graphics is to address the seriousness of the environmental crisis in a more fun or playful way.” Erick Lord shared that Patagonia sees the shirts as a key part of the solution and that “doing this helps create broader engagement around the issues that is often hard to get when the topics are too serious or the images are too grim.”
To be fair, solutions don’t exist for every possible scenario out there today, so we need to stay at it and work through the challenges to find solutions that get us most of the way there. One of my favorite characters in one of my favorite books ever received some sage advice. From Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game: “I need you to be clever, Bean. I need you to think of solutions to problems we haven’t seen yet. I want you to try things that no one has ever tried because they’re absolutely stupid.”
Putting simple steps that folks can take to address some of the most serious problems to face this generation on a 100% organic cotton t-shirt may sound crazy or nonsensical to many, but to others, it might be just the kick in the butt they needed to take a next step. Problems as grand as climate change aren’t generally solved in the lab, but out around town — one family and one decision at a time. I’ve made my decision and bought my shirt. Now it’s time to look for that next step … and the next … and …
Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement of any kind. I bought all of my shirts (at full price, to boot) and believe they send a powerful message that resonates with our readership. Here at CleanTechnica, we love Patagonia, what they stand for, and how they do business. And we love that we can share this cool shirt and company with our readers.
We also sell our own shirts, some of which are admittedly more positive and solutions-oriented than others.
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