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- Credit Line:
Given by Patagonia
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On display in Values of Design, Design Society, Shekou, China
Patagonia, Inc. is an American clothing company founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 that designs and manufactures sustainable outdoor clothing.
Traditionally, the mountaineering community relied on moisture absorbing layers of cotton, wool and down. Patagonia decided instead to design a synthetic sweater because it would insulate well without absorbing moisture. Despite the warmth, the fibres pilled quickly and polypropylene had a low melting temperature which melted in commercial driers, but it insulated well when used in conjunction with a shell and dried in minutes.
Patagonia actively continued research of new ways to use the material and worked closely with the company Malden to develop a softer bunting fabric, a synthetic boiled wool that pilled less, and eventually Synchilla, an even softer, double-faced fabric that did not pill at all. The name Synchilla is a contraction of the words synthetic and chinchilla. The chinchilla is known for its extremely soft fur.
Then, by chance, in 1984, while walking around the Sporting Goods show in Chicago, Chouinard saw a demonstration of polyester football jerseys being cleaned of grass stains. Polyester, like polypropylene, is made from melted plastic resins extruded through a die to create a thin, thread-like fibre. These plastic fibres are very smooth and clothing woven from them is difficult to clean because the slick fibres repel the soap and water of normal washing. Milliken, a company that made football jerseys, had developed a process that permanently etched the surface of the fibre as it was extruded, so that the surface became hydrophilic.
Chouinard saw the fabric as perfect for underwear. And polyester had a much higher melting temperature than polypropylene, so it wouldn't melt in a commercial dryer unlike the previous iteration of Synchilla.
In 1985, the new Synchilla fleece was introduced. Between them, the older products made of polypropylene and bunting had represented 70% of sales. However, core customers quickly realised the advantages Synchilla, and sales began to soar.
This T-snap fleece is created with 80% recycled material. The design features a four button snap placket which is a standard feature of Patagonia T-Snap fleeces as well as a chest pocket with a distinctive looking pocket flap.
This fleece was acquired as part of the Shekou Project, an international partnership between the V&A and China Merchant Shekou Holdings (CMSK) to open a new cultural platform called Design Society in Shekou. It was included in the inaugural exhibition, ‘Values of Design’, in the V&A Gallery at Design Society as an example on the way design has been used in innovative ways to recycle or re-use materials.
A top made from fleece material with full length arms and a high neck with popper buttons. The material is red, blue and white with a geometric pattern of snowflakes.
Place of Origin
Width: 55 cm, Height: 66.5 cm, Length: 63 cm
Object history note
This fleece set was included in ‘Values of Design’ at the V&A Gallery, Design Society in Shenzhen, China in 2017.
Women’s Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T fleece pullover designed by Patagonia, 2016
Labels and date
Syncilla Snap-T Fleece Jacket
The textiles industry is one of the world's largest polluters. Twenty percent of all water pollution comes from treating and dyeing textiles. Patagonia's mission is to make their products more ecologically sustainable. This jacket uses Syncilla, a high-performance synthetic fleece made primarily from recycled PET bottles. 
Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society
Textiles and Fashion Collection