Season 4 EP 3
November 11, 2021
Kourtney Morgan. Senior Designer at Patagonia. Upcycler. Environmental advocate. Beautiful thinker.
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Whenever I ask this project’s guests what brand they aspire to be most like, hands down, the answer is always the same: Patagonia. Even before that, I’ve always known I wanted to include Patagonia in The Beautiful Thinkers Project. They have been pure from the start. They started with a mission and then built a brand around that mission. Again and again, they prove to us that it is possible to stay the course and stay relevant. I discovered Kourtney on the FastCo Most Creative People list for her work on the ReCrafted collection. I was thrilled to be able to talk with her about her long career with the brand and how starting off making costumes as a child for home theater productions put her on the path to Patagonia.

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Queen of fleeces pup lounging on work in progress
Queen of Fleece

Kourtney (and her furry friends) embrace the fleeces she’s designed for Patagonia. “I ended up becoming what I call the Queen of Fleece, designing and developing and coloring all of our fleece products. And then as Patagonia and the fleece categories grew, we would end up with a lot of leftover fabrics and trims from that growth. I was really passionate about creating a venue for using the leftovers and what Patagonia was doing with Worn Wear, which is gently used clothing that we sell. We used the dead stock or surplus fabrics as the glue to put back together all of these used garments: bags, waders, everything that we couldn't resell anymore. in the the ReCrafted line, which was made from old clothes.”

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Inspired by Worn Wear

An ad for a film explaining Worn Wear, Patagonia’s longstanding program that allows shoppers to trade in their used Patagonia garments and supplies or buy used and mended clothing to eliminate material waste. With ReCrafted, Kourtney wanted to elevate Patagonia’s Worn Wear collection and continue to create garments that last: “My personal design philosophy is that a garment needs to be practical, useful, and beautiful, because that will have longevity.”

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ReCrafting a Sustainable Activewear Industry

From the making of Patagoinia’s ReCrafted collection. “Launching ReCrafted should have taken years. But we did it in nine months, in conjunction with our first ever Worn Wear store in Boulder, Colorado. We had all kinds of used gear and a repair station set up, and then the ReCrafted was in the front, and it was an amazing event. And I think it was such a good thing that the ReCrafted collection was launched in-person, in a retail space where people got to see it and touch it and try it on. It was unisex, and the inside was different than the outside. So it was a very unique thing that I think really needed to be at the consumer level where they could see it, touch it, and feel it in order to bond with it.”

Recrafted Overnight bag
Reduce, Reuse, ReCrafted

Selections from Patagonia’s ReCrafted collection. “ReCrafted really put Worn Wear on the radar, especially internally at Patagonia. There's a huge movement, not just within Patagonia, but across a lot of brands to repair and resell their garments. It's not happening fast enough, just like our reaction to climate change isn't happening fast enough.”

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Climbing Past Peak Sustainability

A few of Kourtney’s photos from hiking around the Open Air Cathedral in Colorado. Her own love of the outdoors informs her passion for her company’s commitment to reaching the peak of sustainability. “We may have climbed the peak, but we're already on the descent down the other side and then across the plateau and valley and then up the next peak. And we want people to climb that peak right behind us. Like maybe we've left the anchors that they can use to get there. But we want to share that peak with everybody because that's how we're going to save our home planet.”

Patagonia Gets Political

In line with the brand’s mission to preserve the planet, Patagonia has made several striking political statements. The company made headlines by stitching “Vote the Assholes Out” into the tags of jackets around the 2020 election. “The designers snuck that in. We did not ask permission to put that label into our garment. So that's what made it so amazing. It was like, “We're going to put this in here and not tell anyone. And we'll ask for forgiveness later.””

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Eeyore from Winnie the pooh
Costume Shop Magic

A young Kourtney discovered her love for clothing design early. “I started out sewing clothes and designing costumes in my mother's children's theater back in the 1970s. I basically started when I was two years old on my mom's hip in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I come from a pretty humble background where we didn't have a lot in the way of material goods or money, but we had a lot in the way of culture and creativity. So at a very, very young age, I wanted to be a designer.”

A Mother Unlike Any Other

“We just passed the 20-year anniversary since my mom passed away this last weekend. She would have been 80 years old. She instilled in all of her children a sincerity and a compassion, and an unconditional love. She gave me the tools to actually understand and be able to return that to the world. I can't say that it's been easy because I don't always find the world to be sincere. She really was like, “You can do anything.” I mean, she told me when I was very young, “You can bend a spoon with your mind.” She gave us that courage of being an individual and not being a part of the crowd.”

Beautiful Thinking is:

“just setting yourself FREE to be OPEN to the thoughts that may FLOW in. like even just taking a WALK when you're stuck on a creative level and appreciating everything that's around you, SOUND of the wind and the birds and the creek. that INSPIRES beautiful thinking.”