Patagonia’s design director for outdoor clothing, Wanda Weller (’88) believes that global approaches to recycling and renewable resources will effect significant change. The company’s commitment to sustainable design drives all of its products and activities, including awarding $20 million to more than 1,000 environmental grassroots organizations; working with outdoor companies to build a central fund that has saved more than 34 million acres of wild lands and waterways; encouraging businesses to donate at least 1% of their annual net revenues to environmental organizations worldwide; and recycling used Capilene for new polyester garments.
Weller followed her sister, who studied graphic design, to Otis. As she describes it, “Going to school with people of all ages and backgrounds was fantastic — people with more worldly experience influenced people like me who were just a year or so out of high school. That dynamic was invaluable for me.” She moved to the Pacific Northwest after graduation, where she spent ten years working in the athletic and outdoor apparel industry, at companies such as Adidas and ZIBA. Building on her experience at Otis, she gained a reputation as someone who could communicate with creative designers.
The complex technical and safety issues involved in outdoor clothing design demand meticulous, detail-oriented attention. In addition, Weller tracks trends in street wear, knowing that Patagonia customers seek comfort whether in the outdoors or in the city.
Weller has returned to Otis several times as a fashion design mentor, working with students to impart inspiration derived from limited choices in terms of plant-based dyes and renewable fabrics. Her message about “total beauty” is based on understanding the global impact of manufacturing, and evaluating design in terms of its impact on future generations.