Protecting the Planet: Brand-Centric Extensions Expand the Story for these Environmentally Minded Companies
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 04/03/2017 | 10 Minute Read
by: Julie Wolfson
Telling a clear brand story has become more important than ever. While the ethos and message need to stay focused, extending the product line successfully to new areas requires earning trust from customers. Fashion designers have had a history of launching perfumes, asking the people who wear their clothing to also trust their taste in creating the corresponding fragrance. Other brands have taken a decidedly more entertaining and quirky approach. It’s hard to forget KFC’s foray into edible nail polish and “extra crispy” sunscreen. Then there was the time the classic American sport utility brand Jeep created a mud mask, ideal for drivers who were not already splattered with dirt from off-roading adventures.
Brand extension can also tell a more serious story of mission and purpose, and many companies are staking their identity on an environmental message. One newly launched and another with a reputation for making sustainable eco-friendly outdoor apparel are examples of brand extensions that help preserve the earth’s precious resources in the type of products they offer and the ways they are packaged.
New on the lifestyle scene, The Lost Explorer is the passion project of trained naturopath and world adventurer David de Rothschild along with Creative Director Len Peltier and design director Jonathan Kirby. To tell The Lost Explorer story they wanted to convey the idea of being more than an apparel brand. With the goal to challenge the idea of fast fashion, their designs for the world traveler focus on efficient bags and three-piece suiting made from linen, wool, cotton and high tech fabrics. These timeless pieces evoke classic and military shapes with natural and technical fabrics for long lasting wear. Along the way developed products that would make sense with their ecology mission. They launched with their own mezcal and now have teas, as well as apothecary items to offer alongside their clothing and accessories.
For the mezcal project they have partnered with Proyecto Humo, an organization that protects ancient artisan communities and empowers sustainable industries. “In Mexico, they think of mezcal as a tonic. We love the process of it and the art of making it. It is a good introduction to our brand. That bottle struck me as bold and unusual. It’s not masculine or feminine. It also mimics the shape of the agave heart once you carve the arms off,” explains Peltier when asked about their design process. “We don't want to be vintage inspired, but there is something that might harken back to something you have seen.” The neck is wrapped in 100% French linen rope to evoke a modern pirate look. The bottle comes with 3D glasses, a booklet, and has a reverse printed label inspired by an old National Geographic botanical book.
With their balms and apothecary line for the adventurer launching soon, The Lost Explorer products harness the power of nature. Face wash and scrubs will be available alongside magnesium arnica gel for inflammation, a bug repellent balm, and a prickly pear moisturizing serum. Ingredients are sourced around the world from Olkeria Marula oil in Kenya to Foraha oil from Madagascar, and tansy from Morocco. “Wellness bubbled up because it was a no brainer. Even when you finally learned to eat after years and years of bad eating as a culture, we are still putting chemicals on our skin. We had this conversation about the things we put on our body, the things we put in our body, and thing things that are happening around us.”
Hibiscus, green, and black teas are used to dye the suiting fabrics of their desert collection. And their favorite teas have been package for sale. Their tea boxes are made from 100% recycled chipboard. Peltier confesses to an obsession with a particular Japanese box and discovered it was a hard item to source. So he had the dyes made and recreated it to look like an item one would collect on a trip. Their logo, a layering of desert jungle ocean mountain symbols on top of each other is blind debossed on the box. The woven cotton tab on the tea box and the linen rope on the mezcal bottle, aim to connect each product back to the other parts of The Lost Explorer line. “The Lost Explorer is the lifestyle we want to live and hope to live. It is a conscious decision of buying better things and less of it.”
The Lost Explorer aims to leave a smaller footprint on the earth with clothes made from long wearing fabrics, mezcal that preserves tradition, teas that nourish, and all natural grooming and travel products in minimal packaging. “It’s everything that makes us happy,” says Peltier. “I know that sounds a bit corny. We were talking about wellness. It is not just about products. It is definitely about sharing ideas.”
In the world of creating products the name Patagonia, has made a name as the go-to source for outdoor apparel made with sustainable manufacturing practices. Company founder Yvon Chouinard has become a leader in working to preserve natural habitats and resources. In 2012 Chouinard launched Patagonia Provisions with Birgit Cameron, a brand extension committed to offering responsibly sourced foods. With the recent addition of Long Root Ale added to their line of fruit and nut bars, whole grain hot cereals, buffalo jerky, wild pink salmon, and soups, Patagonia Provisions products each tell a story of nutrition, conservation and activism.
“We thought through the lens of food we would be able to resurrect some of the stories we have been talking about already, but reach people in a different way,” explains Cameron. As this division of the company has established a clear mission, they add products to their pantry. Now Cameron and her team are working to update the branding to reinforce the idea that Patagonia and Patagonia Provisions are indeed part of the same company (and not a licensing agreement). The original packaging launched with the images of ingredients. Cameron explains, “We wanted to show there are just a handful of ingredients in here. And every single one of them is pronounceable. We wanted a package that was not yelling at you in the sea of things in the market. You get overwhelmed.”
Now with the rebranding and redesign in the works, they have teamed up with Steven DuPuis and the DuPuis Group with the idea to develop a new look that clearly tells their mission. “We thought: let’s have an oasis for the eye to rest upon. And have some indicator on the front that ‘I want to pick that up’ and turn it around and read it about the story. Story is what is important. Can we make those things more clearly visible to make it easy when you are shopping? To say ‘wow,’ that really addresses my needs.” Their new look will debut in summer of 2017.
The commitment of Patagonia to be part of the conservation conversation has led them to in depth research into how to make packaging more ecologically friendly. “We like to look at ourselves as being as innovative as possible, as quickly as possible,” says Cameron. “I feel that packaging is lagging. It’s because it is such a difficult thing to solve, to be able to close the loop. To have something compostable, but also provide that convenience factor of shelf stable, oxygen barriers and moisture barriers, we have to accommodate for that.”
Through Tin Shed Ventures, the investment arm for Patagonia, they hope to find packaging innovators and help fund their work. “The idea is as soon as there is someone out there doing what we need, we will change our packaging to accommodate it. We will invest in the infrastructure to get that to market, not just for ourselves but also for the general public as fast as we can,” says Cameron. With Patagonia’s strong voice in sustainable apparel manufacturing, their venture into conversations about ecological package design feels organically connected. The company is a also member of the packaging trade group focused on this called One Step Closer to Organic Sustainable Communities (OSC2) and are constantly looking for innovative solutions. They are currently in talks with a packaging company is developing a film made entirely of one type of plastic, rather than multi-layer film that would be recyclable in curbside recycling.
When it comes to considering design elements and using the most environmentally friendly materials possible Cameron’s priorities are steadfast. Protecting precious resources remains goal number one. “I think we are getting to a point that if you are a creative person, you can figure out a beautiful way to present something. If it is a solution for this planet we better get into it fast. That is the design challenge for everybody out there,” she says. “Let’s make it work because it is the right thing to do. I love a challenge.”
Both The Lost Explorer and Patagonia care about the environment show how it is possible tell a brand story with a clear message of sustainable practices. They serve as a reminder that when products offerings are diverse, customers who value preserving natural resources will seek them out and trust their mission. Whether sipping mezcal from The Lost Explorer or nibbling on Inca berry and almond bars from Patagonia Provisions, the flavor of caring about the planet come through loud and clear.
Julie WolfsonJulie is a freelance writer. She spends her time exploring the creative process. From artists, designers, and entrepreneurs, to whisky distillers, coffee roasters, farmers, chefs, and musicians, she focuses on stories of determination, innovation, and ingenuity. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, HOW Magazine, Angeleno, The Henry Ford Museum Magazine, Cool Hunting, The Bold Italic, KCET, AOL Travel, and Gothamist and many other food, design, and lifestyle publications.