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Behind One Gap Alum’s Quest to Build a Circular, Sustainable Travel Wear Brand

Patrick Robinson was fed up.

After his unceremonious dismissal from from Gap in 2011, the veteran designer was ready for some soul searching. He left New York to backpack across national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, where his commune with nature only amplified the disconnect between his personal life and professional one.

“I’ve always lived in a very value-oriented way: I drove the right car, I ate the right way, I had a garden and kept chickens and bees,” Robinson told Sourcing Journal. “But when I looked back at my fashion career, I saw all of the pollution, water waste and social impact I was responsible for around the world.”

But the Giorgio Armani and Perry Ellis alum also had a revelation. What could his career look like if it aligned with his ethos? Shortly after, Paskho—a “wholly different” kind of clothing line—was born.

Robinson named Paskho after the Greek word for “passion” for a reason. He wanted the clothing to inspire travel in “magical places,” from the saw-toothed cliffs of the Himalayas to the upscale avenues of Paris. Designed for both men and women, the tops, bottoms and jackets are “meant for adventure as much as they are the office” and everything in between.

“You can climb a mountain in some of our clothes, but none of it looks that way,” Robinson said. “There are certain brands and they’re super comfortable, but you look like a backpacker getting on a plane. With our clothes, you just look modern and cool.”

Part of the reason is its highly technical materials, which Robinson acknowledges can contribute to microplastic pollution from the tiny synthetic fibers that slough off during laundering. A single fleece jacket, the University of California, Santa Barbara found, releases an average of 1,174 milligrams of microfibers from the washing machine. Up to 40 percent escape wastewater treatment filters to enter lakes, rivers, oceans and, subsequently, the food chain.

This is something Robinson admits nags at him. Paskho contributes at least 1 percent of its annual sales to environmental causes through the organization 1% for the Planet. It’s throwing its financial support behind the first state legislation on microfibers in California. It’s speaking to scientists and textile suppliers.

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“We’ve been trying to think about different ways that we can get involved in that conversation,” Robinson said.

When Paskho debuted in 2015, it didn’t even use any new fabrics.

“We went and found all the fabrics that were going to be destroyed and put into landfills, and I went through thousands and thousands of meters of them to find what we wanted to use,” he said.

Veteran designer Patrick Robinson was tired of supporting an unsustainable fashion industry, so he created Paskho to change the narrative.
Designed for both men and women, Pashko’s tops, bottoms and jackets are “meant for adventure as much as they are the office” and everything in between. Pashko

Today, roughly half of Paskho’s garments comprise reclaimed textiles; the rest is Bluesign certified, meaning they have been rigorously vetted for environmental impact, clean chemistry, fair labor and worker and consumer safety.

The brand is working to reduce plastic in other areas, too. Instead of using plastic bags to package its clothes, Paskho employs Ziploc-like envelopes made from tightly woven recycled paper. They’re lined with plastic so they’re not recyclable by most municipalities, but they still cut down on waste, since “the bags that leave our factory to our distribution center are the same ones you get when you order from Paskho,” Robinson said.

Progress, not perfection, is Paskho’s motto.

And the envelopes work. Robinson remembers when a shipment of clothing went missing on a dock during a particularly rainy season. When it was eventually recovered, the paper envelopes were caked in brown mold, but the clothes remained intact. “That was so cool,” he said.

In an industry rife with human-rights violations, Robinson wanted to shore up the labor aspect of his business, too.

Paskho works with KTC, a performance-wear specialist with facilities in Laos and China that Robinson described as akin to a “Mercedes plant.”

“It does everything right,” he said. “It trains its people heavily, it pays them well, takes care of them. I actually live in the dorms when I go there because they’re nicer than the five-star hotels down the street.”

It’s a testament to Robinson’s vision that Paskho is growing. In 2018 the brand tripled its sales. This year, it made “over 210 percent,” Robinson said.

Americans, after all, are traveling more than ever. Domestic and foreign airlines serving the U.S. carried an all-time high of 1  billion domestic and international passengers in 2018—4.8 percent more than the previous record high of 965.4 million in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

And the demand for comfortable, multifunctional, multi-occasional clothing is clear. A sizable portion of Paskho’s business—a whopping 80 percent—for instance, is in pants.

“That’s the pain point for the customer; they want super-comfortable pants to travel in that they can wash in their sink, hang them and dry them,” he said. “Our pants can dry in a couple of hours, are super-durable and wearable and have all the performance that they need.”

So Paskho wants to expand into other useful products, including underwear, one of its most requested items. There, Robinson sees an opportunity to “close the loop.”

“We’re going to take back people’s underwear and remake them into underwear, and tops and T-shirts,” he said.

Paskho is also stepping into footwear. It’s speaking with a leather factory about using its cutting-floor waste to make mono-material shoes that are easier to take apart.

“Our goal is to get at least part of that to be circular, also,“ Robinson sad. “We can’t continue living on this Earth and just having things that are single use.”

And Robinson is finally at peace, now that he’s no longer just “pushing pallets” for the sake of the bottom line.

“I never felt this with any company I’ve worked for,” he said. “This one feels like something with its own life. It grows by itself and connects with people.”