Yvon Chouinard, an accredited rock climber, began selling hand forged mountain climbing gear in 1957 through his company Chouinard Equipment. He worked alone selling his gear until 1965 when he partnered with Tom Frost in order to improve his products and address the growing supply and demand issue he faced.
In 1970, Chouinard obtained rugby shirts from Scotland that he wore while climbing because the collar kept the climbing sling from hurting his neck. Collared shirts were then designed and implemented into his merchandise line and quickly became the primary product sold. Chouinard Equipment was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1989 when it lost a series of lawsuits claiming "failure to inform" of safety issues related to usage of climbing hardware including one filed by the survivors of a climber who died in a fall after slipping out of a Chouinard climbing harness. The resultant increases in their product liability insurance were cited by Chouinard as the reason they stopped making climbing gear. The liquidated assets of the climbing gear side were purchased for $900,000 by Chouinard's longtime partner, Peter Metcalf, and reorganized as Black Diamond Equipment. Yvon Chouinard retained the profitable soft goods (clothing) division of the company which had already been rebranded as Patagonia.
Patagonia has expanded its product line to include apparel targeted towards other sports, such as skiing, surfing, and general comfort-wear. In addition to clothing, they offer a selection of products ranging from backpacks to sleeping bags.
Starting in April 2017 Patagonia merchandise can be returned for new merchandise credits. The used merchandise gets cleaned and repaired and sold on their "Worn Wear" website