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4 Questions for Patagonia's EMEA CEO Nina Hajikhanian

By Caitlyn Terra


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Business |Interview

Patagonia store in Amsterdam. Credits: Patagonia

Standing still is not an option for outdoor brand Patagonia. In 2022, the brand transferred ownership to a non-profit trust and in April this year, opened its first store in the Netherlands. FashionUnited spoke to Nina Hajikhanian, general manager for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, about the brand’s mission and community.

Patagonia has been owned by a trust for a while now. What has been achieved in terms of the company’s non-profit work under the new ownership structure?

In September 2022, Planet Earth became the sole shareholder of Patagonia. This means that any profits that are not reinvested back into the business will be distributed as dividends to the Holdfast Collective. The non-profit organisation was founded to fight the environmental crisis and protect nature. Since then, over 70 million dollars has been invested in rewilding, ocean conservation and regenerative agriculture.

In March 2023, we were able to support environmental organisations in establishing the ‘Vjosa Wild River National Park’ in Albania. This project is the first of its kind and secures legal protection for one of the largest and last truly wild rivers on the continent. This ensures the future of this irreplaceable ecosystem.

The funding also supports campaigns and initiatives, such as our recent initiative to protect Iceland’s fjords from industrial fish farms. Over 45,000 people have signed a petition calling for a ban on open-net salmon farms. This harmful fishing practice not only threatens wild salmon populations, but also destroys the pristine waters the island is known for. A new fisheries law is currently being debated in the Icelandic parliament and we hope that our petition and the voices of the people will make a difference and secure the future of Iceland’s wild salmon.

Nina Hajikhanian, general manager EMEA at PatagoniaPhoto: Patagonia / Eva Roefs.

With the new store in Amsterdam, Patagonia is committed to building a community. Does the Dutch community differ from other countries?

Patagonia has been active in the beautiful city of Amsterdam for over a decade, with our European headquarters based there. In that time, we have built a strong community that includes a diverse network of local groups and NGOs such as Fossielvrij NL and Surfrider Foundation. With the opening of our first store in Amsterdam this spring, we look forward to further growing this community and reaching even more people who connect with our core sports, our environmental campaigns and our mission to save our home planet.

The store is also meant to be 'a catalyst for change'. What will that look like?

Every Patagonia store serves as a local hub for environmental activism, and the Amsterdam store is no exception. Through in-store workshops, talks and film screenings, we provide a meeting place for like-minded people who want to engage with our work and the activism of the NGOs we support. Like our other stores, Patagonia Amsterdam will support local groups and non-profits through our Retail Grants Programme. With this programme, we directly contribute to local environmental initiatives, which in turn helps our store and our growing community to create positive change together.

Are there any more store openings planned in Europe?

We are very intentional about how we grow and take any new store opening very seriously. We are committed to making a positive impact on the communities we serve, focusing not only on those who need durable, repairable and versatile gear, but also on those who are committed to protecting the environment. The Amsterdam store is a great step towards this goal in Europe and we look forward to deepening our direct relationships with these communities.

This interview was conducted in writing.

FashionUnited also asked the company for an update on the working conditions at Patagonia suppliers, after a report by investigative journalism platform Follow The Money (FTM) last year accused the company of exploiting its workers. Patagonia did not add to the statement it gave at the time.

This translated article originally appeared on FashionUnited.nl. Translation and edit: Rachel Douglass.