Chronicle 13: The Yulex History with Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

September 26, 2022


Rubber Chronicles

Patagonia founder in nature
"To do good, you actually have to do something.” — Yvon Chouinard
Man working in workshop at night
Image: Creator: Jeff Johnson; Copyright: ©Jeff Johnson

Thank you Mr. Chouinard. Thank you Patagonia.

Yulex’ mission is to develop and innovate to create solutions, specifically, replacements for certain petroleum-based textiles e.g. neoprene, geoprene and soon spandex.

We had been working on a replacement for neoprene when limestone (or “geoprene”) was introduced into the market as a sustainable alternative to neoprene for wetsuits. We knew it was hog wash because the basic components of limestone was still the same as that for petroleum-based neoprene. And then we saw Patagonia's blog, developing our first wetsuit—that’s also sustainably made, and hope swelled as we believed we found a potential champion with a similar mission.

“Most people hate change – it’s threatening. I thrive on it.” — Yvon Chouinard

We reached out to Tetsuya O’Hara, then leading research and development at Patagonia. He organized a meeting for us at Patagonia’s Ventura headquarters with about 10 curious folks including Rose Marcario- then the CFO.

We took Yulex foam lab samples for the “show and tell”. Then as the meeting was about to begin, Jeff was informed that Yvon Chouinard may stop by for about 10 minutes to hear about Yulex. To our delight, Yvon stayed for the entire meeting, which was well over 2 hours.

We knew at that moment that we had a partner who was as committed as us to changing consumer behaviors. Yulex immediately adopted Patagonia’s mission and we are a better company having met and being embraced by Patagonia's fearless leader - who thankfully

thrives on CHANGE.

“We have the best weed in town, and we’re giving it away.” — Patagonia YULEX Wetsuit Campaign
farm at sunset

Originally our YULEX foam was made from a U.S. desert latex producing shrub called Guayule. It’s the rubber plant from which we derive our name. Indeed it does look like a “weed". We offered "first mover" exclusive rights for the foam to Patagonia, but they turned it down immediately, wanting to “give it away” to the industry in the hopes that other companies would join them and move away from neoprene.

When we transitioned to Hevea (the “rubber tree”), we knew naturally occurring forests were being deforested and income crops like large rubber plantations were replacing them. Hence this was the start of when Yulex started to develop and source from those plantations that had the seal of sustainable forest management practices by Forest Stewardship Council® (not that they are the only certification standard). Hence, the importance of Yulex certified supply chains starting from the raw material (natural rubber), the traders, the processors, and manufacturers who produce our foams. Do less harm.

We have been working well over a decade to make neoprene a thing of the past. Since the inception of the partnership, we and Patagonia have worked to help make the foams lighter, stronger and stretchier – so performance is not the excuse. Fast forward to 2022 and more wetsuit brands are making the switch to Yulex foam and becoming neoprene-free.

Do less harm.

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