Decoding Design

Patagonia introduces warm water wetsuits made from recycled polyester

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Introducing the Patagonia R1, a wetsuit designed for warm water, made from an innovative recycled polyester fabric.

For most surfers, wetsuit technology exists around one, unifying concept: protection from frigid waters.The insulated materials allow the surfer to brave the cold weather (or just cold water), because not every beach is in Tahiti.

Patagonia, home to many an innovative, performance-based fabric, has already mastered the cold-defying wetsuit by lining a traditional wetsuit with ultra-light, quick-drying wool.

This technology is pretty amazing, but Patagonia's home is in southern California. What about the surfers there?

The apparel company recently released what they are calling the R1 warm water wetsuit. They built off of the extensive research and  development that went into the wetsuit made for arctic temperatures, applying their knowledge to warmer water, trading the merino wool for a specially-designed recycled polyester blend. This makes the R1 a bit thinner and allows the wearer to move more freely.

Bamboo was Patagonia's first choice for the new suit's fiber, but nixed the idea after research showed the production process to be excessively pollutant, with almost half of the solvents used ending up as environmental waste. This led them to the recycled polyester, which is a cleaner fabric that takes less energy to produce, but before this had not been used in apparel.

The R1's exterior is composed completely of this recycled polyester and 50 percent of the interior, the other half of which is part recycled polyester and part normal polyester and spandex blend, for elasticity.

This recycled polyester makes up 100% of the R1's exterior while the grid-lined interior is made up of 50% recycled polyester mixed with virgin polyester and spandex.

Patagonia sought out a famous Japanese mill to produce the unique grid pattern on the R1-- that uses a circular knit machine only found in Japan.

Because of this detail, Patagonia maintains that the R1 is just as well-constructed as any cold water wetsuit.

It doesn't hurt that Patagonia is located a quarter-mile from the beach and some world-renowned surf. We wouldn't mind to get the chance to go test out the product in the waves whenever we deemed necessary.

See Patagonia's video here:

See also: Patagonia pleads: Buy only what you need, and Patagonia's sales rise, thanks to customers it doesn't design for.

[Cool Hunting]

Images: Mohammed Moosa/Flickr, Patagonia

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure