A Design for a Better World
We’re blessed in the San Diego region with a near perfect year-round climate that encourages frequent outdoor activities and an ongoing respect for the environment. It is an intrinsic element that shapes daily lifestyle and makes our community unique. There have been a few local companies that have refined that quintessential Southern California lifestyle into the design of their products and operating philosophy. Carlsbad active wear apparel company prAna is one good example.
Since being founded in 1992 by husband and wife team Beaver and Pam Theodosakis in their tiny Carlsbad garage, prAna’s philosophy has been deeply rooted in social and environmental consciousness. In fact, they were the very first apparel company in the United States to be Fair Trade Certified.
Even following their acquisition in 2014 by outdoor active wear giant Columbia Sportswear, prAna has stayed true to its roots in both geography and philosophy. Employees and visitors are reminded of that guiding philosophy when they enter the company’s custom-modified, 80,110
-square-foot Carlsbad headquarters. Stamped on the wall is the motto, “We’re not in the business of making clothes. We’re in the business of setting the human spirit free.”
It was in part prAna’s unwavering dedication to that core principle that drew its current CEO, Scott Kerslake, to join the team. “The reason I came to [prAna] was the fact that it was a company that stood for more and it has a big social mission. I would not be here if that didn’t exist,” says Kerslake. He brought a diverse background to the company. Kerslake had worked at active apparel company Athleta, Tucson-based luxury resort Miraval, and the Stanford Center on Longevity think tank. He believes prAna’s values enhance its relationship with consumers and employees alike. It helps them attract a talented team that shares the company’s ideals to appeal to a customer base who appreciates what prAna stands for.
They still have to compete in the marketplace. There are some who wonder if the culture and a greater good philosophy put the company at a disadvantage. Kerslake doesn’t think so. “In some ways I think it’s actually an advantage for us, because consumers more and more are realizing how their products are made and are being more discerning about their decisions, so it’s attracting people who are like-minded into the brand,” he says.
Kerslake believes prAna’s success can be a catalyst for other companies to operate in a more socially- and environmentally-responsible way. “If we can use the business as a platform for change and get more people to operate their business this way, who benefits? The environment, workers, customers,” he says. “We all have a collective higher sense of purpose so we’re welcoming people in; we don’t try to keep people out from a competitive standpoint.”
That higher sense of purpose runs deep throughout the company. It is evident in their production methods, materials, packaging, and brand messaging. It also influences the general culture of kindness current that runs deep within the walls of the headquarters and beyond. In the San Diego region, prAna employees are actively involved with several charitable organizations that align with prAna’s company principles. They include I Love A Clean San Diego, Casa de Amparo, Habitat For Humanity, and Outdoor Outreach, a group that provides at-risk local youth with opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors through activities like hiking, surfing, climbing, and kayaking. Kerslake says this stems from an internal company mantra they call “seva,” a Sanskrit word that translates to “service above self.” “[Seva is] the whole idea behind this part of the ethos of giving back and being an important member of the community as opposed to just occupying space and taking,” he says.
Remaining locally based is part of the company’s long-term plan. “We’re very much a Southern California company. We attract people who are not only connected to the values of the company but also the lifestyle,” Kerslake says. “When we go to Europe or Japan, they think of us as a Southern California company and we’re proud of that. You want to stay connected to where you’re from,” he says.
The one thing this SoCal lifestyle company is missing is a retail store in its hometown. Kerslake assures that they’re working on it. “We very much want to have a store [in Carlsbad],” he says. “It’s definitely on the radar.” prana.com DEANNA MURPHY
Kerslake: Photo by Bob Stefanko All other photography: Courtesy photography