Patag­o­nia is on a tear in re­pairs

The out­door cloth­ing com­pany’s fix-it truck tour backs up its life­time guar­an­tee and spreads an en­vi­ron­men­tal mes­sage.

Los Angeles Times - - FASHION - By Adam Tschorn adam.tschorn@la­

Bring me your ripped seams, your camp­fire burn holes and your busted zip­pers yearn­ing to move freely.

That’s es­sen­tially what Patag­o­nia is ask­ing, all across Amer­ica, for the next few weeks.

Although the out­door sport­ing gear com­pany has long of­fered a life­time re­pair guar­an­tee for its goods, this month it put that prom­ise to the test where the rub­ber meets the road with the launch of a mo­bile re­pair truck that kicked off a six-week cross­coun­try jour­ney in San Fran­cisco on April 4, with plans to make 20 stops in 15 cities, end­ing in Bos­ton on May 12.

The com­pany isn’t just of­fer­ing on-the-spot fixes for Patag­o­nia pieces ei­ther — the of­fer stands for any piece of cloth­ing, re­gard­less of brand.

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia isn’t on the tour, but on April 2 the com­pany did a test run in the park­ing lot of its cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Ven­tura. The fo­cal point of the af­fair was a con­verted biodiesel truck, topped with a so­lar-pow­ered camper shell made from sal­vaged red­wood wine bar­rels, cre­ated by artist-surfer Jay Nel­son.

Sit­ting be­hind two sewing ma­chines in­side were Cathy Averett and Do­minique Bun­cio, seam­stresses who usu­ally work out of Patag­o­nia’s Reno re­pair fa­cil­ity. They said that, depend­ing on the length of the stop, the num­ber of re­pairs re­quired and de­gree of dif­fi­culty, they’ll prob­a­bly be able to dis­patch 20 to 30 re­ha­bil­i­tated gar­ments per stop. “If we make a sac­ri­fice to the gods maybe we’ll get a few more [done],” Averett said with a grin as she sat be­hind an industrial Juki sewing ma­chine, a dozen bob­bins of colored thread danc­ing above her head like a seam­stress’ thought bal­loon.

But the num­ber of re­pairs isn’t ac­tu­ally the main point of the tour, since send­ing things to Reno (which Patag­o­nia reps say han­dles about 30,000 re­pairs a year) would be a far more ef­fi­cient way of get­ting things fixed. It’s more about spread­ing the com­pany’s “if it’s broke, fix it” mantra.

“At a fun­da­men­tal level it’s about re­duc­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print of any par­tic­u­lar gar­ment,” said Rick Ridge­way, Patag­o­nia’s direc­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives. “The longer you wear a gar­ment, the less im- pact it has on the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause it doesn’t need to be re­placed.” Ridge­way said that while dura­bil­ity is a “gi­ant fac­tor,” in ex­tend­ing the life span of any given item, there are other forces at work too. “The way to in­spire peo­ple to wear things longer is to do some­thing that makes them love [those things] — to fo­cus on the re­la­tion­ships peo­ple have with cer­tain items.”

That no­tion, Ridge­way ex­plained, formed the ba­sis of Patag­o­nia’s Worn Wear ini­tia­tive. Launched in 2013, it uses so­cial me­dia (in­clud­ing an Instagram ac­count and a Worn Wear blog) to post sto­ries and images sub­mit­ted by cus­tomers from around the world and to share mem­o­ries like a long-ago first or­der from Glacier Na­tional Park in 1996 and the tale of a cher­ished sec­ond­hand jacket bought in 1988. The Worn Wear tour is an ex­ten­sion of that ef­fort, and the com­pany hopes it will un­der­score how easy it is to ex­tend the life of a worn or slightly dam­aged loved one.

That’s why, in ad­di­tion to onthe-spot re­pairs (and a sec­ond truck stocked with dis­counted re­turned and ex­changed items for pur­chase), each stop will in­clude a ta­ble stocked with tools and DIY re­pair guides. “We’ll have about 30 pieces at this ta­ble for each stop,” ex­plained the tour’s manager, Jonny Pucci, “and we’re go­ing to teach peo­ple how to fix things them­selves. And if they fix it they can take it home with them.”

The same day Patag­o­nia de­buted the mo­bile re­pair truck, it an­nounced an­other eco-friendly ini­tia­tive that sounds far less ex­cit­ing but is likely to have far­reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions: a strate­gic in­vest­ment in Be­yond Sur­face Tech­nolo­gies, a 7-year-old Swiss com­pany fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing tex­tile treat­ments that pro­vide pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments us­ing nat­u­ral raw ma­te­ri­als in­stead of the toxic chem­i­cals that are tra­di­tion­ally used.

As a re­sult of the in­vest­ment (the com­pany hasn’t dis­closed the ex­act amount but con­firmed pub­lished re­ports that it’s north of $1 mil­lion), any ad­vances made by Be­yond Sur­face Tech­nolo­gies will be shared with the en­tire out­door in­dus­try to max­i­mize the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

BST is the most re­cent firm to ben­e­fit from Patag­o­nia’s $20 Mil­lion & Change ven­ture cap­i­tal fund that since launch­ing in 2013 has in­vested in a hand­ful of com­pa­nies with a sim­i­lar en­vi­ron­men­tal mind-set, in­clud­ing, Bureo Skate­boards, which turns re­cy­cled Chilean fish­ing nets into skate­boards, and on­line mar­ket­place Yer­dle.

Erin Fein­blatt

PATAG­O­NIA puts its “if it’s broke, fix it” phi­los­o­phy into prac­tice with a tour that mends clothes re­gard­less of brand.


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