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