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Worn Wear Goes to Market

By: Cameron Martindell - March 14, 2017

Worn Wear Goes to Market

We all know Patagonia is huge. We see the stores, around 65 of them world wide. We see the full page “Don’t buy this Jacket” Black Friday ads in the New York Times. We see the films and projects they sponsor and most recently, we see them as movers and shakers, igniting conversation within the outdoor retailer industry by taking a stand against government trying to privatize public lands.

But, what most people don’t see is what’s behind the scenes at their huge warehouse and distribution center located in Reno, Nevada.

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It’s not just any warehouse, it’s a LEED certified building that matches the high quality of environmental responsibility that they require for the sourcing of raw materials and processing of their own products. This building is where roughly 4,000-5,000 orders get compiled and shipped out per day. The record number of individual items to make up those orders was just set in February at 80,000. Maybe it was just an adventurous Valentine's Day this year considering August is usually their biggest month.

And within this wearhouse and tucked up on a mezzanine level above much of the hustle and bustle that gets customer and store orders out the door, sits the repair department. With Patagonia’s commitment to getting as much out of a garment as possible, they have developed the largest garment repair facility in North America. Runner up—and the only other that comes even close? The US Military garment repair facility.

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The repair department gets about 300 items per day to repair and their aim is to have those turned around in about ten days. When things get busy in the colder months, they get pushed back to 12 days. About 60% of the repairs are on zippers, 20% are rips and patches and the rest a random assortment. In getting to meet and chat with some of the repairers, they can tell when a garment has been loved and treated well and they can see when customers truly abuse their clothing, sort of a naughty or nice kind of insight.

But, the repairs get done nonetheless. While we were there, one of the items under the needle was a ski patroler jacket. The folks who do the repairs know that jackets like this in particular are part of a professional’s kit who is out in the elements keeping others safe or rescuing them to save lives.

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Another great aspect about this program is the feedback that goes back to the designers. The folks doing repairs have incredible insight to what does and doesn’t work and what is particularly hard to repair because of the design or construction. This continual feedback loop helps Patagonia be more efficient throughout their whole process.

If you’re someone who likes, or needs to tailor your clothes, or you’re into doing the repairs yourself, the department here is happy to supply the needed materials to help DIY folks get a good color match for their patch or zippers. Just ask. If you’re not sure how to fix something, they offer a number of how-to videos on their website. Oh, and it’s all free.

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For many of us, and as Patagonia has shown in their Worn Wear video profiles, these items that we adventure in can become hugely sentimental. I think back to a fleece jacket I wore to the summit of many mountains and to trek in Nepal. It will always be with me in one form or another. But in some instances, a perfectly good piece of clothing might just need to move on. And Patagonia wants to help that item find a new home. The crew at Patagonia is ramping up to launch an online portal of Worn Wear items. They will buy back items that still have life in them, that might need a patch or a new zipper and in a few months they will be launching an online Worn Wear retail outlet. The pricing will be simple and very affordable. Patagonia will wash the items and make them ready for a new owner. This is going to be huge for lower income adventurers looking for the quality and who are keen to support the environmental ethos of Patagonia.

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And, if the items are beyond repair, they won’t buy it back, but they will take it to grind up and spin the fabric back into threads to be used in new garments.

You can ship your items to them or bring them to any Patagonia store and they’ll be happy to take them off your hands and ensure they never end up in a landfill. Visit Patagonia.com for more information.

About the Author

Cameron Martindell

Cameron Martindell

Cameron Martindell is the Gear Institute's Gear Test Director, responsible for coordinating our gear testing team, recruiting new experts, and maintaining the Gear Institute's editorial standards for product testing. He is also a freelance adventure travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker.

In addition to writing his own popular blog offyonder.com, he is a Senior Editor for Elevation Outdoors Magazine and he has contributed to National Geographic Adventure, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Outside, Backpacker, Wired, Alaska Magazine, Australian Geographic, Mountainzone.com and others.

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