Sunday, May 31, 2020
Repairing the Stories We Wear
Brandon Richards blows up a pair of waders to determine where the leaks or tears are.
Sunday, May 12, 2019


Brandon Richards fired up the air compressor. Within a couple minutes the hip waders had blown up like a balloon ready for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

But there’d be no parading these around. At least, not until Richards had had a chance to put them underwater in an adjacent tub so he could find and patch the leak the waders’ owner was concerned about.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Team took up residence behind Silver Creek Outfitters this week where they spent three days patching waders and other fishing gear in a gypsy-like mobile repair trailer.

Happy customers must step around the repair team mascot.

Ostensibly, they there to repair fisher wear, but they did a brisk business fixing ski pants and parkas before powder hounds put them to bed for the summer, as well as day packs and other beloved outdoor items.

“We’re here to repair anything—backpacks, shorts, yoga pants, sweatshirts, even button-ups,” said Brandon Richards. “People have a lot of stuff in the world that needs to be fixed, but sewing has become a lost art for most people. Our motto is, ‘If it’s broke, fix it!’ ”

The four-person team had an array of tools at their disposal, from Tenacious tape that will stick to anything except stretch cotton and is good for up to 50 washes to machine stitching, which they often do with a flourish stitching trout and other designs into the clothing.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Team had its genesis four years ago in 2015. Today two teams travel the roads of America in wagons dubbed Uncle Dave and Delia.

A professional seamstress repairs waders under a porthole that boasts the inscription “Better Than New!”

They started out in ski towns, then began visiting popular climbing and mountain bike areas in national parks before seguing into college towns where money-poor college students eagerly lined up with threadbare gear, down jackets with compromised baffles, windbreakers with busted zippers, hoodies  missing cords, sweaters with pilling and ripped sleeping bags.

This is the first time they’ve gone out fishing for fishermen’s wear.

The clothing and gear need not be Patagonia. And it doesn’t even need to be outdoor related.

Richards recalled pulling up across from the Andrew Carnegie Library in New York where a man in a pin-striped suit walked up, removed his slacks right there on the street, then walked away while they were being repaired. He came back a couple hours later.

The Worn Wear Repair Team has a box full of tapes sporting fish and other designs to choose from.

“I always wondered: Where do you go in the city with no pants on?” Richards said. “Obviously, he was wearing his undershorts, but still…”

Richards loves the appreciative feedback of those who see a memory in every scruff and tear.

Last February, he said, a snowboarder who boards 50 to 60 days a year at Boyne Mountain in Michigan brought a torn Tommy Hilfiger ski jacket and pants to the repair team. It was the only thing he’d ever snowboarded in and it was covered with duct tape, held together with string.

“I thought: Why would you wear that for 20 years when it’s so ripped up? It turned out that he had had a terrible ski accident and they’d cut it off. And he loved it so much because of that story. Plus, he could fit his knee pads underneath,” said Richards.

Even sun visors are fair game.

Repairing things is a novel idea in a throwaway society. Especially when you consider Patagonia is in business to sell clothes and outdoor products.

But Patagonia not only repairs clothing but it buys back Patagonia gear people are no longer using, selling the used clothing on It also recycles truly beat clothing.

The company’s commitment to a more sustainable environment has even taken it into the realm of food products.

Patgonia Provision is offering a growing selection of foods grown or harvested with best environmental practices, including lemon pepper sockeye salmon, organic Tsampa soup, organic almond bars flavored with apricot, Inca berry and mango and even a Long Root Ale, brewed with organic barley, hops and Kernza, which uses less water than conventional wheat while removing more carbon from the atmosphere.

“People need a new jacket every five or 10 years, but they eat three times a day. If we really want to protect our planet, it starts with food,” said the company’s founder Yvon Chouinard.

Richards says his work is satisfying.

“I used to be a sales rep but I hated influencing people to buy things that they didn’t really need. This allows people to hang onto a favorite jacket or pair of pants longer, and it helps the environment, too.

“And, let’s face it, if you’re into the outdoors, you don’t want to contribute to the landfill any more than you have to.”


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