Patagonia’s Worn Wear Project

Yesterday the Patagonia Worn Wear rig made a stop at Warren Wilson College, which is located in nearby Swannanoa, NC, and I was able to drop in to see it in action.  The rig, seen above, is actually a mobile clothing repair shop, which is currently touring the country with stops at selected college campuses.  Tiny Warren Wilson was lucky to be chosen, as most of the schools on the tour are large universities.

The purpose of the tour is to raise awareness of how clothing repair is an important part of making the production of clothing more sustainable.  It seems like an oxymoron for a company like Patagonia, which is in the business of making and selling clothes, to advocate for people keeping their clothing longer.  But Patagonia is not the average clothing company.

Patagonia is a producer of outdoor clothing and supplies, and is not a “fashion” company.  But all clothing reflects to some degree what is in fashion, either through color, or the length of shorts, or the fit of a tee shirt.  As a maker of fleece jackets and down jackets, Patagonia does not rely so much on changing styles in order to sell their products.  Instead, they sell garments that are actually needed.  Even so, they are working toward educating people that need can be reduced through repairs.

I’ve written about Patagonia before as an example of a company that makes it easy for the consumer to know where and how its products are made.  If you go to their website, on the sales page of each product it shows the factories where the product was made, along with a description of the responsible practices of each.  It’s about as transparent as it gets in the clothing industry.

The Worn Wear team did on the spot repairs, but even more importantly, they wanted to talk with students (and even non-students like me) about the importance of taking care of one’s clothing to make it last longer.  They encouraged visitors to learn the skills necessary to make repairs to damaged clothes to extend their life.  And of course, behind the message is the starting point of buying good stuff to start with.

The rig itself is really interesting.  It’s made of completely recycled materials and it runs on biodiesel.  It’s beautifully constructed, and I imagine they get lots of attention on the highway.

This is Rudy, who guards the thread and keeps the staff on track.

There was even free swag.  Besides the organic fruit bar and a small guide to making repairs, there was a shelf of free books, all titles pertaining to environmental and human rights issues.  I picked up a copy of Patagonia’s latest report on these initiatives, and spent much of the evening reading about the many things that Patagonia is working toward.

Most interestingly, the book did not back away from the mistakes they have made in the past few years, and gave honest reports on two controversies, the use of down from force-fed geese, and the use of wool from a farm which PETA exposed as being inhumane.  In both cases Patagonia did their own investigations, and found they were in the wrong, and then took the necessary steps to correct the abuses.

It’s really refreshing when a group just owns its mistakes.   I can’t help but think that this would be a great policy for all.

Currently, a big issue is the discovery that microfibres that get into the water by way of laundry has become a major source of pollution in our oceans.  In order to better understand what effect Patagonia fleeces and other products have on this problem, the company conducted a research project in which all their projects were tested for microfibre shedding.  They are also funding continuing research in the area.

Cute dog mascots are always a plus!

The issue of sustainability is a tricky one.  Most of the programs by clothing companies I have read about are just green-washing, meant to look to be more environmentally friendly than they truly are.  Most, like turning in old clothes for a store credit, are just ways of getting one to shop more.  And as pointed out in an excellent article at Vestoj,  even the way sustainability issues are presented by the fashion press usually misses the point.

Thanks to Patagonia for hosting this tour of the traveling repair workshop.  If it happens to roll into a college near you, go and check it out.




Filed under Fashion Issues, Viewpoint

12 responses to “Patagonia’s Worn Wear Project

  1. Really interesting, thank you for sharing!
    I may have to check them next time I’ll need some outerwear. As you said, it’s so refreshing not to read green-washing PR-like…

    Liked by 1 person

    • marcia gaggia

      thanks for posting this to inform those who don’t know about Patagonia. My adult kids have been wearing this brand for over 20 years, and my step son works for the company in CA as their fly fishing expert. Fine company in contrast to those out there who don’t seem to have any thought to what they’re selling but their bottom line .

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this review, Lizzie. Will keep them in mind if I should need their products as they’re doing business I can support.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Be the change you want to see” rolling down the road here

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t personally own anything with a Patagonia label, but my husband and daughter do. I have enormous respect for what I have read about the company and its values. This was so interesting–thank you for sharing.


  5. Love this idea–my wife and I have extended the useful life of many clothing items by years and even decades with well placed repairs. It is a rare button on one of my coats that does not get sewn back on at least twice.

    Side note is that at 8300 lbs, the pickup with camper (including a fair amount of wood) is not much heavier than the pickup was when delivered from Dodge. Well done. I wonder how they’re sealing the camper from the rain, though–looks like more is needed than just the sheathing.

    (all too often, people in the “tiny house” movement build their homes as if trailer/pickup weight restrictions are a suggestion….with sadly predictable results)


  6. Well, I now have a new dream job–driving around the country in that great van with a cute dog and doing repairs! Too bad I’m not younger. When my cousin visited last week, I was able to fix a beloved pair of pants for her in just a few minutes. It would be interesting to see what’s in that DIY repair guide.


    • There’s not a lot in the DIY guide, mainly things like fixing a zipper when the pull has come loose. They probably needed to start with sewing on buttons. I can’t tell you how many great things I’ve found in thrifts with one button missing, and the spare still attached to the inside of the garment!


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