Patagonia Worn Wear and Warehouse Tour


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 2, 2017      
Some of Patagonia’s fleet of apparel used to repair garments. You could look at it like the junkyard full of parts so even your ancient Patagonia piece of gear has a chance at repair.

Some of Patagonia’s fleet of apparel used to repair garments. You could look at it like the junkyard full of parts so even your ancient Patagonia piece of gear has a chance at repair.

How many Gore-Tex shells have you thrashed skiing through tight trees on your way to your favorite powder stash? Other than feeling overwhelmingly bummed out, followed by a frantic thought process of how you can explain your misfortune to the customer service agent, what can you do? It’s not truly a warranty issue, no matter how you spin it. Is duct tape really that waterproof? Did you just blow $500 battling conifers?

Outerwear is an interesting conundrum, as it needs to be the last thing you think about in your kit in terms of functionality, while simultaneously being one of the most important pieces of gear that protects you in the mountains. So what are your options when you experience a gear failure or just plain mishap?

Patagonia has taken their “Iron-clad Guarantee” to a new level with their repairs department. I’ve heard more and more about this segment of Patagonia, and have even utilized it on a pair of soft-shell pants with blown out zippers. I’ve never really had an understanding of how extensive this program was, but have respected the notion for what it is in terms of customer care.

Here it is, Patagonia’s largest repair facility. These folks work diligently to extend the life of your gear.

Here it is, Patagonia’s largest repair facility. These folks work diligently to extend the life of your gear.

Office spaces amongst the sea-stacks of boxes. Despite the warehouse setting, there are numerous hints of Patagonia’s business culture present.

Office spaces amongst the sea-stacks of boxes. Despite the warehouse setting, there are numerous hints of Patagonia’s business culture present.

The warehouse feel was quite stimulating, with numerous conveyer belts and automated systems pushing products in every direction. I can only imagine what an Amazon.com warehouse would look like.

The warehouse feel was quite stimulating, with numerous conveyer belts and automated systems pushing products in every direction. I can only imagine what an Amazon.com warehouse would look like.

I’m down here in the Reno/Tahoe area on a Patagonia sponsored press trip to try out their newly updated PowSlayer and Descentionist backcountry ski touring kit. On day 1 we spent the afternoon touring the distribution warehouse and repair facility.

Most press events don’t dare take you to the heart of a large warehouse facility. It just doesn’t carry the same sex appeal as a small product design room, or the history of the posh Ventura campus where Yvon Chouinard could theoretically still be found forging pitons. However, Patagonia is proud of their warehouse facility, and specifically their ever-growing repairs department, and they’re eager to show it off.

I like prolonging the life of gear through repairs; I’ve just never been very good at it. It is inspiring to see a company approach gear restoration with such intention.

The sorting station where employees will receive products to their station according to online orders. At this point they double check and then package them for shipping. There were moments of this tour that I was expecting to stumble upon a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…or at least hoping to.

The sorting station where employees receive products to their station according to online orders. At this point they double check and then package them for shipping. There were moments of this tour that I was expecting to stumble upon a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…or at least hoping to.

I’ve also never visited a state of the art warehouse facility that pushes out an average of 4000-5000 complete orders per day. The infrastructure, personnel, and coordination that that requires is impressive. All while I sit back and enjoy the comfort of my Nano-air on the skin track. In fact, just yesterday the warehouse pushed out a record 80,000 individual items to consumers. Large company? Yep. With these numbers, specifically the ones around their repairs department, Patagonia Reno is the largest garment repair facility in North America. The only other organization that comes close is one that deals with repairing gear for the US Military. Yeah, I was impressed too.

The facility itself is worth talking about, as I was curious how Patagonia approaches their environmental stewardship message with the reality of operating as such a large producer. Of course this is an interesting topic that could be looked at in a variety of ways, but I’ll just mention a few of the ways the facility itself is set-up. The warehouse is LEED certified with a couple of cool features that I would imagine are unique to warehouses in general (again, I haven’t spent much time in large warehouses as they aren’t the most enticing spaces to me).

These skylights are all over the roof of the building. The dome protrudes above the roof, while a pyramid structure extends below the ceiling. The solar powered motor directs the sunlight onto a set of mirrors, which then maximizes the natural light inside the warehouse.

These skylights are all over the roof of the building. The dome protrudes above the roof, while a pyramid structure extends below the ceiling. The solar powered motor directs the sunlight onto a set of mirrors, which then maximizes the natural light inside the warehouse.

Stacks of recycled cardboard that will eventually be turned back into packaging for shipments.

Stacks of recycled cardboard that will eventually be turned back into packaging for shipments.

Repairs and Worn Wear Program

The Reno facility sees about 300 new repairs daily most of which are blown stitching, zipper failure, and patching. Last year they had about 100,000 repairs globally, a number some companies might try to hide or be embarrassed about. Instead Patagonia is proud of these numbers and their efforts to deal with them. I also found it interesting that many large apparel companies have their repairs sent to a third party company to do the work, if at all.

The whole premise of the repair department is to keep the product in play and increase the lifespan, thus mitigating the consumption cycle. Apparently, a study shows that keeping a single product in use for an additional 9 months reduced resource use and the overall carbon emissions by 20-30%. I was impressed that the turnover is really that short — 9 months seems like a nominal amount of time, but alas welcome to our consumerist society. One of Patagonia’s hopes is to help promote a shift in the perception of what is repairable and the fact that the life of our gear can be extended.

(All this of course begs the question: What would happen if outdoor gear lasted virtually forever? Perhaps companies such as Patagonia would shift to doing mostly repair and maintenance of existing products? And if they did so, could they remain profitable enough to stay in business? Interesting to think about…)

The repair department aims to have each product received, repaired, and returned within 10 days. It was fun to chat with some of the employees about their approach to repairs, as it is viewed very much like an art and less of a prescribed method. In addition to the main repair facility in Reno, there are soon to be 50 retail locations around the country that will be equipped to handle basic repairs (about 90% of all repairs), which will increase the return speed on your garment.

Old garments used for parts.

Old garments used for parts.

Don’t fret! Color matched zippers.

Don’t fret! Color matched zippers.

This customer just wanted the zippers to be replaced. The duct-taped cuffs must offer street cred in the patroller locker room.

This customer just wanted the zippers to be replaced. The duct-taped cuffs must offer street cred in the patroller locker room.

Un-repairable garments packaged and ready to be shipped to be re-purposed.

Un-repairable garments packaged and ready to be shipped to be re-purposed.

Official Worn Wear stamp for products that consumers are looking for another home for. Patagonia will be buying garments back from customers and re-selling them at a substantially lower price.

Official Worn Wear stamp for products that consumers are looking for another home for. Patagonia will be buying garments back from customers and re-selling them at a substantially lower price.

The Worn Wear program is set to be launched fully in the next few weeks. This is a program that is two-fold, one it gives people the option of putting their undesired products back into use for another individual. Patagonia will purchase the products back from customers, clean them, stamp them with an official Worn Wear stamp and sell them for a considerably lower price. This will make quality products available to consumers for less of a financial commitment. Secondly, products that are in less than functional condition and are un-repairable will be sent to organizations that will “up-cycle” them and turn them into alternative products, such as hand-bags, totes, scarfs, etc. The idea here is that Patagonia is trying to close the loop of their products, and provide options for recycling. Another interesting notion.

All in all Patagonia is aiming to play the long-term game with the idea that these programs will keep customers satisfied, which will further encourage loyalty to their brand and their products. Hopefully it is a strategy that is recognized by other leading brands as successful and worthwhile as it could have long-lasting positive implications for the outdoor industry.

Comments

25 Responses to “Patagonia Worn Wear and Warehouse Tour”

  1. wtofd March 2nd, 2017 7:05 am

    Fantastic article and endeavour. Fyi, I’ve had great results patching small tears with Kenyon self-adhesive tape (no ironing!) and the price is embarrassingly cheap. They’re in RI, and the customer service, in my limited experience, is excellent. Fast delivery, and lots of colors.

  2. RCL1 March 2nd, 2017 7:26 am

    I use Gear Aid’s Seam Grip to repair tears. Usually lasts the life of the product.

  3. Harry March 2nd, 2017 7:31 am

    This article and that facility are fantastic. Despite having a lot of no or low cost samples available to me my newest piece of outerwear in heavy rotation is 5 years old, and that was only replaced because I left my 8 year old shell in a rental car.

    Tech Wash, Revivex, and gorilla tape have been my friend. I used to send my HH garments in for repairs but that system is not what it once was.

    I just looked up that Kenyon self-adhesive tape. It looks like it beats the snot out of my method of masking and spraying with 3m Super 77, sticking some Gorilla tape on, then sealing the edges with silicon caulk.

    wtofd, how many wash cycles does the Kenyon tape hold up for? Do I need to treat the surface first, will recently applied DWR affect adhesion?

    If Patagonia or any other company has any hesitation about showing this side of their operation, let them know that I will be weighting my next garment purchase in Patagonia’s favor based on this article.

  4. Joseph March 2nd, 2017 8:13 am

    This is great. I saw a Patagonia van driving around Amsterdam recently with the Worn Wear logo. Do they do repairs on the spot too?
    I just found their website, it’s filled with diy tips on fixing gear. Good idea, no need to buy new when you can fix it.

  5. mavo March 2nd, 2017 8:58 am

    This was an awesome article! Thanks for sharing Jonathan, Lou and Team!!

  6. See March 2nd, 2017 9:13 am

    I would really like to see Patagonia (or anyone) take the next logical step and offer custom clothing. I have ordered and returned a ridiculous number of jackets and other garments this season looking for the right fit and features. When I think of the money spent on shipping, I could have paid a premium for a custom garment and still broke even. Not to mention benefits in areas like resource conservation, jobs, and customer satisfaction.

  7. Bruno Schull March 2nd, 2017 9:46 am

    This is very cool. I have used the Patagonia repair department, but I had no idea it was so widespread. Also, I think the worn wear deal is great. I will definitely use that, both to sell back and buy used clothes. That worn wear truck visited several cities in France and Switzerland and did do repairs on scheduled days on the spot. Awesome. I do wonder about the energy/resource/financial/ecological cost of producing and buying new clothes vs. shipping and repairing old clothes, and do believe that these efforts fall on the positive side of that balance, but even if they are closer than it might appear, I still think it’s worth it, simply to move the industry forward. Say what you will about Patagonia, but they are definitely leaders and steer the industry. Respect.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 March 2nd, 2017 10:33 am

    Bruno, I’ll bet the overall net reduction in carbon production is positive, but this is probably like recycling programs, in that it’s clearly not without cost. Best would be if we all dressed in bark from non endangered trees, but then… (smile).

    Seriously speaking, perhaps Patagonia not doing OR shows will allow them to host a lot more press trips like this. Could be way more bang for the marketing buck then spending money on their booth in a convention hall so 600 bloggers can try for a free pair of trousers. Seriously. I like what they get out of hosting these trips, in-depth coverage of why they are such a good company. An evergreen blog post that’ll be relevant for at least several years. Thanks Coop!

    Lou

  9. Guillaume March 2nd, 2017 12:24 pm

    Never bought anything Patagonia because of the price, but this alone makes me consider it now.

  10. XXX_er March 2nd, 2017 12:24 pm

    i use aqua seal on the inside of 3 layer gortex , ime it lasts forever, for holes in puffy jackets I dab some liquid bandage on small holes to keep the stuffing inside, tenacious tape on the big holes

  11. Bruno Schull March 2nd, 2017 12:55 pm

    Totally agree Lou. And that’s why I like this post so much: I mean, we’ve all read the Patagonia copy about how repair is revolutionary, and worn wear, and so forth, but who knew about this breadth and development of this program? Consider the cost, the resources invested! As I said, a great direction for the industry to follow, and respect to Patagonia for making it happen.

  12. Ray March 2nd, 2017 5:49 pm

    I’ve had great luck repairing holes in my Gortex pants; backpacks and other nylon items. I use a vinyl repair kit and they come with a large size patch that can be cut to size.

  13. See March 2nd, 2017 6:41 pm

    Repair. Apparently it’s a revolution https://ifixit.org/ . But seriously, ifixit.com has saved me a bunch of money and their “teardowns” are great, (if you’re into that sort of thing). Now if Lou would only do a Vipec teardown…

  14. Eric Perrin March 2nd, 2017 9:23 pm

    I am a long time Patagonia customer (30+ years). Of course I own other gear (Arcteryx, OR, Salewa, Undeararmour, and others) but I do look at Patagonia stuff first. While their style is sometimes too fashionable for my taste their customer support has always been stellar. I have had more than dozens repairs done and with the exception of one case the repairs extended the lifetime of the garments by years.

    The price, given the durability of their products, is usually not an issue for me. However there is a problem because a lot of people buy their stuff and get rid of it in an year or two because of cosmetic issues (fading, minor wear), oftentimes these folks don’t bother to give it away or recycle. But that is a much wider first world problem that Patagonia alone will not fix, but I sure am glad that they and few others are leading the way.

    Thanks for the post!

  15. Zorba March 2nd, 2017 10:00 pm

    Like Guillaume, I find this really appealing and a very admirable effort. Walking the walk, right?

    Interested to see what form the worn-wear program finally takes.

  16. Scott Allen March 3rd, 2017 5:43 am

    Great inside view of an outdoor industry leader…I was fascinated.

    As someone who really does’t need more Patagonia product, I find myself purchasing organic cotton pants or a nano vest anyway and barely justify my consumerist mania with their 1% for the environment pledge, stewardship on political issues and sheer convenience of repairs, which I have done numerous times, most recently a zipper on an original pile jacket from the late 70’s or early 80’s.

    Keep on going Yvon!

  17. Lou Dawson 2 March 3rd, 2017 6:28 am

    It’s pretty funny. When we first started doing factory tours and insider stuff like this, quite a few years ago now, people thought we were nuts. Like, “who would ever want to see this?” That’s the line I got during my first trip to Montebelluna and Asolo for those Scarpa factory visits. Now, everyone wants more and the agencies are putting these fams together constantly. I love seeing the industrial side of our society honored instead of dissed. Lou

  18. wtofd March 3rd, 2017 7:17 am

    Harry,
    I followed the instructions which suggested cleaning and drying the area, then cutting the patch into a circle to avoid points and edges catching. I then just smashed the patch on and held with finger pressure. I did add one on the inside, but did not iron. It’s washed well once. I can’t imagine a recent waterproofing would effect the seal, but have no experience. I like that they offer so many different colors. I went with white for a pair of light grey pants, and you have to strain to find the patch.
    The shipping and handling, as I remember, was quick and cheap. Great experience.

  19. See March 3rd, 2017 8:07 am
  20. Greg March 3rd, 2017 8:14 am

    I have also had good results from Kenyon repair tape. As stated, cut the patch round (or as round as you can get it) and just stick it on.

    Great article here about a great program.

  21. Aaron T March 3rd, 2017 8:17 am

    A former sustainably staffer for Patagonia is the cofounder of a new outfit: https://renewalworkshop.com/en/general/about-us.

    They repair and sell warranty and discard gear from outdoor manufacturers. Well worth looking them up if you like what Patagonia is doing.

  22. Steve March 3rd, 2017 2:11 pm

    Do you know if the Patagonia repairs folks will repair non-Patagonia brands? I’ve got a broken zipper on an otherwise perfectly fine down sweater.

  23. Coop March 4th, 2017 10:56 am

    Steve,

    Patagonia’s Reno repair facility will not repair other brands at this point. However this might change in the future.

    However, the Worn Wear program puts on various events around the country and does a tour. They will do simple repairs (like zippers) on any brand.

    Keep an eye out for dates of the Worn Wear tour. They should be posted within the next month.

  24. Andrew March 5th, 2017 12:12 pm

    Great that Patagonia is doing this, I will be shopping with them when I next add to my ski gear stash. It’s particularly timely as I spent last Saturday stitching up cuts on my ski pants with results which Dr Frankenstein would have been proud of.

    And if other readers have slightly faded / last season but otherwise functional gear they would like to get rid of, please make the effort to donate it to someone else, ideally a youngster or student, who would be glad of it.

  25. RDE March 5th, 2017 5:43 pm

    For the ultimate in durability of repairs on hard shells and Goretex. drop by your local sailmaker and pick up some stickyback sail repair tape. If you want to be the most stylish dirtbag around you can get it in carbon or Kevlar.

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