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Here at MAKE we like to say that Halloween is the maker holiday of the year because it encourages people to go all out and create something clever, creepy, and creative that can’t be store-bought. But what’s opposite of Halloween, the least makerly day of the year? My vote is Black Friday.

Unless you’re hitting the mall to buy tools to make stuff, the day-after-Thanksgiving-shopping-center-scrum is wanton consumerism unleashed, millions of shoppers marching in lockstep to the drum beat of “buy, buy, buy” without pausing to ask “why?”

Enough of the rant. Patagonia and iFixit have joined forces to do something about all that waste and mindless consumerism. The companies will co-publish a series of free repair guides for Patagonia clothing. (Of course no reason you can’t use the info to repair non-Patagonia stuff). And on Black Friday, customers can visit select Patagonia stores to get help fixing an old Patagonia garment. To sweeten the deal, there will be samples of the new Patagonia California Route beer made by New Belgium Brewery.

Isn’t there something strange about a clothing company that encourages people to repair their stuff instead of tossing them and buying something new?

“I would argue that a funny business model is one that encourages people to buy stuff that they don’t need,” said Patagonia spokesperson Nellie Cohen. “A world based on limitless consumption, greed, and growth is not sustainable—or satisfying… On Black Friday we are encouraging people to repair their gear, celebrate the journeys taken in these old clothes and of the lives lived simply, resourcefully, and close to nature. There is joy in owning something for a long time because it continues to serve our needs, and we want to encourage people to consider the value an item will have for them 5, 10, or 20 years from now.”

Sure, a cynic might say Patagonia is still seeking to get people into their stores on Black Friday like any other retailer, but there’s something wonderfully subversive about a company that tells you how to avoid buying more of their stuff by fixing it and prolonging its life.

“We are trying to build the best clothing of the highest quality that can be handed down for generations, and a critical part of keeping clothing in use is being able to repair the damage incurred along the way,” said Cohen.

iFixit, what Cohen calls “the best quality repair guides on the internet,” is helping the company do that.

“Our mission is teach everyone in the world how to fix everything,” said iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. “We’ve been sold into this idea that we have to buy new things.”

For makers, he says the line between making something and repairing it are blurry. They are really two sides of the same coin.

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While the iFixit community focuses on technology and gadgets, Wiens says one of the most enduringly popular questions on their user forums is how to patch a pair of ripped jeans. Until now, iFixit didn’t have the expertise to answer that question, but after spending time at Patagonia’s repair facility in Reno, Nevada, they got schooled on using a needle and thread. That’s where the idea of the partnership was born.

“Sewing is a little bit of a lost art,” he said. “There’s a generational gap.”

But with the growing popularity of wearable electronics and flexible circuit boards, he says knowing how to sew and remake clothing will become a more valuable skill.

“It’s a gateway to so many things,” he says.

Plus, he says, learning to repair your clothing personalizes it in a new way and it instills a sense of pride.

“If you take the time to repair a zipper on a pair of pants, you’re never going to get rid of them.”

As part of the Patagonia/iFixit partnership, Patagonia released a mini documentary called Worn Wear. It’s a beautiful film and I think it’s as subversive as encouraging people to repair their clothes because it makes patching together broken down clothes, buying used stuff, and not buying any at all cool. If that’s not a challenge to our throwaway culture I don’t know what it is.

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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