A New Holiday Tradition: Out with the New, In with the Old

Recently, my company iFixit—a free, online repair manual for everything—launched a partnership with sustainable apparel company Patagonia. Our shared goal: teach people how to fix their stuff. Usually at iFixit, we fix electronics. This time, we fixed clothing.

It was Black Friday. A day of crowds. A day of clearances. A day of consumerism.

But I was not in a line. And I was not grabbing any door-busting deals or fighting through crowds for a big screen television. In fact, I didn't spend a dime. Instead, I spent my day at a Patagonia store—not to buy, but to fix.

Recently, my company iFixit—a free, online repair manual for everything—launched a partnership with sustainable apparel company Patagonia. Our shared goal: teach people how to fix their stuff. Usually at iFixit, we fix electronics. This time, we fixed clothing.

My local Patagonia store in Santa Monica was one of the dozen or so stores that hosted a Worn Wear party on Black Friday to teach people how to patch up their battered-down gear. The event was awesome: we had great beer, live music, and showed Patagonia’s new Worn Wear film, a documentary about the joy of well-loved clothing. We met dozens of people, talking with them about everything from sewing to shoe repair, tools to tech. And we fixed things—a book bag, two backpacks, three pairs of shorts, pants, two jackets, an iPhone (we are iFixit, after all), a sneaker, and a sweatshirt.

But stitching up a torn library bag isn’t the part that matters—it’s the story worn into that item from years of use and love that matters. Each one of these items has a story: the library bag carried books to the library once a week for 15 years; a carpenter’s shorts were torn on a crazy construction site; a jacket skied Sun Valley for five years running.

Maybe it’s just the holiday spirit creeping up on me, but I love to hear these stories. They remind me that our things aren’t just things. Our things can be characters in our lives, if we let them. Once a jacket becomes your jacket—your companion up the Grand Canyon or down the Colorado—it is part of the adventure. And, as I closed a stitch on some beat-up shorts, I knew they will go on to many more adventures.

iFixit has an environmental mission. We repair things to keep them in use and out of a landfill. We repair things because everything that is manufactured contains within it something that cannot be replaced—human labor, natural resources, energy. We repair things because we hate to see something that precious go to waste.

But standing there in the Black Friday flurry—needle in one hand, a well-worn sweater in the other, and the owner of that sweater studying my stitches for when he would take over—the environmental concerns weren't really at the front of my mind.

Of course, I try to be aware of my choices. I want the gifts I give this Christmas to be meaningful. I want my friends and family to open their presents and be excited. To feel loved. I want them to have things that will become characters in their lives, like the sweater I was working on. Gifts that will be repaired, passed on, and become part of the holiday tradition—continual giving.

As I handed the sweater, some thread, and a needle back across the table, I saw the owner smile. Finishing the seam would be no sweat. Needle in hand, he settled down on the corner of a display of Patagonia clothing, and began to sew.

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