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The Most Beautiful Product We Make Is the One You’re Wearing

Mikey Schaefer  /  4 Min Read  /  Worn Wear, Activism

Is anyone this psyched when they buy a brand-new jacket off the rack? Martin Lopez Abad, reunited with his well-worn, freshly-patched jacket, thinks not. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

At Patagonia, we think the most beautiful product is really designed by you. Every tear, stain and duct tape patch proves the bond that can develop between a person and their gear. Our Worn Wear repair program helps keep your well-loved clothes in action longer and provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’ve finally gone one step beyond.

Mikey Schaefer, our longtime ambassador and photographer, spends part of every year in Patagonia. Recently, he came back with a story that’s become one of our Worn Wear favorites.

When I go to Chalten, I often bring jackets I’m not wearing or that are slightly worn out. Gear is so much easier to get up here in the States, and climbers down there need it, so it’s a good way to keep things in circulation.

It was the end of the climbing season. Martin, who I didn’t really know at the time, shows up and knocks on my door in this beat-up jacket. The thing was so trashed. You don’t really see that, especially in the States—people just don’t wear stuff to that stage anymore. But here’s this nice kid asking, “I heard maybe you have jackets to sell?” And I’m just staring at him and his jacket in shock. He tells me he’d climbed Fitz Roy in it and essentially froze his ass off. There were holes in the elbows—the thing is just wrecked. But here’s this young guy, making it happen and I thought, I like this kid. So I say, “Hey man, how about this. Let’s just trade.”

Photo: Federico Ruffini

Well-anchored but hanging loose, Martin Lopez Abad raps off Torre Norte. Torres del Paine, Chile. Photo: Federico Ruffini

He didn’t understand at first. He thought I was crazy. But I wanted to bring the thing back to the U.S. and show people, because they don’t always understand what we’re really building these things for. I wasn’t sure if it could be repaired or not, but I tell Martin, “Here’s a pile of jackets, go pick one.” He says, “No way. You’re giving me a jacket?” Then he just grabs me and hugs me and says, “Thank you so much!” He picks out a down hoody or something, and I take his jacket, and that was that.

When I got back to the States, the Worn Wear truck came to Smith Rock, and I brought out Martin’s jacket. I showed it to one of our repair gurus, Cathy Averett, and she said, “Whoa. I’ve never seen anything like this.” She clued in that this was a super special piece, and said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to fix this thing.”

Photo: Donnie Hedden

Mikey Schaefer gets his Worn Wear fix. Smith Rock, Oregon. Photo: Donnie Hedden

Sometime that fall, I got the jacket back. It was amazing. Cathy had gone to town on it. Now it’s got custom embroidery on the back, and it says “Made with love” on the inside. She just went off. So I threw it in my bag, didn’t email Martin or anything, and brought it back down to Chalten. Soon, I run into him, and I say, “Dude, you gotta come over. I brought you something.” I bust out his jacket, and he’s speechless. He was so worked up, he gave me another huge hug.

Photo: Mikey Schaefer

Is anyone this psyched when they buy a brand-new jacket off the rack? Martin Lopez Abad, reunited with his well-worn, freshly-patched jacket, thinks not. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

You know, when you’re young, a jacket means something to you. It means so much more than when you can buy whatever you want, and Martin had worn that thing up Fitz Roy and on all these rad routes, and it had serious sentimental value to him. He wore the repaired jacket around town, and he was so proud. It’s kinda too small for him—the cuffs come up above his wrists and stuff, but it’s classic. Every time I saw him that trip, he had that jacket on, showing people, so psyched.

It was a fun thing to be able to do. It’s great when it all comes full circle.

This story first appeared in the Patagonia Winter 2016 Catalog.

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