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Co-founded by Patagonia, Amsterdam's United Repair Centre is now training repair specialists

In 2022, we featured Patagonia co-founding a textile repair center in Amsterdam, enabling multiple brands to jointly offer mending services. A year later, United Repair Centre expanded to London, and a few weeks ago, it launched United Repair Academy, which is aimed at building both capacity and careers.

United Repair Academy trains its students to become clothing repair specialists through course modules ranging from accurate measuring and fabric knowledge to pattern drawing and complex repairs. Because the academy is specifically focused on creating opportunities for people with a distance to the labor market, including those with a refugee background, extra attention is paid to building language skills.

Offered in partnership with local trade school ROC Amsterdam and the city of Amsterdam, the half-year course is provided at no cost to participants. Upon completion, a job at United Repair Centre is more or less guaranteed, working for brands like Cortazu, Lululemon, Decathlon, Rapha — and, of course, Patagonia. United Repair Academy's first cohort started on 15 January 2024.

Trend Bite

One of fast fashion's numerous downsides is that buying a new garment is cheaper than fixing a damaged one. But, as ethical and environmental concerns weigh heavier on consumers, and apparel brands face pressure from customers and regulators to lessen their harmful impact, demand for mending is growing.

A few recent examples of the repair renaissance? In Q3 2023, Dr. Martens launched an authorized repair service with The Boot Repair Company. In November 2023, the French government introduced a 'bonus réparation' for clothing and shoes. And last week, mending app SOJO opened a permanent concession in Selfridges London.

Repairs are key to a circular economy, and skilled workers are key to scaling up repairs. Brands, educators, retailers: time to join forces, follow United Repair Academy's lead and make more clothes last longer? There's a potential for valuable feedback loops, too. Each repair provides data on garment durability, wear patterns and customer behavior. By guiding decisions in design and production, repairs could lead to longer-lasting garments that reduce waste and enhance customer satisfaction.