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Tucson Leather: to repair or not to repair
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Tucson Leather: to repair or not to repair

Tucson winters make for perfect coat-wearing weather.

No, seriously.

“I would say jackets are my No. 1

(repair),” says Garnet Pharris about working with leather at her shop Alterations, etc., 6590 E. Tanque Verde Road. “It’s kind of a seasonal thing here, because we have such short winters, and that is why it is so perfect, because it is not a heavy, wool coat.”

Pharris does all kinds of alterations as owner and head seamstress of the shop, but she specializes in leather, which can be one of those wardrobe staples that is worth repairing instead of replacing.

Tears, missing buttons, blown-out zippers, worn-out linings and size alterations she can do. Not everything — overhead compartments, dogs, doorknobs, anything sharp — mixes well with leather jackets.

Nor do the decades.

“I get amused with the winter in Tucson,” Pharris says. “Things don’t wear out because we don’t wear them. I see coats from 25 to 35 years ago walking around. Some of them have shoulder pads like a linebacker.”

She does a lot of restyling of outdated garments — i.e., reducing shoulder pads. A leather garment that is well-cared for can last decades, she says, but the key is in the care and the quality.

Pharris has a dozen tips for keeping your leathers soft and supple

1 Don’t store your jacket on a wire hanger. You’re asking for “weird bumps in the shoulder” if you do. Use a padded hanger and a cloth garment bag — it can’t breath in a plastic bag, which Pharris says is toxic long term. “You’re protecting it from dust and sunlight, but you want it to be able to breathe because it is a skin.”

2 After you hang it up, don’t crush said garment among a dozen other coats. Give it some space.

3 Don’t iron the thing. “People think they need to steam it to get the wrinkles out. Don’t hit it with hot. … Most people have horrible household irons that spit, leak and burn. If you treasure that item, send it to the pros,” she says.

4 And by the way, professionals are not necessarily your local dry cleaner. Pharris says when it comes to cleaning your coat, take it to a spot that specializes in leather care. She will recommend some spots if you call.

5 Hello, your name is anonymous. Keep the sticky name tags off the jacket. If you peel it off, you might take some of the leather with it.

6 At the beginning of each season, spray the lining of your jacket at the collar and cuffs with a product that protects the inside from natural skin oils. Again, Pharris can recommend a few.

7 Don’t go crazy with the treating and dry cleaning. “It will suck the natural oils out of the leathers,” Pharris says. “If you over-process, it will become hard.”

8 Stay away from heavy cleaning oils intended for leather saddles or furniture. No, it’s not the same thing.

9 Dark Star Leather, 2940 N. Swan Road, sells water-resistant products for leather jackets. Pharris says there is no way to completely waterproof your jacket, but a light rain — not a downpour — should be OK.

10 Keep an eye on the lining. The outer leather shell will likely out last it.

11 You can’t let leather out. If it’s too small, it’s too small. That is when it’s time to replace.

12 This is an investment. Take care of it — and it just might last until shoulder pads are back in style.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at or 573-4357. On Twitter: @JohannaWillett

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