Sustainable sourcing, vibrant patterns and donations to charity – it sounds impossible. But one man, Baxter Salzwedel, is offering it all. Creating one of a kind garments with a passion is quite literally his name – the “madpatcher” turned his sewing hobby into a full-fledged, flourishing business. I interviewed the 18-year-old to find out more about his beautiful garments and figure out how the high school graduate built his business from the ground up.
How long have you been making clothes? When did you decide to turn it into a business?
My grandma taught me how to sew when I was little, and in particular over quarantine. I was making masks with her for different things — she donates to different charities based on the source and inspiration of each individual garment or collection she is working on. So I was making masks with her for what she was doing, and I started making them at home too for my friends. And I was already patching jeans for myself. So I just started selling all of it and donating 25% of profits to different charities. It just kind of built up, I live right next to a farmers market so it was really easy to get started.
What do you sell?
With cutting, I’m only really great at shorts and pants. I’m still trying to master torso measurements. But I can patch anything, and repair and decorate any piece of clothing. So really anything.
Did you start selling your clothes at the farmer’s market?
I started selling my clothes in my driveway because I live right next to the farmers market. Garage sales are legal in Elkhart, so I didn’t have to pay the farmers market fee.
Did you have a lot of business right off the bat or has it really grown?
It’s grown. But Elkhart’s a small town so there was lots of initial support from the community.
Do you have business partners?
I have in the past. They’ve gone into their own business ventures, one of them is working at a hospital right now. I’m working with one guy right now – his name is Kieran O’Grady.
How does your business give back to the community?
25% of profits on each product go to charities that coincide with the source or inspiration of the garment. All of my fabrics and blanks are sustainably sourced so they come from a lot of different places. For example, I get these sick fabrics from an old couple who has a shop in South Dakota. I donate to the Native Americans Rights funds when I use these fabrics, and it’s actually become my trademark fabric. And then there’s lots of fabric that’s blue, and that goes toward the ocean cleanup project.
What makes the Mad Patcher special?
Ethics and philanthropy. I do custom orders, so a huge aspect of the Mad Patcher is individuality. People can customize whatever they want to make.
Where do you source your materials from?
All over. Thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales — if I can find ethical fabric brands I’ll buy new stuff but otherwise I shop secondhand.
Can you provide me with a small description of what you do on a day to day basis?
I do most of my work out of my basement. It’s a lot more pinning than sewing, coming up with where everything is going to go is hard because there are so many unique options.
What is your best selling item? Are you currently working on anything?
Pants with the Native American Rights Fund fabric are by far my best-selling item. I’m currently working on the Palazoo pants, which are unreleased.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?
Bead stitching is my favorite. I take a bunch of random beads — bamboo, metal, whatever —and I make up a pattern in my head. Then I hand stitch the beads on. Bead stitching takes a long time so I don’t do it too much.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully a brick and mortar store, probably in Madison, Milwaukee or Chicago.
Do you plan on expanding your business? How?
I’m working to increase my online presence and sales. I only sell through Depop — @themadpatcher — right now. I do custom orders, so it would be great to start an online website where I could do online consultations and really get customer orders.