From tricot to crochet, with the coronavirus many of us turned to do-it-yourself while we were locked up at home during the lockdown: just think of the Harry Styles patchwork cardigan which became a real phenomenon up on TikTok when fans began recreating JW Anderson’s sweater (which he then published the pattern in homage to them). On the catwalk we have seen it establish itself a ‘fix and reuse’ spirit, in Marni’s upcycled coats or in the collection Maison Margiela recycle, vintage items selected and revisited.
Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution and author de The clothes you love live long. Repairing, re-fitting and re-wearing your clothes is a revolutionary choice (out on 11 March for Corbaccio), he hopes that this new mood will push us all to repair even the clothes we already have in the closet. “There is poetry in the act of mending, it is something we have forgotten after 30 years in which everything is hyper-available,” he says on the phone to Vogue from his south London home. “The system needs to slow down.”
In practice, repairing our clothes – instead of getting rid of them, according to the Marie Kondo method, if the hem of a skirt is unstitched, or there is a hole in a sweater – also means preventing them from ending up in a landfill (less than ‘1% of garments are recycled to make new ones according to Ellen MacArthur Foundation). And in this way, our impact on the environment is also reduced: according to a study by the WRAP charity, which deals with waste reduction, extending the life of a garment by just nine months can reduce its CO2 footprints. water and related to waste 20 -30%.
Just to keep sportswear alive and keep them away from landfills, Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand that has always made sustainability its flag, often organizes dedicated events to learn the art of mending. The next? Saturday 20 February, at 7.00 pm, of course online. Repair expert Raffaella “La Raffa” Spampanato will show the Patagonia community how to repair zippers, holes, tears and more, and answer all our questions. Do you want to participate? You have to register now at this link.
In short, taking the time to repair our clothes means learning to value them, to love them again. “My clothes are like photo albums to me, each repair reminds me of a different story,” says de Castro. “The unstoppable speed with which we consume clothing has eradicated the concept of human hands creating things. It is important to restore the culture of understanding our clothes, to understand how to take care of them, and how to keep them “.
If you want to know if there will be room for our repaired garments in the wardrobe of the future, we have a dedicated podcast for you:
A visible repair, such as patching jeans or mending a hole in a sweater using different colored yarns (as the textile artist does Celia Pym), it can become a political message, particularly at a time like this when the difficulties faced by the workers in the sector, i.e. the people who produce our clothes, are further aggravated by Covid-19. De Castro states that it is probably even more important to repair clothing from fast fashion brands than for luxury brands, precisely to correct the current system, based on “senseless excess”.
“Repairing our clothes sends a very strong message to these brands: we don’t want quantity, we want quality, for our clothes, but also a higher quality of life for the people who make those clothes,” he explains. “Being able to pay our workers a decent wage, and having them produce fewer products would be a step in the right direction.”
So if you have garments lying unused in the back of your closet that are in desperate need of repair, follow these 5 tips from de Castro, you can’t go wrong.
Start with the little things
If you have never picked up a sewing needle before, it is quite unlikely that you will turn into an expert mender overnight. “This is not a new thing to do for a week, it is a lifestyle, it means changing habits,” says de Castro. Start with a button or a simple hem that you can sew by hand before embarking on more ambitious projects.
2A cover job
A very simple trick is to cover a small hole or stubborn stain on your garment with a patch or pin (take inspiration from the upcycler for example Tetsuzo Okubo who recently reworked some wearable art works by Damien Hirst for a project presented by Virgil Abloh). “It’s my favorite trick, I buy most of my badges in a great vintage shop, Cenci, in south London ”, explains de Castro, and adds that in this way he customized entire jackets and sweaters.
Of course, repairing your clothes with materials you already have will only improve your reputation green. And this also means that keeping any leftovers you find on your hands, whether it’s an old scarf, or the leftover fabric that time you shortened a skirt, will be of great help on your path to repair. “Or maybe you could decide to undo a knitted garment and use it as a yarn,” adds de Castro.
What kind of ‘repairman’ are you?
With all the options available, it is important to understand what kind of repair you like to do the most: mending, patchwork, or maybe customizing a garment? “I really like sewing buttons, I’m great at crochet, but I’m not able to use the sewing machine at all, so I don’t use it,” says de Castro says. “If you do something you truly believe in, you will make it yours.”
Recognize your limitations
To understand what kind of ‘repairman’ you are, you must also learn to recognize your limits and, if necessary, have your clothes repaired professionally. This could be a broken zipper, or the hem of a designer dress that you don’t want to ruin. “It depends on your skills, and how long you have,” concludes de Castro.
The clothes you love live long. Repairing, re-adapting and re-wearing your clothes is a revolutionary choice by Orsola De Castro comes out on 11 March for Corbaccio.