Sunday, 5 April 2020

Can the Trend of Visible Mending Help to Remove the Stigma of Old Clothes?

A uni project and this unexpected period of self-isolation got me thinking about mending; something I have never normally taken time to do. Maybe you feel bored of the word ‘mending’ already but I have recently noticed the trend of visible mending in collections from the likes of Bode, Comme des Garcons and Alexander McQueen. Brands such as Johnathan Cohen and Ulla Johnson's are also including patchwork patterns in their 2020 collections with Cohen choosing to use dead-stock fabrics. Smaller brands such as ReJean, who have always made mending and repurposing fabrics their mission, deserve a mention too.
Despite being a trend that predominantly comes from our changing attitudes towards how we care for our clothes rather than high fashion itself, seeing these collections makes me wonder if trends like these have the power to change the way we value our old clothes.

Annually more than 300,000 tonnes of clothes goes to landfill in the UK – £12.5 billion worth of clothes binned. How many of those clothes could have been saved from landfill if we decided to take ten minutes to mend an old jumper?
Yes, part of the issue is convenience, but would we be so eager to take the time to mend something if we thought it wouldn’t be socially accepted to wear it? I'm not sure that we would.

Mending is not something that we normally factor into our daily routines. We typically have fast paced lifestyles where there is usually a sense of guilt surrounding a lack of our productivity. Then when we do decide to stop, mending (typically seen as a chore) isn’t going to be at the top of our list. However in a world where thinking about the strain that fashion is putting on the planet, mending is a gentle, mindful form of protest against our disposable culture. 
Just like home crafts such as embroidery and knitting, the act of darning old clothes (instead of throwing them away) generally lost its popularity with my parents generation. For a few decade’s home crafts where seen as twee and old fashioned; a past-time which was a reminder of the domestic lifestyle imposed upon a lot of women. It wasn’t a choice and then it was, so we chose to do away with it.

Today home crafts have been reinvented. See Wool & The Gang for an example of how knitting patterns need not be garish and frumpy, but modern and like anything you would choose to buy from a high end store. 
Our attitudes are slowly starting to change, but there is still a stigma associated with old clothes. It is after all the desire for us to constantly refresh our wardrobes that fuels the fast fashion industry. Although now actively showing that something has been worn and mended has become a counter-trend to fast fashion!
In the last few days I have tried out a bit of darning for myself.
It is very similar to weaving, fairly simple and I found it incredibly satisfying to take something unwearable and give it a purpose again. I can imagine it will become quite addictive...

With the backing of big brands hopefully this menial task can become a creative and fun way to reinvent the clothes that we own. A brand recently giving a lot of attention to darning is TOAST. Artist Celia Pym was commissioned by them to document the ways in which knitted toast garments had been worn over time and Celia's collection of clothes where put together into an exhibition. To be honest regardless of whether it's a trend, I personally think darning can be really beautiful and makes some clothes even more interesting than they were originally!

Below are some places to find advice of how to mend. Have a look at my Pinterest board on visible mending for inspiration too! I also really recommend the inspiring Fashion Revolution zine Loved Clothes Last for guidance on how to mend and care for your clothes to make them last.




Lets hope that we continue to see mending promoted in fashion – not through meaningless stitches and token patches on clothes, but through re-using discarded fabrics, creating clothes made to last and encouraging customers to care for their wardrobes.  
I believe that designers are in a great position to create a culture where re-imagining old clothes isn't seen as a last resort but becomes a popular choice.

                                                                                          Beccy x
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