For decades, we have approached the world of fashion with the philosophy of buy-use and (after a short period of time) throw-away. The products are less expensive but also last much less. The quality of the products and their durability is sacrificed at the cost of the low price. When we think of clothing repair, we might think of our grandmothers, who, with needle and thread, repaired anything or adjusted the size of clothes when it didn’t fit properly; it seems that this is due to the fact that the culture of repairing clothes (and even homemade clothes) now seems to be part of another generation, of another era. Such a simple process has become increasingly less common in the society over the years, to the point where it is now difficult to find people who can repair clothes or who have a business in this area.
This is due to our disposable culture: we no longer attach ourselves to clothing and have lost sight of its value. It is so cheap that it has no emotional or personal value. As a result, it is easier to dispose of it than to repair it. However, from the standpoint of sustainability, clothing repair is an excellent solution that would solve many problems associated with the waste of textile material that is discarded after a few uses.
What is textile reparation?
Mending is the act of repairing clothing that has imperfections caused by use. This includes flaws such as holes, stains, tears, and missing buttons. Most of the time, it entails some form of sewing. Clothing repair is an ancient practice, it has been around as long as clothes have. The earliest humans wore garments pieced together from various animal skins, and ancient Egyptians would repair a textile three or four times before laying it to rest as embalming cloth in someone’s tomb. Throughout history, the working class would go to any length to extend the life of their wardrobes because the textiles themselves were extremely valuable and precious, so they were worth preserving. On the contrary, the rise of fast fashion and its built-in obsolescence model has devalued both the materials and the human labor that go into making a garment.
Why is mending important?
The most straightforward solution to the problem of fast fashion is to reduce consumption. This is why mending is important. Mending is a circular practice that emphasizes care and rewear over consumption. If you want to offer your customers a more sustainable relationship with their wardrobe, offering mending solutions is one of the best ways to keep waste out of the landfills and creates a strong relationship with your customers.
By mending and repairing the products you sell, you ensure that they can be worn for a longer period of time, which reduces the impact on the environment and the consumption of each person who chooses to repair a product, and you ensure that less goes to waste. Mending is fundamentally a radical act of care in a fast fashion system that thrives on carelessness.
Furthermore, beyond the environmental impact, the process of repairing clothes has several positive outcomes for a business. If you create durable products first and encourage repair, you are building trusting relationships with customers and your brands’ products. Customers will return to your brand if you offer a higher value of the product. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to form emotional connections with your clients. All of this can be accomplished through storytelling and branding: you can illustrate and narrate how you want clients to treat the products and how they will emotionally bond with them (you can emphasize how buying long-lasting products, taking good care of them, and mending them can change the relationship we have with our clothes, and how it is possible to create memories with them). Cultivating an attitude that enhances each garment to the point of attempting to repair it as many times as possible leads the consumer to develop a deeper relationship with the garments in his wardrobe than the ‘use-throw away’ one that fast fashion has taught us.
Patagonia is really rocking at it
When it comes to product durability and aftercare, Patagonia is without a doubt one of the best examples to consider. Patagonia has two approaches to changing people’s relationships with clothing. First, in the manufacturing process, they are committed to creating long-lasting, high-performance products using recycled materials whenever possible. Second, they are committed to repairing, repurposing, or recycling their garments when they reach the end of their useful life.
Patagonia began following this path around ten years ago, after publicly committing to take back any product they’d ever made from customers, and they committed to the “Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle” principle. They firmly believe that many products should not be made or purchased in the first place because everything made has a higher environmental cost than we can repay. Whatever is broken should be repairable and whatever still works but is merely hanging in a closet or sitting in a garage should be reintroduced into the market.
They now run North America’s largest clothing repair facility (repairing about 50,000 pieces per year). Their commitment towards circularity is really impressive and is setting an example for all fashion businesses.
How to add reparation service in your fashion business
- Give your customers all the useful instructions about care and aftercare of the product in order for it to last the longest possible: a) information about the material composition b) how to take care of it during the time of use (how to wash it for example) c) provide videos/tutorials on your website for them to learn some simple sewing techniques for small reparations (you can take inspiration from Patagonia’s website: https://www.patagonia.com/repairs/#video-guides)
- Offer more complex reparations they can not do themselves and give them instructions on how to send the product to your reparation center.
- There is more than one path you can take for the reparation service: a) you can hire in your business an expert tailor (or more than one depending on the dimension of your business and the amount of products you sell) who can take care of the reparations in a store or your own repair center b) Collaborate with an external reparation center near you, here are some examples: Clothes Doctor, Fix that shirt, Repair Rebels but there are many others.
So what do you think? It’s definitely worth a try!
Begin by looking at brands that are already incorporating repair into their business model, analyzing their strategy (for example Nudie Jeans, Patagonia, Suitsupply) and try contacting them, if possible, to ask for advice on how to start as a small fashion business. You can also begin by creating tutorials on product care and basic mending techniques, as Patagonia did. Most importantly, start making an effort to create long-lasting products by investing in high-quality raw materials and efficient manufacturing techniques. Create a product that will retain its value over time.