Throwing away that old sweater? Hold up! Eco-friendly fashion is teaching us how to fix our old clothes and give it a sustainable and spin.
While we are all shifting towards buying more secondhand clothing or making more sustainable fashion choices, it’s also high time we pull out those damaged, old clothes from our wardrobe and simply fix them. As people are taking more conscious steps to limit overconsumption and adapting an eco-friendly approach, this is the least we can do to reduce our impact on the planet, too.
So your sweater has a hole, a heel came off your shoe, or your handbag’s looking tired … not so long ago, some of these items of clothing and accessories would have been sent straight to someone’s dear granny — or to the cobbler — to fix them up like new or to patch them up as best as possible. Remember having patches on your jeans as a child? They may not have found many fans at first, but they went on to become a fashion trend in their own right, even finding their way into collections at some of the world’s biggest fashion houses. And, at the same time, you didn’t need to throw out those favorite jeans.
An eco-friendly fashion approach that’s making a comeback
The idea of keeping clothing for as long as possible faded away over the years, to the point of being eclipsed by the desire — and perhaps the practicality — of throwing out old clothes and replacing them with new items. As a result, wardrobes are full to bursting, often with a lot of unworn items, and the world is facing mountains of textile waste that’s been piling up over the years. In France, for example, some 600,000 tonnes of textiles, also including home textiles and shoes, are “consumed” by households each year — or around 10kg per person — according to the French Ministry for Ecological Transition. And yet, only a very small part of that is recycled then repurposed, reflecting the impact that this kind of consumption can have on the environment.
While recycling, selling or donating clothes to give them a second lease of life may seem like an adequate solution, repairing them would be good for the planet and for our wallets. In fact, it’s these two criteria — amplified by the pandemic and the economic crisis — which could help change mindsets and make clothing and shoe repair services as popular as they were in the past. According to figures from the British charity Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), extending the active lifespan of clothing by an extra nine months could reduce the carbon footprint by around 20-30%. So what are we waiting for?
Solutions for all budgets
Repair services are growing in number in the fashion world and beyond. Just look at the recent proliferation of Repair Cafés, the collaborative repair workshops that give new life to all kinds of objects. Sewing workshops are springing up all over too. The trend has no doubt been buoyed by covid-related lockdowns, which revealed a healthy appetite for DIY of all kinds. Similarly, some brands and chains are now offering their own services to extend the lifespan of the clothing items that people aren’t ready to give up on.
While fast fashion and sustainability don’t usually go hand in hand, the fashion chain H&M is one of the pioneers when it comes to clothing care and repair services. Over two years ago, the Swedish clothing giant launched Take Care, a physical space dedicated entirely to clothing customization, repair and care. Plus, the store’s customers can now find a host of practical advice on its website, from how to sew on a button, to repairing a tear or fixing a hem.
For its part, sneaker brand Veja — known for its many environmental commitments — recently opened a repair space at the alternative hotspot Darwin in the French city of Bordeaux. Here, old pairs of sneakers can be cleaned, repaired and recycled to help reduce waste. Brands including Patagonia, Weston and Schott NYC are offering similar services. Other businesses — like L’atelier 23/11, The Restory or Clothes Doctor, to name just a few — focus entirely on repairing and restoring old bags, shoes or clothing. And some brands have developed fix-it kits to help make the task easier.