“Isn’t it frustrating that global warming is actually real?” deadpans British model Sam Rollinson in a new video for Stella McCartney’s Clevercare eco labelling system.
“Or that the polar icecaps are melting at a terrifying rate?” adds fellow catwalker Charlotte Wiggins. Hence these two are sharing “tips and tricks to help lower your carbon footprint by taking better care of your clothes” that include sewing on buttons and fixing broken seams.
It must be cool if McCartney is into it.
Actually, it was cool already. New wave repair culture has been bubbling away in grass roots communities since Martine Postma opened the first Repair Cafe in Amsterdam in 2009.
We used to mend things out of necessity – your lamp broke, you fixed it or sat around in the dark – but as the cost of new consumer goods fell, repair shops closed and specialist fixer-uppers gradually disappeared from our neighbourhood shopping strips.
Postma’s idea was to reignite our relationship with how consumer goods are made and work by providing free repair shops and expert advice on fixing them. There are now more than 1000 volunteer Repair Cafes internationally, including this one in Melbourne. In NSW, the Bower Reuse & Repair Centre takes its show on the road – check its website to find the event nearest to you.
What began with items such as bicycles, furniture and household electrical goods has spread to clothing. In Brisbane this Thursday, upcycling expert Jane Milburn will be sharing “mending techniques such as patching, stitching and creative disguise” at a pop-up Clothing Repair Cafe at Reverse Garbage.
Also this week, in Melbourne, the designers from sustainable indie labels A.BCH and Lois Hazel are holding a Care Repair Wear workshop as part of Fashion Revolution Week. Expect wisdom on “how to sew on a button, fix a ripped hem and stitch up that growing hole in your sweater”.
A new generation of Sydneysiders is flocking to Sew Make Create in Chippendale to learn the basic sewing skills their parents learned in school as children. While anyone anywhere can take notes from Tara Moss’s new Youtube series, Sewing Vintage, in which she very stylishly walks through the basics of using a sewing machine.
At the more rugged end of the market – outdoor gear and denim – brands worked out the appeal of repair culture long ago. Patagonia gives out free mending kits in its in-store Worn Wear stations, where a sewing whiz will fix your old gear for free. Nudie Jeans operates a chain of Nudie Jeans Repair Shops. Stella McCartney is the latest, and the coolest, high-end designer name to push the concept, but by no means the first. Hermès has been inviting customers to bring back its leather pieces for repairs since the company started out as equestrian harness makers in the 1830s.
Clare Press is currently trying to learn how to sew patches on a denim jacket. Follow her on Instagram