Mending Is The Next (Radical And Accessible) Movement In Sustainable Fashion

by Jasmin Malik Chua

'...Mending has been around as long as clothes have, says Kate Sekules, fashion historian, mending instructor, and author of Mend! A Refashioning Manual and Manifesto. The earliest humans wore garments pieced from an assortment of animal skins; ancient Egyptians would repair a textile three or four times before laying it to rest as embalming cloth in someone’s tomb; and Edo-era Japanese used “little stabs” of embroidery to bolster the strength of their homespun fabrics. Throughout the ages, the working poor would do whatever it took to extend the life of their wardrobes because the textiles themselves were “extremely valuable and precious and worth preserving,” she says.

Fast fashion and its model of built-in obsolescence, on the other hand, has devalued both the materials and the human labor that make up a garment, though Sekules dismisses the idea that a skirt from H&M or a jacket from Zara isn’t worth fixing when it falls apart. “Even if it’s so-called fast fashion or big fashion, it’s still being constructed by humans and we should remember that,” she says. “[Otherwise], we’re not honoring the people who slaved on it — ‘slaved on’ is a loaded term, but it’s not always inaccurate.”

Sekules is a proponent of a technique known as “visible mending.” Instead of keeping the repairs as subtle as possible, visible mending draws attention to the site (or sites) of rehabilitation as a fashion statement, a political act, or both. “It’s a scar and a badge of honor at the same time because you’re displaying to the world your intention to preserve and improve and personalize all those things in one,” she says. #MendMarch, a hashtag she forged on Instagram to champion repair, has rallied a growing community. “People are really getting behind it because not only is it practical, it’s also infinitely creative and everybody can do it their own way,” she says. “There are no rules. There’s no right way. And there’s no wrong way.”

Mending tends to get a boost in times of scarcity and deprivation. (“Make Do and Mend,” Great Britain’s World War II rationing initiative, readily springs to mind.) COVID-19 has cued up a similar, if not entirely identical, need. “What we need to preserve is our sanity,” Sekules says. Mending, she adds, can be a meditative experience that “shuts up your mind” to stress, anxiety, or boredom. And in doing so, we might realize “it’s our relationship with clothing [today] that needs mending.”...'

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