“IIt’s like a puzzle, ”says Yusra Adin, smiling from behind her sewing machine at Second Stitch, a community textile initiative in North Melbourne. The former Iraqi civil engineer laughs, remembering the tattered remains of his favorite T-shirt, brought in for repairs after its owner ripped it to pieces during a surprise encounter with an arachnid. “It was in pieces, but we fixed it.”
Adin is a newly trained textile worker using her problem-solving propensity at just one of many thriving companies serving an ever-growing number of people eager to repair, renovate, or resell our fashion rather than letting it go to the landfill. .
The scourge of fast fashion has been in the headlines for years due to its lousy environmental and human rights reputation, and one of the answers to fixing it is taking better care of what we already have. Humans have been mending and recycling textiles forever, nationally and professionally. Our attitude towards garments is a relatively recent phenomenon, but it is rapidly eroding many of the household textile skills that were common only a few decades ago.
While crafts and DIY became big trends in the 2010sAs millennials look for ways to become more personally involved with the objects in their lives, not everyone has the time, skills, or inclination to take matters into their own hands. Most people of a certain age will have professionally hemmed themselves, or had a grip added to slippery leather soles, but growing awareness of fashion waste is forcing more people to find ways to do that. their clothes last longer, without learning to sew themselves.
Second Stitch has earned a reputation for being a willing outfit capable of bringing items like beloved jeans, T-shirts, and knits back to life. In a time when fashion is getting more casual (and nostalgic), this is a huge draw. When removing the failed lining from a leather jacket, Adin explains that the job will cost his client about $ 40, including materials and labor. Second Stitch seamstresses receive award salaries and the prices reflect the time they spend on each item, which is often repaired with donated fabric to help keep costs down.
An increasing diversity of repair requests is a trend that Anna Timou has also noticed. For the past seven years he has been working up to 70 hours a week in his Fitzroy shop, On the Mend, repairing everything from baby carriers to bondage gear. “There used to be more businessmen, wealthier women, lots of decisive shoes, but the mentality behind fixing things has changed … and the language has changed: they are younger people and they don’t want things to go down the drain. dump. say it.”
Timou says he sees a lot more bags and other items that people are realizing they can fix: tents, sporting goods, instrument holders and equipment. Timou completed a Certificate III in Textile Production at RMIT in 2002 and was inspired by the Repairs module, which remains one of the only official shoe and garment repair courses in Australia. “It could have been mechanical,” he says, offering his strong, work-worn hands as proof. “There’s no learning, it’s more Bruce Lee style, you just have to do your 10,000 hours.”
Timou honed his skills at Max’s Shoe and Bag Repairs in Melbourne for seven years before opening his own business, which has grown to generate more than $ 150,000 a year, not only due to an increasingly conscientious clientele, but also because of his passion. for getting the job done right. “I’m going to fix something like I’m going to use it myself. They have to trust me. “
Timou takes effervescent pride in his work and says he regularly works with clients to make “reverse engineering” changes: altering bag straps, mending and combining items chewed by dogs, or returning abandoned leather goods to their former glory. through nutrition.
This idea of not only repairing or altering, but also refreshing items, is the bread and butter of Cullachange. The direct-to-consumer dyeing service, in Sydney’s Surry Hills, has been in operation for almost 30 years. When local swimwear brands went overseas in the 1990s, Rosemary Wright’s garment dyeing business began shipping mail-order bags to local dry cleaners. The company batch dyes textiles for as little as $ 25 per item, changing its color chart twice a year to reflect new trends. Black and French navy are still the most common choice for freshening up dark tones or to cover up fading or staining disasters, and the full palette can be used to treat everything from scarves to sofa covers.
Each item receives a pre-treatment check and an outbound inspection, although Janelle Hutton, Cullachange’s marketing manager, says “there are risks.” She says that most of the time they are able to gauge which way a tint job will go, but are always candid about the factor that results may vary. Natural and mixed fibers, he says, take color better and can even be stripped of their original pigment to achieve lighter tones. Synthetic fabrics are more complicated, and while glass beads “stain wonderfully,” plastic trims like sequins and some buttons don’t take on color. Hutton and the team consult with each client, and unexpected results have often proven to be “different, but even more beautiful” than clients expected.
Variability or a bad experience makes people nervous. Howard Graham of Circe, a 30-year-old tailoring and alterations team in Melbourne’s CBD, knows that customer satisfaction is the name of the game in the long run when it comes to alterations and repairs. He says: “The key to this business is understanding what people want and being clear at the beginning. It lives up to expectations. “
Like the other menders, Graham believes in a personal touch and individual solutions, even when it comes to simple hems or zippers. Its shelves are crammed with a chaotic array of unique solutions that, like the other companies mentioned, often cost customers less than $ 50.
For most, it is clear that throwing textiles away out of sheer lack of ingenuity is obscene; And from behind her messy workbench on a Sunday afternoon, Anna Timou encourages: “Little jobs don’t bother me at all. If I can understand it, I will help you. We also don’t charge for an extra hole in the belt. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism