Trend to repair: cost of living crisis puts tucking back in fashion | John Lewis

TThrifty and eco-friendly consumers who want to make do and mend rather than splurge on new threads are credited with boosting sales of darning equipment and garment repair products, including patches, dye and thimbles.

The trend of repairing means cycling – associated with the buying experience as depicted in the 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? – is back in fashion, according to John Lewis.

The department store chain said it had sold out of darning needles and that sales of darning wool had doubled year-on-year, while sales of repair products such as patches and repair tape were up 61%.

Colored ribbon on display in the sewing container department. Photo: Bax Walker/Alamy

Susan Kennedy, head of tailoring at John Lewis, said: “Whether they’re looking to rejuvenate their clothes, or have been inspired by the likes of Tom Daley’s knitting efforts last year, we’re seeing more and more customers turning to sewing, stitching and knitting. »

She said sales of decorating accessories, such as thimbles, chalk and pattern-making accessories, were up 15% year-on-year.

Many people are learning skills their grandmothers took for granted thanks to YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, with such pastimes being given room to flourish during pandemic lockdowns.

BBC One’s The Great British Sewing Bee has also promoted the trend for stitching, while influencers such as Lily Fulop, Katrina Rodabaugh and Marlen Meiners are promoting fashionable ideas such as ‘visible mending’ – making repairs look like beautiful artistic additions to a garment, such as e.g. embroidered flowers, instead of ugly fixes.

Patrick Grant, host of The Great British Sewing Bee and founder of the Community Clothing label, said: “Mending in all its forms (simple acid repairs, patching and darning) is definitely on the rise. The web is filled with helpful how-to videos on every aspect of making our clothes last longer.

“I think there are two things driving the upswing. I suspect the cost of living crisis has quite a bit to do with it. If we can save money by making simple repairs, why wouldn’t we?

A selection of J Dewhurst & Co cotton bobbins and sewing needles. Photo: Malcolm Hunt/Alamy

“But I think this trend has been growing for several years now, and I think it’s largely driven by our desire to consume less and throw away less for environmental reasons.”

Businesses and individuals have been urged to take action amid evidence that the fashion industry contributes more to the climate crisis than the aviation and shipping industries combined – 10% of global emissions. If trends continue, the industry could account for a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

Grant said “water pollution, soil erosion and the mountain of plastic it leaves behind” only added to the effect.

Buttons in a bicycle
Buttons in a bicycle.
Archive image. Buttons in a bicycle
Photo: Lima Photography/Alamy

Research by waste organization Wrap has found that extending the life of a garment by just nine months can reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by 20-30%.

With that in mind, some retailers – including Zara and H&M – have started offering repairs with an eye on the ‘circular economy’ – promoting the idea of ​​reusing and recycling items.

Specialist services are also emerging to feed the trend – such as Make Nu and Restory, which has an outlet at Harvey Nichols and is partnering with luxury online retailer Farfetch.

A woman mending torn blue jeans
A woman mending torn blue jeans. Photo: Natalia Khimich/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Layla Sargent, the founder of The Seam – which connects skilled polishers, cleaners and restorers with the public – said sales were up almost 300% year-on-year in 2022 with 70% of sales coming from repairs, restoration and cleaning.

Sargent said her company flourished because people simply no longer have the skills to repair their clothes, especially in areas like London with more transient populations who may be cut off from family and community.

Moth hole repairs are one of The Seam’s most sought-after services – with prices starting from £10 – and she trained more technicians to keep up with demand.

“It is a changing mindset with a growing narrative of circular economy, sustainability and responsible consumer behaviour,” she said. “Repair is a key element of the circular economy – you can’t continue to rent out a dress unless you repair and wash it. You cannot sell objects if they are not cared for and restored.”

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