Fashion is more than a reflection of personal style — it’s a global industry that impacts the environment significantly. An estimated 81.5lbs of clothing waste are sent to landfill each year by each person in the US alone, signaling an urgent need for more sustainable fashion practices. Thankfully, a shift towards clothing repair and reuse is paving the way for a more sustainable fashion industry, reducing product emissions and combating the fast fashion culture that has long dominated the market.
The Rise of Clothing Repair and Reuse
As part of their push toward a more sustainable future, the Australian Fashion Council recently announced the final stage of its scheme called the Seamless scheme. In partnership with various organizations and government agencies, the council plans to impose a four-cent levy on each garment produced by fashion businesses. This levy will fund sustainability research for the industry and establish infrastructure for textile recycling.
While participation in the scheme is voluntary, it encourages fashion businesses to consider the full life cycle of a garment by making rental, resale, and repair options available to consumers. Fashion brands embracing this shift towards circularity are making significant strides in integrating repair into their business models, demonstrating the potential for a more sustainable fashion industry.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program: A Pioneer in Sustainable Fashion
One such brand is the outdoor apparel company, Patagonia, which has been a champion of circular fashion since the 1970s. Through its Worn Wear program, Patagonia encourages customers to repair, resell, and upcycle garments, thereby reducing the demand for new products and the resulting emissions. This program is a testament to the brand’s commitment to sustainability, underscoring its place as a global leader in environmentally friendly practices.
In addition to offering DIY repair kits and online tutorials, the Worn Wear program provides a robust repair-and-resale scheme. Customers can send back eligible items via post or in-store drop-off in exchange for a voucher worth up to 50% of the resale price of the item. Once repaired, these second-hand garments are resold at a reduced price, making them more accessible and affordable.
Moreover, the company maintains 72 repair centers worldwide where items are repaired free of charge or for a nominal fee. Last year, Patagonia repaired 100,000 items through this initiative and aims to increase that number moving forward. At their largest standalone repair center in Reno, Nevada, over 115 full-time employees work to give life back to worn-out garments.
Although the repair-and-resale scheme is currently only available in the United States, Patagonia’s commitment to repair is a step in the right direction toward a more sustainable fashion industry.
The Path Forward
Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, alongside similar initiatives, is shifting the fashion industry from a linear to a circular model. By prioritizing repair, reuse, and resale, these brands are challenging the throwaway culture that has driven the industry for years.
While making new garments is often easier and cheaper than repairing old ones, it comes at a high environmental cost. Fast fashion, characterized by cheap materials and quick turnarounds, contributes to the growing amount of textile waste and the emission of greenhouse gases.
Instead, the fashion industry needs to invest in sustainable practices like repair and recycling. Brands must integrate circularity into their business models, as demonstrated by Patagonia and the Australian Fashion Council. Consumers also play a significant role in this transition, with their purchasing power able to shift industry norms.
As we continue to grapple with the impacts of climate change, the shift towards sustainable fashion practices like clothing repair and recycling becomes ever more critical. The onus is on everyone — fashion brands, industry leaders, and consumers alike — to prioritize sustainability over convenience and make fashion a force for good. The future of the planet might just depend on it.
DIY Clothing Repair: A Sustainable Approach
Repairing your own clothes is not a new thing. People have been repairing their own clothes for many years.
With the right tools, skills, and a bit of patience, most of us can make simple repairs to our clothes. Here’s a beginner’s guide to DIY clothing repair, contributing to sustainability at a personal level.
Essential Tools for Clothing Repair
- Sewing Kit: A basic sewing kit should include needles, a selection of thread in different colors, pins, a tape measure, a seam ripper, and a pair of sharp fabric scissors.
- Darning Tools: Darning is a technique used to repair holes in clothing, especially knitwear. You’ll need a darning needle and yarn, along with a darning egg or mushroom to maintain tension in the fabric while you work.
- Iron-On Patches: These are useful for covering larger holes or tears, especially in heavy fabrics like denim.
- Sewing Machine: Although not necessary for simple repairs, a sewing machine can save time for bigger projects, making professional-quality stitches faster and easier.
Essential Skills for Clothing Repair
- Sewing a Button: Losing a button is one of the most common clothing repairs. You’ll need to thread a needle, create a knot at the end, and then sew the button back on, making sure it aligns with the buttonhole.
- Fixing a Hem: If the hem on your skirt or trousers comes undone, you can easily repair it with some straight stitches along the original hemline.
- Darning: This skill is handy for fixing holes in knitwear. The process involves weaving yarn back and forth across the hole to fill it in, creating a sturdy patch that blends into the original fabric.
- Repairing a Zipper: A zipper that won’t close can often be fixed by using pliers to gently realign the teeth, replacing the pull, or restitching the fabric around the zipper.
Common Types of Clothing Repair
- Holes and Tears: Small holes and tears can often be repaired by hand using a needle and thread. Larger holes might require a patch.
- Seam Repair: Seams can come undone with wear and tear. Re-sewing a seam can often fix this.
- Zipper Issues: As mentioned above, a zipper that won’t close can often be fixed by gently realigning the teeth, replacing the pull, or restitching the fabric around the zipper.
- Missing Buttons: Replacing missing buttons is one of the most basic and common clothing repairs.
- Worn Fabric: If a section of fabric becomes thin or worn out, it can be reinforced with a patch or by darning.
While DIY clothing repair can be a rewarding and sustainable hobby, not all garments are worth the time or effort to fix, particularly if they are poorly made to begin with. That’s why it’s essential to invest in quality clothing made of durable materials. Buying less but buying better, coupled with responsible care and repair, can significantly reduce our fashion footprint.