Making spaces on the high street for clothing repair

April 25, 2021

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Making spaces on the high street for clothing repair

Sometimes I come across a study which is just so…..human. I relish it and can’t wait to pass it on. This is one of them.

The researchers found that making space in high street shops for people to repair clothes could mend the damage caused by fast fashion and transform sewing into a wellbeing activity. Wow! More resources and opportunities for people to embrace slow fashion could also save people money, help them learn new skills and create new business opportunities.

The new study suggests a variety of ways in which consumers might be encouraged to change their clothing purchasing behavior, depending on their personality traits. One way to do this might be by marketing making and mending expertise as the “hipsters' equivalent of a spa day“.

Fast fashion has emerged in the last few decades as clothes have become cheaper, less durable and are purchased more frequently. This has resulted in severe negative environmental and human costs. Not to mention the fact that most of them are, well, ugly.

Researchers say top-down solutions—including taxation, market incentives and legislation—have been ineffective. They say social interaction and showing how repairs can help protect the investment people make in their clothes, should also be used to encourage more sustainable shopping.

The study says social interaction is just as important in shaping views and behaviors as learning new skills.

The experts say people’s behavior could also be changed by an app, or other technology, which charts consumers’ wardrobe content every six-months. The app could incorporate recording, profiling and photography tools enabling shoppers to make conscious choices regarding what they really need to buy.

The research was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. I confess this is the first time I’ve read it.

The researchers held 20 one-day workshops between January and September 2018, in Cornwall (where I was born—I spent the first 2 days of my life in the UK) and elsewhere in the UK to envision and practice an alternative, slower way of doing fashion. Participants gained hands-on experience working with natural yarns, natural dyes, hand-spinning and weaving, making do and mending, ethical clothing and upcycling. The people who took part were from varied backgrounds: from avid followers of fast fashion, to persons who made all of their own clothes.

The success of the workshops promises significant potential for nationwide roll out across the country.

Making stations could be run by organizations who could provide making and mending community kits, so groups of enthused people can join together, working with teachers if they wanted. There could also be Government funded making spaces/studios on the high street.

What the researchers say: “Top-down measures have been relatively ineffective and rejected by policy-makers. This means we also need bottom-up approaches to reduce the impact of fast fashion,” said the lead author. “Unless quality and longevity form part of fashion identity, it is likely consumers will continue to seek to pay the lowest price to achieve their intended identity statement. As demand for quality clothing increases in line with growing demand for slower fashion, there needs to be wider societal take up of clothing care and maintenance.

“This whole system change in how garments are perceived must include acceptance that clothes—like many other consumer goods—require intermittent servicing. Brands such as Patagonia and Finisterre are now providing servicing and repair kits, with ‘investment’ type items, like winter coats or boots. This mind-set shift could become popular with consumers if presented to them as a way to preserve their investment.”

“It is crucial expertise in making and mending spreads from small groups working in community halls and art spaces, to a normalized practice on the high street. High street brands should include stations for mending and modifying clothing in their stores, this could become a social thing to do - people could bring friends to making sessions,” the researchers concluded.

“Participants in the workshops said learning about fashion production and conditions had changed the way they viewed clothing. The project gave them the courage and inspiration to tackle repairs and modifications, and has normalized sustainability, rather than feeling isolated for wanting to be more sustainable.”

So, what? This is perhaps the best and most hopeful study of the month so far. Amen to it.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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