Levi’s slogan back in the day was “The more you wash ‘em, the better they look and fit.’” Favourite jeans you’d worn in looked better than a brand-new pair, so Levi’s were designed to withstand years of washing and wearing.
Making a virtue of clothes lasting years is making a comeback – there’s a growing rejection of ‘throwaway culture’ that results in everything from smartphones to jeans being tossed out after a few months. Levi’s new slogan is “Buy better, wear longer”. This is similar to their old strapline, but reincarnated for 2021: Levi’s point out that ‘we’re wearing what we have less often and throwing out our clothes too quickly, keeping clothing for almost half as long as we did 15 years ago’.
According to the European Commission, one of the benefits consumers can expect from the circular economy is that they will be able to buy affordable products that last longer and are designed for reuse, repair, and high-quality recycling (1).
‘Repair’ is close to the top of the circular economy hierarchy (Figure 1). Repairing existing clothes is better than buying new ones made from recycled fabrics or even renting a garment, from an environmental perspective. To (over)simplify sustainability in fashion, a lot comes down to keeping clothing in use and out of landfill or incinerators. Repairing is a really effective way to do this.
Figure 1 – Source: Potter, Claire (2021) Welcome to the Circular Economy: The next step in sustainable living, p. 14
However, people no longer routinely carry out repairs at home (2) – me included. Thankfully, some brands will repair their own items. It is important to acknowledge that almost all of them are at the upper end of the price spectrum: although the cost per wear these brands offer is attractive, their upfront cost is high. Buying into premium brands is definitely not a requirement for being a sustainable fashion consumer – see this post on privilege and sustainable fashion. That said, if you are willing to invest in clothes or accessories that are repairable, here are some brands to consider:
(1) Nudie Jeans offer free repairs for ever. Repair stores, including one in Soho in London, accept jeans for repair. Official Repair Partners worldwide are an alternative if you’re not close to a store.
(2) Levi’s has several Tailor Shops worldwide (including in London, Manchester and Glasgow). The emphasis seems to be on customisation of products, but they do offer repairs too.
(3) Patagonia make their outdoor gear to last. They acknowledge that the best thing we can do for the planet is cut down on consumption and get more use out of stuff we already own. Under Ironclad Guarantee, the brand will make repairs resulting from wear and tear for a reasonable fee.
(4) Outdoor brand Finisterre offers a Lived & Loved service with a range of reasonably priced services.
(5) Women’s wear brand Lowie offer free repairs for life on all their garments: “Simply post or bring your garment into our studio or one of our shops, and we’ll fix it for you. It’s our way of helping you dress more sustainably by ensuring that clothes stay in your closet longer and out of the landfill.”
(6) Services that will repair any brand: I’ve currently got an Uterque handbag that I love that could do with repairing. The Restory collect, restore and return bags and shoes. I also have some pyjamas from Piglet in Bed (a fairly expensive brand) that have developed a hole after about two and a half years of active service. I’m sure they could be darned. I have absolutely no idea how to darn, so they be heading to The Clothes Doctor.
I’ve just found an ‘Absolute Beginners Sewing Class’ at a local workshop. Perhaps it’s time for me to master at least a few elementary skills …
About the author
I am a fashion-lover, reformed shopaholic and student of the environment: I completed a Business Sustainability Management qualification in 2020 and am currently a candidate for a Master of Science degree in Environment and Sustainability. My purpose is to help everyone discover the joy of sustainable living.
(1) European Commission (2020), ‘A new Circular Economy Action Plan For a cleaner and more competitive Europe’. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/communities/en/community/city-science-initiative/document/circular-economy-action-plan-cleaner-and-more-competitive#:~:text=For%20a%20Cleaner%20and%20More%20Competitive%20Europe,-New%20action%20plan&text=The%20plan%20sets%20out%20the,circularity%20in%20regions%20and%20cities.
(2) Defra (2008) Public Understanding of Sustainable Clothing: A research report completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University. Available at: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=15626
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