Home Living Sustainably Repairing instead of Replacing. Some new trends to look at.

Repairing instead of Replacing. Some new trends to look at.

by Shalika Suriyampola

A little bit of history behind repairing?

This idea of repairing goods has been a worldwide phenomenon for a long time. In the past the motivation was mostly economic, because it was just cheaper to repair an item than purchase a new one (Berthon, 2017). However, in recent times, the motivations behind repairing have evolved, leading to innovative and sustainable trends. Join us on a journey through history and explore some contemporary approaches to fixing and upcycling that not only save money but also contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.

But first, a historical perspective

  • Medieval European Guilds: Already in medieval times, the European guilds, comprised of skilled craftsmen and artisans, often engaged in repairing and maintaining the items they created. Craftsmen took pride in their work and were responsible for not only producing new items but also ensuring the longevity of their creations through repairs. This practice contributed to the development of craftsmanship and artisanal skills and of course, their guild reputation.
  • Waste Not, Want Not in Colonial America: In colonial America, settlers lived by the adage “Waste Not, Want Not.” Resources were scarce, and individuals had a frugal mindset. Items such as clothing, tools, and household goods were repaired and repurposed extensively to ensure nothing went to waste. Every component of an item was utilized to its fullest before considering disposal.
  • Japanese Mottainai Philosophy: In Japan, the philosophy of “Mottainai” promotes the respect and appreciation of resources, discouraging waste. This mindset encompasses the careful use, repair, and repurposing of items to extend their lifespan. Mottainai encourages a sense of responsibility toward the environment and emphasizes the value of preserving resources for future generations.
  • Mending on darning samplers: During the eighteenth century in Great Britain and Holland, girls would learn how to mend on darning samplers. They would fill holes in pieces of fabric with colourful patterns, rather than throwing away the pieces of fabric. 
An Example of Darn Sampling

  • Boro Patchwork in Japanese Garments: Boro is a Japanese term that means “rags” or “tattered clothes.” Boro patchwork originated among the working-class people in Japan, particularly in the northern regions, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was born out of necessity and the practical need to make clothing last as long as possible. Boro involves patching together small pieces of fabric, often using the Sashiko stitching technique, to create a new textile. These patches are applied to areas of clothing that have worn thin or developed holes, extending the life of the garment.
  • Mend and Make Do during the Great Depression: The Great Depression in the 1930s in the USA prompted families to adopt a “Mend and Make Do” attitude. With limited financial means, people became adept at repairing and repurposing clothing, furniture, and household items. The ability to extend the life of possessions became a practical necessity during this challenging economic period.
  • Make Do and Mend ethos came back during World War II urging citizens in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States to repair and repurpose materials amid rationing (Berthon, 2017). This message was pushed by the governments, sharing tips and tricks to repair materials and make the old new again.
  • Soviet Union’s Thriftiness: In the Communist Soviet Union, where resources were often scarce, thriftiness was a way of life. Citizens were accustomed to repairing and maintaining their possessions due to limited access to new goods. Items such as clothing, shoes, and household appliances were carefully repaired to ensure they remained functional for as long as possible.

These historical examples demonstrate that the habit of repairing has been ingrained in various societies for centuries, driven by practicality, resource scarcity, and a cultural ethos that values sustainability and frugality.

Even if the motivation behind repairing has changed, people continue to find innovative ways to repair their items and make them last longer. Keep scrolling for some hot trends in the world of repair (even when some are centuries old!)

Kintsugi: Embracing Imperfections with Gold

Imagine this. You are grabbing your new mug, it slips out of your hand and smashes on the floor. Oh shut! You just bought that mug on a trip, and you really, really liked it. Don’t fret, because Kintsugi has your back.

Kintsugi (金継ぎ)  is a 400-year-old Japanese ceramic repair technique. Kin (金) means gold, and tsugi (継ぎ) means repairing or mending. Kintsugi‘s art fixes broken pottery pieces using powdered gold mixed with lacquer (Traditional Kyoto, 2023).  This ancient method not only restores functionality but also celebrates the uniqueness of each repaired item.

The philosophy behind Kintsugi encourages embracing imperfections, imparting a valuable lesson in appreciating the character and history of the objects we use daily. Often we feel the need to replace items around our house because they do not look perfect anymore. But adopting this mentality and accepting the imperfection in most objects will reduce our need to replace them because imperfection is what makes them truly special

So maybe next time you drop a mug or a bowl, you can give the Kintsugi method a go. You never know, your results might be so amazing that you will soon have your friends breaking their ceramics on purpose to create their unique pieces. (We don’t encourage it though!)

The Repair Café: A Community for Sustainability

Do you want to start repairing goods but don’t feel confident enough in your skills or have the tools to repair them? No worries, you are not alone! With more and more people choosing repair over replacement, Repair Cafés have emerged as a global phenomenon. In these community spaces, you will find the tools, materials and expert guidance that you need to repair anything, from furniture to electrical appliances. 

Beyond repairs, Repair Cafés foster a sense of community, encouraging skill-sharing and promoting enthusiasm for a sustainable society. Joining a Repair Café empowers individuals to fix their possessions and contributes to building a more eco-conscious community. It provides a face-to-face connection and learning opportunities for future generations.

Patchwork Trend: Transforming Old into New

Picture this, you finally get around to cleaning out your overflowing closet. You have a mound of clothes that you want to get rid of. What do you normally do? throw the clothes out in the garbage? take them to the nearest charity shop?

Some Creative Patchwork Trends COURTESY OF ISABEL MARANT ETOILE; FREE PEOPLE; VIGOSS; ADOBE, put together by Style Caster (https://stylecaster.com/fashion/fashion-trends/1195903/patchwork-fashion-trend/)

But wait, there’s a much better option. Instead of throwing out your clothes, you can get your imagination running and find fun ways to upcycle them. Patchwork is one of them, gaining lots of traction around the world. Patchwork consists of combining different fabrics to create entirely new clothing pieces. This creative and sustainable practice allows individuals to showcase their unique style and imagination, turning a mundane task like cleaning out a closet into an opportunity for artistic expression.

Upcycling Your Clothes: A Fashionable and Sustainable Choice

The upcycling movement extends beyond personal endeavours, with haute couture designers like Ronald van der Kemp (Vogue, 2022) incorporating repurposed fabrics into their collections. His ability to reuse old fabrics and clothes has inspired other designers.

Social media platforms, such as TikTok, amplify the #upcycledfashion trend with millions of users participating in the upcycle buzz. Upcycling clothes not only benefits the environment but also empowers individuals to express their creativity and uniqueness through fashion.

Examples of upcycled fabrics

To get started, you just need some old clothes. and other basic sewing equipment to get started. You can check this other article for more sustainable fashion tips.

These are some examples of upcycling I have done myself.

If you are not sure about how or where to start, we recommend you to check out the DIY Kits by BOTTIES, they contain everything that you need to upcycle your old jeans into amazing denim ballerina shoes or cute denim slippers for the kids.

Tips and tricks to help in your repair & upcycling journey.

  1. Overcome Fear!

If you are feeling apprehensive, remember, that you don’t have to dive straight into complex repairs. You can start with the easiest. Maybe try sewing back a button or glueing together that broken vase to get started. When it comes to fabric repairs, embrace the trendy concept of visible mending – imperfections are in! With each item you repair, you’ll gain valuable experience and confidence.

  1. Start Small with Basic Tools.
assorted color sewing machine
Photo by Adonyi Gábor on Pexels.com

Many repairs can be tackled with just a simple pair of scissors, a screwdriver or some glue. Transform a long-sleeved shirt into a trendy short-sleeved one or repurpose denim scraps into a stylish cup sleeve or patchwork rug. You’ll be amazed at what you can create with minimal tools and a bit of creativity.

  1. Choose Beginner-Friendly Materials

When diving into upcycling, opt for fabrics that are easy to work with. Cotton and polyester are ideal for beginners, offering ease of handling compared to more challenging materials like satin or chiffon. Jeans are amazing to work with because they are sturdy and stable. Starting with these simpler fabrics will help build your skills and confidence

What Can We Learn from These Repair Trends?

Repairing isn’t just about fixing things – it’s about not forgetting our history while embracing innovation, reducing waste and saving money. By repairing your goods, you’re not only benefiting your wallet but also contributing to a more sustainable future for our planet. Feeling inspired? It’s time to roll up your sleeves and tackle those household repairs!

For more inspiration and resources, explore our tips on social media.

Lola is the founder of Green Cloud Nine. Nature lover and environmental activist since she was a teenager, Lola has always been a great fan of homesteading and she is continuously experimenting and finding her way to be more self-sufficient and sustainable.

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