Crafting sustainable repairs: Practice-based approaches to extending the life of clothes

Angarhad Mclaren, Shirley McLauchlan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

Mass-produced ‘fast fashion’ has changed our relationship with clothing – cheap and easy to acquire, we are unlikely to take time to undertake simple repairs or address issues of maintenance, often caused or exacerbated by poor construction and low quality materials (You Gov, 2012; Fletcher, 2008; Goworek et al, 2012). Through complete lifecycle assessment, extending the useful life of clothes has been identified as the most significant intervention in reducing the impact of the clothing industry (Wrap, 2012). However, academic research emerging from both the UK and Scandinavia has identified practical, social, economic, aesthetic, systemic and psychological barriers that prevent consumers from performing even the most basic of repairs, and as a result damaged or worn items are discarded or taken out of active use (Cooper et al, 2013; Goworek et al, 2012; Laitala, Kirsi and Boks, 2012; Armstrong et al, 2014; Fletcher, 2013; Middleton, 2014).

This exploratory paper will study the barriers to mending, different perspectives on the reasons behind them, suggested solutions and contemporary approaches to overcoming them, such as repair cafes, artist and craft led projects such as Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending Programme and Michael Swaine’s mobile Mending Library, and WRAP’s Love Your Clothes consumer engagement campaign. As textiles designers and academics whose work is embedded in sustainable principles, we will discuss the findings of our own practice-based approaches in relation to these, in order to contribute to the field and consider the role designers can play in enabling solutions.

Our research has been gathered through participatory design workshops and public engagement events, informed by review of historical, existing and emerging repair practices, and personal craft praxis as space for exploration, experimentation and reflection. Finding that traditional associations of repair with isolated domestic drudgery, lack of creativity and social economic perceptions prevent people from mending and darning their clothes, we have explored ways to motivate inter-generational skill sharing, address aesthetic barriers and add value to the acts of repair by re-framing them as fun and social design-led activities. The potential of participatory craft praxis as a latent educational tool to motivate greater public engagement in the wider sustainability debate will be discussed, alongside it’s personal restorative capability through the slow nature of meditative, mindful action, and spiritual associations between mending, craft and wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProduct Lifetimes And The Environment (PLATE): Conference Proceedings
Place of PublicationNottingham
PublisherNottingham Trent University
ISBN (Electronic)9780957600997
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Longevity
  • hand skills
  • circular economy
  • traditional knowledge


Dive into the research topics of 'Crafting sustainable repairs: Practice-based approaches to extending the life of clothes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this