Make Do and Mend: The luxury fashion repair services breathing new life into old clothes

Sarah Young
·8 min read
 (The Restory)
(The Restory)

The concept of “make do and mend”, which was popularised during wartime Britain, has gradually dissipated over the years, with many fashion fans finding it more convenient (and often more affordable) to cough up and buy new than to sew a few stitches or take an item to be refurbished.

But, with a recession on the horizon and rising concern about fashion’s damaging impact on the environment, the mentality is beginning to gain traction once more.

Collectively, we send £140m worth of clothing to landfill each year, while every second one garbage truck of textiles is burned. Whatsmore, by 2050 it is anticipated the fashion industry will use up 25 per cent of the world’s carbon budget, making it one of the most polluting industries second only to oil.

Such statistics are alarming and evidently weighing heavy on consumer’s minds as more of us are starting to reject fast fashion and throwaway culture by making a conscious effort to buy less and buy better.

Since the beginning of 2020, global fashion search platform Lyst has seen a 37 per cent increase in searches for sustainability-related keywords, with the average monthly searches increasing from 27,000 in 2019 to over 32,000 year to date. Similarly, over the past three months searches for “upcycled fashion” have grown 42 per cent and demand for “second-hand” and “pre-owned” fashion pieces has increased by 45 per cent since November 2019.

There has also been a surge in the number of fashion brands offering sustainable clothing, from Carhartt WIP, which designed a capsule collection for Selfridges' Project Earth programme, to Veja, Meghan Markle's favourite trainer brand, which makes environmentally friendly sneakers using raw materials sourced from organic farming.

According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), keeping hold of a garment and extending its active life by just nine months can reduce its carbon footprint by 30 per cent. But, after months and years of consistent use, even the most luxury of items can begin to show signs of wear and tear. So, what then should we do?

Luckily, there are now a number of companies who offer to help customers repair, re-work and reconstruct their well-loved fashion items in a bid to prevent them from ending up in the bin and you from picking the shopping basket back up.

So, before you hit the “buy” button on a pair of throwaway socks or give up all hope and go for the ubiquitous gift voucher this festive season, consider slipping the gift of sustainability under the Christmas tree instead. Discerning fashion fans can be notoriously tough to buy for, so if they already own the latest “it” handbag and an enviable line-up of lockdown-worthy loungewear, gift consciously this year by lovingly restoring one of their most-worn garments.

From deep cleaning and patching up rips to mould removal and colour restoration, here are the specialist services that will help breathe new life into your loved one’s favourite fashion pieces.

The Restory

A luxury restoration service for handbags and shoes, The Restory should be your go-to destination for bringing beaten-up fashion accessories back to life.

The company, which launched in 2017, offers a “book, restore and return” approach which involves booking a slot online for your item to be collected and assessed for quotation at the London atelier, before being repaired and restored in house and finally returned. Items can be collected anywhere in the world or dropped off in Selfridges or Harvey Nichols.

The Restory focuses on wear and tear, including special cleaning (£95), mould removal (£130), colour restoration (£105), zip replacement (£210), weatherproofing (£20) and heel recovery (£105). The ultimate goal? “To have you fall in love with your favourite pieces all over again.”

The length of time depends on the work required but cleaning and standard repair take between 10 and 15 business days, while bespoke services such as stitching, colour and leather restoration can take up to six weeks.

The Barbour Factory

As part of its commitment to closing the loop on waste, British heritage brand Barbour is encouraging its customers to take care of their iconic jackets with a unique re-waxing and repair service.

Earlier this year, the fashion label set up the Barbour Factory at Selfridges London, which is home to its bespoke embroidery, re-waxing and repair services. Customers can bring their older, pre-worn jackets which have become damaged into the Selfridges store, or send them directly to Barbour, for re-proofing, costing £35. Barbour also offers the same re-waxing service on smaller items, such as dog coats or detachable hoods, for £12, as well as repairs and alterations. For example, they can fit a new corduroy collar for £25, for a new sleeve for £45 or patch a hole in a pocket for £15.

Alternatively, you can buy a tin of Barbour’s Thornproof Dressing Garment Proof Wax (£10.95) to use at home. The wax is made to the same original formula that’s used in making Barbour fabrics and helps preserve both the material and its waterproof qualities. Simply wipe your jacket down, use an old cloth to work the wax into your jacket, wipe off any excess and hang to dry overnight in a warm place. Barbour recommends re-waxing your jacket annually, if you wear it regularly.

The factory at Selfridges is also home to Barbour’s Re-Loved collectables collection, where customers can trade a jacket they no longer want in return for a contribution to a brand-new one. The company then sorts through the donated jackets and divides them into classic and contemporary styles, before cleaning, re-waxing and repairing them if needed to be sold once more.

Denim

If your favourite pair of jeans are looking a little tired, fear not, because the Denim Doctor is here to help.

Based in Manchester, the service, which operates nationwide, does everything from zip repair (£4.95) and alterations (£9.95) to full remodelling (£29.95), which involves replacing entire legs or tapering bootleg cuts. Customers simply send in photos of their damaged jeans via email or social media before posting them to get fixed. After the repair work has been carried out, the jeans will be returned to you, looking as good as new.

Alternatively, if you own a pair of Levi’s you can go directly to the brand itself. The brand is encouraging its customers to keep their jeans for as long as possible and to think twice before throwing out damaged jeans by offering to patch up rips, mend hems and replace buttons via its Tailor Shops. “We recognise that the apparel industry is very resource-intensive. Way too many garments end up in landfills,” says Una Murphy, Levi's senior innovation designer. “One thing that's really beautiful about our jeans is that they stay around for generations. They become vintage treasures.”

Every pair of Swedish brand Nudie Jeans’ denim also comes with the promise of free repairs, no matter when or where you bought them. As well as selling you the jeans, the brand also promises to take care of them when they’re torn. Simply wash and hand them in to your nearest Nudie Jeans Repair Shop. When they’re done, you will have a revamped version of your favourite jeans.

If you don’t have a repair shop nearby, Nudie Jeans also has “repair partners” which are fully equipped to handle your repairs and, of course they do it for free as well.

Cashmere

A fabric synonymous with luxury, good quality knitwear can last a lifetime but if you have delved into your winter wardrobe only to find your favourite jumper has become damaged, look to family-run knitwear company, Love Cashmere.

With over 25 years experience in the manufacture of cashmere knitwear, the brand launched its redressing service seven years ago, offering cleaning and repairs for all kinds of knitwear woes, from de-pilling to moth holes and stains. Customers can send their knits from anywhere in the world and the team will assess each piece to ensure it is repairable, before folding it in tissue and returning it looking like new. Prices available on request.

Scottish knitwear brand Belinda Robertson also offers a “revive and repair” service, with prices starting at £40. The service includes washing, defuzzing, repairing and the return of your garment wrapped with a complimentary protective sweater bag.

Clothes Doctor

Clothes Doctor is a one-stop shop for everything you might need to take care of your clothes, from in-house alterations, repair and restoration, eco-washing, plastic-free care products and tutorials for mending at home.

The company has ateliers in London and Cornwall, where clothes can be dropped off and pinned for alteration. Alternatively, garments can be pinned at home following an online guide, before being posted, with free shipping on orders over £80.

The website also breaks down prices for each service or you can contact the team for a tailored quote. Prices for repairing a hole in knitwear start at £11.50, while leather repairs cost £8.50 and coats can be re-lined for £179.

The Clothing Doctor aims to return your revamped garments back to you within 10 days but this depends on the order size and work required. The company can also provide an express service on request, at an additional cost.

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