For most of human history, conscious maintenance and repair have been part of our relationship to objects. Before the Industrial Revolution began to accelerate the production process with new technology, people were more intimately familiar with the amount of work, time, and materials required to create each piece of clothing; wardrobes were small, and garments were treasured, mended, and handed down. Only very recently have we turned instead toward the illusion of disposable goods, alienated from the labor and resource value such objects represent. Our damaged relationship to the material world is conspicuously evident in the overwhelming amounts of waste produced each year by the fast fashion industry and in the exploitative labor practices on which it relies.
There are other possibilities for relating to the objects we own. In this time of ecological emergency spurred on by an economic system that demands endless growth and consumption, the right to repair is more vital than ever. Furthermore, new opportunities emerge when we embrace an object’s wear and tear, and the work done to restore it. Visible mending turns flaws into features; it draws attention to the process of repair, in opposition to a culture of planned obsolescence. It’s playful, rejecting the concept of perfection in favor of celebrating skill, creativity, and personal style — over time, even off-the-rack garments become unique, irreplicable pieces full of personality and memories. It is politically transformative, imagining a path from our throwaway economy to one that is circular. It is a commitment to the future and an act of love — for the Earth, for the belongings that serve us, for ourselves and each other.