Why Don’t More People Repair Their Clothes?

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Repairing our clothes is essential in order to increase the lifespan of our garments, and to stop them from ending up in landfill. In fact, a study by UK textiles charity WRAP found that 30 per cent of people have garments in their wardrobe that they no longer wear because they need to be fixed. Meanwhile, a separate US survey found out that the majority of people rarely or never repair their clothes.

That’s why Sojo, a UK-based repair platform, is launching the Pledge To Repair campaign, which calls for the British fashion industry to back care and repair services. “What I realised is that brands doing their own pilot repair programmes isn’t ultimately going to change the industry in the way that we need,” founder Josephine Philips tells Vogue. “How can we get more brands on board and also get [more] citizens involved?”

So far, brands including Ganni, Rejina Pyo, Ahluwalia and Nanushka have signed the pledge, which is also backed by the British Fashion Council (BFC). Only companies that offer a UK-wide repair service that’s clearly communicated are able to sign on – ensuring that supporters are genuinely committed. “We’re seeing some brands do repairs in one shop and unfortunately, that’s not where you’re going to get the scale of people using repair,” Philips says of why this is an important aspect of the pledge.

Accessibility is one issue that Sojo is trying to solve via its app, which allows customers to book the service they need online. After that, your item is collected from your door (or you take it to a designated drop-off point), the repair or alteration is carried out, and then it is sent back to your door within a week.

Another main barrier, though, is price. “Something we often get is someone saying, ‘Why would I repair it when I can get a new item for less?’ – and that is obviously because of the accessibility of fast fashion,” Philips continues.

Currently, it’s up to brands whether they cover or contribute towards the cost (the likes of Patagonia and Ganni both offer free repairs, while some of Sojo’s brand partners contribute between 30 to 50 per cent). That’s why initiatives such as France’s subsidy on repair – which means that customers get between €6 (£5) and €25 (£21) off, depending on the complexity of the service – are so important when it comes to getting more people to fix their clothes.

Philips says that other government initiatives, such as removing VAT on repairs, or even offering the “right to repair” to customers – which means that brands would be responsible for fixing their garments – would help increase uptake and reduce waste. “The right to repair [would] really help brands understand that they need to create for durability, because otherwise they’re going to have to pay a price for it,” Philips explains. “It would help to reduce the amount of low-quality clothing that’s made and the disposable nature of clothing.”

Until then, individual brands like Veja – which opened a store in Paris that’s dedicated to repairs in February and has in-store cobblers in New York, Berlin, Madrid and at its new London flagship – are trying to normalise repair for customers. “A lot of people don’t think about the fact that even sneakers can be repaired by craftsmen in a workshop near their place – better communication and customer experience are key,” Sébastien Kopp, Veja’s co-founder and creative director, says. “We repair all kinds of shoes [by] all brands because we consider that waste in the fashion industry is not a brand issue, but an industry issue.”

Meanwhile, Sojo is keen to promote repair in all aspects of the fashion industry – which is why it is launching a new partnership with Vestiaire Collective to help sellers fix their pieces before putting them on the market, and buyers alter items as necessary. “Our partnership with Sojo provides a seamless solution for customers to extend the lifespan of their products,” Fanny Moizant, Vestiaire Collective’s co-founder and president, explains.

While there’s still plenty of potential for the repair market to grow, Philips is positive about the significant impact that brands backing repair can have. “We’re talking [about growing from] 10 repairs in a month versus 150 repairs in a month [within 12 months] – that is such a huge jump,” she says. “Changing consumer behaviour is slow, [but we’re] seeing this traction.”

This article was originally published on British Vogue.

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