Invisible mending is the way that we have traditionally approached mending clothes in the West.
The idea is simple, to cover up the wear on our clothes and make them like new clothes again when we mend or repair them.
But there’s a new movement that says when your favorite sweater needs the sewing kit, you might be better off showing the world that you want to do better by the planet and make that repair obvious, instead.
What Is The Visible Mending Movement?
Visible mending is the new movement that rails against fast fashion brands and promotes a slow fashion approach to hand stitching.
They say that mending shouldn’t be some sort of dirty, shameful task that we do in secret when darning socks but instead if we want to combat fast fashion, we should make the repairs in our own clothes visible and beautiful.
Inspired By Sashiko “Running Stitch”
There is a Japanese art called Sashiko from which the visible mending concept takes its inspiration.
In Sashiko darning needles were taken to the darning mushroom along with a needle and thread with the intent of carrying out speedy repairs on fabrics that were made of heavily fibrous plants.
The stitching is all carried out at surface level often with colorful thread and this is “visible mending” as it is truly intended.
Many have taken this idea and incorporated it into their own style, to deliver mending in clothing that does more than mend holes, it makes a statement out of the stitches themselves.
Some use white thread to achieve this look in the fabric of their garment others opt for embroidery floss works that catch the eye at long distances away.
Sustainable Brands See This As The Future
Many sustainable clothing brands are turning to visible mending to show that their clothing is not meant to be disposable and that stitches and mending are a part of the sustainability cycle within the fashion industry.
It’s ethical fashion that understands the value of sewing and repair to the fabric of garments.
85% of all fabric ends up in a landfill!
This cannot continue if the planet has any hope of survival.
Visible stitches and repair techniques will lend themselves to mended clothes that have their own “fashion cachet” and, in turn, this should lead to more and more fashionistas picking up a needle to sew their own garments.
This should, over time, create a virtuous circle where fashion lasts longer because it is fashionable for it to do so – or, at least, so the advocates of visible mending believe.
Is This A Case Of Privilege?
Some argue, however, that this is nothing but a case of too much privilege.
In the same way that buying ethical fashion is often a case of privilege because there’s no doubt that making clothes that are of higher quality, in ways that benefit the workforce and the environment is expensive.
And that expense? It’s passed on to the customers of the clothing brand.
Thus, you need to be privileged to make ethical fashion choices because you need the money to make such choices.
And while you don’t need to be rich to sew up your rips and tears in a beautiful fashion, you do need lots of spare time and the resources to be able to treat these techniques as a process to emphasize beauty rather than to conduct a hurried patch over a hole and get back to work.
Community Building Makes Us Whole
However, before we suck the fun out of the idea too much. We’d like to say that there is a lot of effort within this movement given to creating a community in which space is given to creating beauty and removing the barriers created by privilege.
The movement’s proponents acknowledge that they are fortunate in the way that they can choose how to stitch a patch or tear but they also work hard to ensure that others can embrace that privilege too.
And many teach this new art form with strong references to the original Japanese skill of Sashiko and stress that this began as a working-class means of prolonging the life of textiles and not as a form of privilege at all.
Final Thoughts On Visible Mending
We celebrate the arrival of visible mending, while we understand the concerns raised around privilege – any action to counter the effects of fast fashion on our world, is a positive one and once this idea takes wider hold – it will be easier and easier for it to become more inclusive.
Slow fashion will take root, one step at a time and this is a great step in the right direction.