10:25Make Do And Mend
Make Do and Mend is an idea born of necessity, something people have done around the world for as long as they have struggled to survive, or prioritised needs above consumption. It was popularised through a Second World War campaign to make things go further in the face of fierce shortages of textiles and other materials. The Utilitarian fashions of the war years were required to adhere to maximum fabric usage, to ensure there was enough fabric to go around.
Although fabric could be purchased, most people preferred to use their ration books to buy food and other essentials, meaning everyone had to make do and mend whatever was already in their wardrobe. The unveiling of Christian Dior’s New Look at the end of World War II, flew in the face of what had become a culture of making do, with as much as 25 meters of fabric in a single dress, seeming outrageously and needlessly extravagant, and led to protests.
The mid 2000’s saw a backlash against the excesses of the 90’s, and the rise of ‘Do It Yourself’ as a viable alternative. Creative freedom free from corporate control became a lifestyle choice, as well as a means of making a living. Handmade Nation by Faythe Levine published in 2009 documents the rise of the skateboard generation, and the beginning of the maker culture, better than anyone. The rise of Ethical Fashion was in lock step with DIY and the maker movement, with much of the ground breaking work coming from young emerging designers, whose creations expressed their values as well as their aesthetic.
Fast forward to 2014, where craftsmanship and tradition are beginning to be revalued at least as highly as that of the established luxury global brands, whether that is the craftsmanship of a leather artisan in US cattle country, or a hand weaver in Tibet. Out of this love of the authentic, the vintage, the beautiful, the hand crafted, comes the need to preserve, and once again make do and mend.
There are few more authentic items in the Western wardrobe than a pair of denim jeans. Their history is embedded in honest, hardwearing, workwear for the working classes, later coopted as a symbol of youth and counter culture. The premium denim market started in Europe in the 1970’s with the likes of Francoise Girbaud, and Adriano Goldschmied, the so-called “Godfather of Denim”. The US followed suit, with the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein, and the unforgettable images of then 15 year old Brooke Shields wearing skin tight Calvin’s. A plethora of new premium denim jeans manufacturers arose, such as Lucky Jeans, True Religion, and Seven for All Mankind.
The coming together of the DIY generation, the realization that water is a precious resource and the fact that consumer washing has a massive impact on water consumption, as well as the monumental rise of the premium denim market, have however catapulted this rare bread of denim connoisseurs into the spotlight. The dedicated investment and patience required to cultivate the perfect fade, has in part resulted in the elevation of make do and mend to a tailoring art, not just to preserve the jeans, but to beautify, personalize and enhance them.
As homage to the workwear roots of denim jeans, and the history of their make do and mend as a working mans necessity, Nudie Jeans also produce a home repair kit, complete with printed and digital instructional support for the DIY’er. For those without the dedication to wear a pair of virgin selvedge denim jeans for two years without a single wash however, there is RE/DUN, who hand pick artfully worn discarded jeans, take them apart and recut and resew them into one of two timeless cuts, a skinny, and a boy cut. Every pair is one of a kind, with someone else having already done the grunt work of wearing them in. Their tailor, Oscar Hernandez opens a short documentary film about the brand, by introducing himself as an artist. “I create each pair of jeans like I am creating a piece of art. I look at the wash on each pair, and the unique wear from the history, and then I create patches to compliment them. Each pair passes through my hands and each pair is completely unique.”
In the world of ethical and sustainable fashion, the mantra is buy less and buy better. Cultivate a relationship with your clothing, an investment that directly connects the grower with the maker and the wearer. Repair is an extension of that sentiment, and a deepening of the relationship through wear, and repair, and the honoring of all the embedded stories that led to it.
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