The visible mending of clothes, “a manual activism” to resist fast fashion


Mending a sweater by Flora Collingwood-Norris.

A hole in the heel of a sock. A tear in a sweater. A bleach stain on a jacket. This is an opportunity for a new generation of seamstresses to bring out grandma’s wooden darning egg. But while their ancestors struggled to repair as discreetly as possible, these neo-seamstresses (women are the vast majority) proudly show off their visible seams. A dozen moth holes? We fill with a constellation of colored dots on a sweater. A threadbare sleeve edge? Add a band in a contrasting color. Jeans ripped at the knee? It is covered with a patch of fabric, squared with lines and dotted lines.

For those followers of visible mending (“visible repair”, in French), mending and patching are no longer synonymous with destitution but with commitment. Wearing an old sailor sweater whose lifespan has been artistically extended is like waving a flag of eco-responsibility. And to make an act of resistance against fast fashion and its dozens of collections per year.

The movement has spread on social networks at the speed of an industrial serger. Type visible mending Or mending and thousands of posts and tutorials from Sunday seamstresses appear, featuring their before/after. A community proud to show off their creations and exchange tips among patchwork enthusiasts.

Textile activists

The practice has its stars, often Anglo-Saxon pros, such as the Scottish Flora Collingwood-Norris or the Englishwoman Kate Sekules, a fashion history teacher in New York and author of several bibles on mending. This textile activist is at the initiative of the “Mend March” campaign, launched each year in March on social networks, to encourage neophytes to take up the needle. The ostensible tinkering also includes committed artists, such as Londoner Celia Pym, who regularly exhibits her textile works in galleries around the world.

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France has not escaped this. Here too, books, workshops, repair kits with skeins of wool or pieces of fabric, and stands in trade fairs specializing in creative hobbies provide French mending apprentices with ideas and materials. Isabelle Cabrita, architect and designer by training, created in 2020 in Paris the association Good Gang Paris, which advocates ecological transition through textile experimentation. She offers interventions and creative repair workshops to make the general public aware of the impact of fashion and the means to reduce it. “Visible and creative mending attracts self-taught people who are looking for a way to regain control over their consumption in the literal sense”, she explains. It allows them to practice “a manual, gentle, slow but powerful activism”. All without pressure for results. “Before starting, it is not necessary to know how to embroider or sew well, and the rendering does not have to be perfect. »

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