Students gathered in the Benzinger Library of East Quad Residence Hall Sunday afternoon to learn about the sustainable practice of mending their clothes. The event was organized by LSA junior Laura Topf, along with her classmates in ENVIRON 390: Environmental Activism, a class taught by Prof. Virginia Murphy cross-listed in the Residential College and Program in the Environment (PitE).
The class called for students to propose their own ideas for a final project related to environmental activism. Topf’s group received a grant from the Student Sustainability Coalition to buy materials from the SCRAP Creative Reuse Store.
“I’m in PitE, so I’m pretty aware of the waste of the fashion industry,” Topf said. “I figured that (this workshop) is a good way to change individual actions that also can, on a larger scale, change how people ‘vote with their dollar’ in terms of buying less new clothing.”
The workshop stressed the importance of visible mending, a process inspired by the Japanese art of sashiko. Topf said visible mending combats the idea that clothes should always look new and celebrates the art of mending through colorful patches or threads.
“It’s a way to put subtle pressure on people to understand that clothing is not meant to be thrown away, and that it’s okay (to have darned clothes), and it doesn’t make you less cool,” Topf said. “(Mending is) not something that says anything about you except for that you’re creative, and you put care into the things you own.”
LSA sophomore Ruby Howard attended the event and said she liked the idea of sustainable mending.
“Sustainable fashion, to me, used to be only buying clothes from sustainable brands,” Howard said. “And then I realized it’s not actually that sustainable at all, because you’re constantly buying new things instead of just loving what you have. So I think visible mending is really a cultural and emotional revolution.”
Attendees mended jeans, shirts, backpacks and socks while socializing and relaxing. Many students said they felt the workshop fostered a sense of community.
“The idea of a communal mending space has been proven to increase the amount of times people have mended on their own,” Topf said. “People can talk and converse with each other.”
LSA senior Bella Lowe said they enjoyed the social element of the workshop and said they look forward to mending more of their clothes in the future.
“My biggest takeaway is that I should just get together and mend with my friends way more often because it’s fun,” Lowe said. “Everybody needs to do it. … It’s just a good way to coexist with people (and) also practice sustainable methods of fixing your clothes.”
Art & Design junior Grace Wertanen also helped plan the event. She said the workshop attempted to slow down the cycle of fast fashion, citing the 52 “micro-seasons” in fast fashion per year as an example.
“There’s 52 regenerations of styles going every year and so people don’t really want to wear the same thing anymore,” Wertanen said. “Mending obviously isn’t necessary if we’re just going to throw it away anyway or donate it or something. So we’re trying to attempt to slow that down a little bit, and it seems like there are a lot of people here who want that as well.”
According to an article from Colorado State University, only 30% of Americans mend their clothing. LSA junior Katherine Harpenau said she helped organize the event to increase awareness of mending as an option.
“A lot of the clothes in the United States that are discarded are either burned … or they’re just shipped off to other countries … where they just sit in landfills,” Harpenau said. “A lot of the issues that people have (with their clothes) that make them throw (them) away … they can easily be mended. And I think people don’t really know that.”
Harpenau mentioned that Princeton University teaches mending techniques as part of their sustainability program. Even without formal education on the subject, Harpenau said it is simple to learn to mend clothing and other items.
“There’s so many videos on YouTube, and it’s super easy,” said Harpenau. “A lot of the techniques really aren’t very difficult. So I think, if you do have a hole in your clothes, and you’re like, ‘Okay, I don’t know how to do this,’ there’s so much information online, and it’s super easy to learn.”
There will be an additional mending workshop held at the Benzinger Library on Nov. 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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