A short while ago, when en route to a meeting in my home town of Bury St Edmunds, I couldn’t help but be drawn into this window display at one of the stylish and rather dapper menswear shops in town – Six Menswear.
It was the sewing machine that caught my eye as well as the spotlight on repair. It didn’t take me long to notice that the window display featured Nudie Jeans, a brand that is becoming well known for its ethical production philosophy and its focus on encouraging longer wear of its clothing. I’d first discovered the brand when passing one of its repair shops in Soho and I was delighted that it had been picked up in this part of the country.
In recent years, I’ve become increasingly passionate about repairing my stuff to make my belongings last longer and I’ve also become interested in how the repair economy and cultural attitudes relate to each other, especially as its role is developing on the journey towards the circular economy. This particular denim display had been curated and dressed by a Saskia Laws, a final-year student studying for a Diploma in Fashion and Textiles at West Suffolk College. So when I had the opportunity to meet her, I jumped at the chance to find out what had influenced Saskia in creating the display.
Over coffee it was clear that Saskia had a creative background and a real emerging understanding of sustainability in fashion. She described how she had recently felt bad about not wearing a pair of jeans that she had bought ages ago, but even though they were inexpensive she was determined not to throw them away and instead decided to customise them. This brought her onto her love for denim as a material, which formed the basis of her idea for the window display. Finding out about Nudie and the history of denim raised her awareness of the relevance of sustainability and ethics in fashion. She wanted to follow up with a display that had real depth to it and didn’t just make for a ‘pretty’ window.
She reveals more about her inspiration in this extract from her design workbook.
Please don’t for a moment think this blogpost is here to serve as an advertising platform for a particular brand of jeans. It’s Nudie’s focus on designed-to-last and repair philosophy that I really want to highlight, which shows leadership in the fashion industry and creates a positive model for ethical and quality retail – whatever the garment.
I love one of the statements that was highlighted by Saskia – “Wear your favourites, love them, repair them.” This can be applied across all clothing, instead of the trend to discard when bored with the garment or if a button comes off, if it develops a hole or the hem falls loose.
Saskia enthused that her experience had definitely been an eye-opener and she now plans to take an ethical and sustainable view on her future work. She believes an eye-catching display can help raise awareness.
Her window display has since been dismantled, timed with Six Menswear’s relocation to new premises on Abbeygate Street. Chatting with business owner, Giles Henderson, he told me that he valued the idea of repair, employing an in-house seamstress and also working closely with an alterations service located nearby.
There seems to be a burgeoning demand for such outlets in our retail centre and a few years ago a new cobblers appeared on the high street too, where I recently took some hard-to-repair fashion boots that I’d bought from M&S three years ago. With a wobbling loose heel, the prognosis didn’t appear that great. The design wasn’t easy for dismantling and bought for around £35 many people might have just chucked them into the recycling.
Those boots definitely needed determination and patience. However, a few weeks later this happy customer collected them, fully repaired and pleased that I could keep them in use for much longer and not have to hunt for replacements.
I hope Saskia Laws’ project brings her a successful result towards the completion of her course. It was great to meet her and I suspect that if she remains local to Bury St Edmunds, I shall see her creativity and influence elsewhere in the local retail sector. With her eye for design, talented upcycling skills and appreciation for sustainability, I am sure she will be an asset for an industry that is trying to find its future way forward in the Circular Economy.
If you’re interested in the lifecycle of a typical pair of jeans, do check out the Journey of Jeans. And to get better value out of your clothing, no matter what the material, garment or price, visit www.loveyourclothes.org.uk.