When I learned that the average American does not wear 75% of what is in their closet, I saw the perfect opportunity to give the environment a break. Instead of plundering nature of its virgin resources, we take surplus clothing right from our clients’ closets and give them what I call ‘a Jussara Lee special hand twist’ — visible mending. I recently launched, ‘Hand Me Up’, a thrift shop concept designed to inspire people to rethink their consumer habits and to start mending their clothes artfully.
Did you know that most donated clothes don’t wind up serving the needy? This is what happens to a lot of clothes that are donated to typical thrift shops. We need to look at fashion differently - we can reverse the wasteful cycle with visible mending. Following are some ideas...
Jussara Lee mends an Oxford shirt with a cool, patterned pocket, turning it into a one of a kind gem, at her NYC store. (Image: InvitedNYC)
The throwaway culture surrounding fast fashion fuels a decadent industry that has no respect for human rights and the treatment of workers, let alone the environment. Let’s expose the true facts about how cheaply clothes are made so that consumers will opt out of fast fashion, and instead resort to alternatives that will mend their broken sense of connectedness with their belongings. Mending encourages the expansion of lastingness, and it is also a fun way to fight waste.
My ‘Hand Me Up’ thrift shop concept is a creative proposition on how to tackle pollution while also giving touches of hand-mended stitching. Instead of trying to hide a tear, my process of visibly mending the clothing by hand has been extremely fulfilling as I discovered that it can miraculously transport undesirable clothes to a coveted state, therefore giving them a new life and a new body to clad. Sustainable options can be expensive, but mending and repairing are easy ways to use less virgin resources as well as to save money.
I am constantly encouraging everyone to wear their clothes until they are threadbare. My closet is small and most of my clothes are old, but this demonstrates that this ethos works because when things are made well, they age beautifully and people never seem to notice their fraying edges. I have found that, contrary to this belief, I am actually always getting compliments! And unlike many people who reply to a compliment with a boast about how little they paid for the item being contemplated, I boast about its age. To extend these perks to others, I offer maintenance and alteration service so that their clothing may also endure the brunt of time gracefully. If one’s weight fluctuates, a hem gets undone, if the lining of a beloved jacket or coat wears out, I give the piece some tender love and care to prepare it for another round of excitement.
Jussara Lee’s ‘visibly mended’ designs add flair to an old garment, waste free (Image: Jussara Lee)
All this might sound conflicting considering I am a fashion designer. But I have reached a point of equanimity, where I make as few clothes as possible yet I am still able to thrive. The message is simple: less is better, quality is essential, and true beauty is in how things are made.
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