Lindsay Rose Medoff, CEO of Suay Sew Shop, a clothing upcycler nestled along a bend of the Los Angeles River, apologizes if she comes off as a bleeding-heart activist; it’s just that she’s keenly passionate about what she does. Suay, she describes, is more than a label or a boutique manufacturing house. For Medoff, it’s a movement, one that not only “creates a culture of community and reuse” but also normalizes mending, or garment repair, as a thrifty, creative, and even radical act in an era of cookie-cutter mass production and crass commercialism.
It’s better for Mother Earth, too. While sustainability — particularly the mercantile kind that has co-opted “conscious consumption” as a slogan to sell products — is “so elitist in so many ways,” Medoff says, the age-old art of mending requires nothing more than needle, thread, and will. “Not only is it a powerful way to extend the life of clothing and keep textile waste out of landfills, but it’s also an accessible way to participate in sustainable fashion without having to buy anything new,” she adds.
Skills like darning and patching, once second nature to homemakers, have gradually fallen out of style, a victim of a decline in home-ec classes and the rise of trendy, disposable fashion that is cheaper to replace than repair. Consumers are buying 60% more clothing yet hanging to it for half as long as they did 15 years ago. As a result, textile waste is a burgeoning problem: In 2018 alone, Americans threw away 17 million tons of garments, shoes, and household linens, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the equivalent of more than 775,000 Statues of Liberty.