Reviving sewing skills for a sustainable future

The crisis of waste in the fashion industry can be addressed by devoting more time and care to looking after the clothes we already have, according to a project unveiled today (Tuesday 18 February) at V&A Dundee.

By focusing on three areas – care, repair and customisation – Sewing Box for the Future shows how small changes can make a big difference. It brings together pioneering projects that are already re-thinking how clothes might be designed, used and cared for in the future, including work from Filippa K, Celia Pym, The Post-Couture Collective and Chloe Patience.

Around 1.1 million tonnes of clothing are purchased every year in the UK, with a value of £30 billion, but most of us only use 30-40% of the clothes in our wardrobes. Our consumption and use of clothes are at odds with each other. Huge amounts of non-renewable resources are used to make clothes that are often only worn a few times before being sent to landfill.

Dr Jen Ballie, Research Manager at the University of Dundee and V&A Dundee, said: “Caring for your clothes really contributes towards reducing fashion waste, but it also doesn’t need to be a chore – it can be creative and fun!

“There are amazing designers pushing boundaries in this field, but we can all take on some responsibility in tackling this urgent global problem.

“We wanted to find a way to present this research in a hands-on, practical way, and my hope is that the project will inspire people to build some simple tasks like darning or spot-cleaning into their daily routines.”

Not too long ago, the skills required to care for, repair and customise clothes were commonplace, but today many people do not know how to mend a hole in their favourite jumper or how to adjust the size of a treasured garment that has become too small.

The exhibition invites visitors to get hands-on by learning or sharing simple skills like darning, needle-felting and customising that will help them get more from the clothes they already have. Hemming trousers or darning a sock might seem time-consuming or overwhelming at first, but with a needle and thread and a few guiding principles it is possible to update and extend the life of your wardrobe in a sustainable, responsible way.

A deck of Sewing Box for the Future cards is also available to pick up and take home so visitors can continue to care, repair and customise from their own home.

Sewing Box for the Future is curated by Dr Jen Ballie of the University of Dundee and V&A Dundee and is part of her live research project exploring fashion and the circular economy.

The exhibition has been realised in partnership with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee.

Sewing Box for the Future is free to visit and will be displayed in V&A Dundee’s Upper Foyer, from 17 February to 24 May 2020.

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