Make do and mend

In a time where clothes are seen as disposable and a capsule wardrobe is the last thing on most shoppers’ minds, a Second World War idea is becoming current again.

The Make Do and Mend movement first came around during the war to encourage people to make the most of fewer resources. Helping to revive the ‘Make Do and Mend’ movement today in order to tackle the ‘throw away’ culture and remind us to value our clothes more, is 26-year-old Nathalie Craik.


Make Do and Mend encourages reusing and recycling. Photo: Felicity Wormwood
“If people could start looking after their clothes a bit better, and consider what they are buying and whether they really need it…then that would be a great start”, she says.

She is encouraging us to fix that missing button or small hole instead as seeing it as a reason to throw the item away.

Craik became concerned with the way many people shop after she began a Masters degree in Ethical Fashion. During her research she met the people involved in supply chains, down to the ‘seamstresses sewing shoes for the UK high street’. She was then inspired to create her website www.make-do-and-mend.org

She says: “I only really started to realise what a huge impact our cheap clothes have on workers making our clothes and the environment during my research for my masters… I saw the need to educate people about the whole life cycle of clothes”.

The make-do-and-mend movement is based on basic sewing skills and garment care, something that Craik thinks is still present in today’s society.

“I think there are still people who know how to sew and enjoy sewing, knitting and all the other crafts”, she says, “I think that the main reason [people don’t usually fix their clothes] is that people don’t see the need in fixing it if they can just buy a new one.”

While Craik doesn’t believe there is a need to stop shopping altogether, she suggests that clothes swapping events and workshops such as those she runs are a good alternative to heading to the high street.

Originally from Hamburg, Germany, but now living in London and working for a consultancy that helps companies improve working conditions within their supply chains, Craik incorporates Make Do and Mend into her life by making small changes. She says: “I started buying more second hand and I prefer vintage shops over the high street”. She continues “I started looking after my clothes, considering my purchases – buying more clothes from recycled materials, and fixing my clothes rather than throwing them out”.

Easy changes that others could make to get a greener wardrobe are:

  • Avoiding tumble drying your clothes which can shrink them
  • Sew your buttons back on straight away before you lose them
  • Don’t buy things without knowing what you need
  • Don’t buy items just because they’re cheap

Craik believes that if they tried it, many people might even find that it is more satisfying to re-use old clothes than it is to replace them: “I think it is hugely rewarding if you have turned something old into something new again, something that you like again”.

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