To mend or to mend? There is no question.

(or why I love deconstruction fashion)

During my teens (in the mid eighties) I really got into fashion. In those days fashion existed at a much slower pace. There was no social media and we relied on magazines and the streets for new ideas and styles. Clothing was much more expensive and durable. No one I knew considered throwing out clothes without ever wearing them. Because compared to today even cheap fashion was expensive. Myself, I always favoured quality over quantity. I used to save up for a much coveted dress or suit.  And when the garment was finally acquired, I made damned sure it didn’t get stained or damaged. I remember a Dorothy Biss suit I wore from the tender age of 16  well into my 20’s. I have fond memories of my Kenzo harem pants. We saw some wild parties together. And then there is a black Bassetti rain coat designed by Marina Yee (one of the original Antwerp six) that I wore over a decade. That rain coat and I have never fallen out of love. But however carefull one is, bad things will happen.

When I was a student I used to have a friend who kept a bunny as a pet. She never put it in a pen and let the animal roam free in the room. My friend assured me that her pet was only sniffing my beautiful Marina Yee coat. I watched suspiciously and I should have trusted my instincts. Because the apparent sniffing turned out to be actual nibbling and resulted in some damage to the belt of my coat. Another friend  burnt a little hole in the very same coat with  a cigarette. I was a bit heartbroken. I was a student,  money was short, the coat had cost a fortune. Whenever I wore it I felt confident, cool and beautiful. It was my absolute favourite garment. My perfect coat no longer unblemished. What to do? And then it hit me. I would embroider some flowers on the damage. The flaw would become an asset.

I never looked back. It has been my solution throughout years of cherished and well worn garments. First discreetly and prettily. Later the mending would become bolder and more confident. Why not show off the mend for exactly what it was? A repair. A reminder that the wearer of the garment leads a life, has little mishaps and adventures. That a little damage does not mean a much cherished garment gets thrown out. After all, aren’t we all in one way or the other damaged by life? My mending met with some mixed reviews. But as the years progressed attitudes changed.  Deconstruction fashion came more and more into the mainstream. Visible mending became a thing. I saw fabric patches with ‘patch’ embroidered on top at crafts fairs  meant for exactly that purpose. They were supposed to lend a post-modern irony to your wardrobe while introducing ecology into fashion. Thrifting became fashionable and vintage was all the rage. Contradictory to all this fashion became faster and cheaper. So cheap that it has become disruptive. To our environment, to working conditions, to quality. As more people become aware of that the slow fashion movement grows.

People always tell me they cannot afford an expensive item. I always think they cannot afford not to. Ask yourself the question. Do you need 20 dirt cheap  t shirts in your wardrobe that hardly get worn before ending in giant African trash heap? Instead of those 5 € t shirts you can buy 1 or 2 more expensive ones (say 40 € a piece) that you will actually wear out. That is 18 garments less on the trashheap. 20 € more in your pocket and a less cluttered wardrobe with no intervention of Marie Kondo. And that is just you and just t-shirts. Moreover when you pay more, you’ll feel more inclined to mend any wear and tear. It’s a win win.

Lovers of deconstruction fashion can buy fabulous clothes with unfinished hemlines, intended tears and repurposed materials. Clothes that you’re supposed to wear inside out showing their innards.  that will cost you a fortune.  Inspirational, beautiful and something to save up for.

But the message of all that deconstruction is : love your current wardrobe to death. Get all the enjoyment you can out of it.  Restore that thrift store find not to its former glory but give it a whole new identity. Have fun with it.

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Sophie De Laere

fashion designer

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