Today is the third in the Why Mend? mini-series for Mend It May (number 1 is here, and number 2 is here).
I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about mending as a way of valuing our things, and in doing so, valuing the people who originally made those things.
Lovely Eline at Emmy and Lien wrote a fabulous post earlier on this week about Maker’s Maintenance, and we had a little chat on #makedoandmendhour on Twitter about how if we’ve put in the time and effort to make something ourselves, then we really should value that, and mend and maintain our handmade items.
And actually, the same is true of all of our things.
Even if we didn’t make them.
Because someone somewhere did.
Someone somewhere has had to put in the time and effort to make our things.
And in all likelihood, that time has been poorly paid for, and the effort may have involved working conditions that none of us could ever even contemplate.
Fashion Revolution Day has become an annual event to mark the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,134 people, and encourages us all to ask the big clothing brands “Who Made My Clothes”.
It is a brilliant campaign, because it forces us all to recognise that someone, somewhere has made our clothes. They don’t appear by magic on our stores. They aren’t made by feelingless machines. They are made by men and women (and sometimes, children), often in appalling, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, who can be paid as little as 23p an hour.
And it’s not just the fashion industry either. There have been various exposes of the working conditions of the people making the latest i-phones, and even our Christmas decorations.
Maybe we should all be asking not just “Who Made My Clothes?”, but “Who Made My Stuff?”.
These unseen, faceless people slave away to make our things, and for us to just merrily discard them when they break, feels to me like we are saying that these things don’t matter. That their time, and their work doesn’t matter. The thing itself might not actually matter, but the person who made it most certainly does.
By mending our things when they break, even if they are ‘only’ cheap clothes/toasters/insert other allegedly disposable item here, we are sending out a message, albeit a silent one, and albeit one that they might never hear, that we value them, their time, their lives. We value them and the things that they make, and we are prepared to invest our own time and effort into mending them, so we can continue to use or wear them.
I know there’s a whole argument out there that states that we need to continue buying and throwing away cheap crap, precisely so that people can be kept in jobs making all this stuff. But if that means they can be kept in jobs that are poorly paid, and unsafe, then I don’t think that’s much of a job. If we all paid more for our things, that extra could (I get that it might not, but I’m going to be naively optimistic here, and say that it could) trickle down to the makers, and improve their working conditions and their lives. And if we all paid more for our things, we might not be so quick to view them as disposable and throw them out when they no longer worked, or a seam came undone.
We need to let manufacturers know that we are prepared to mend our things. That we don’t want cheap, disposable, planned obsolesence, made by some poor soul in a factory on the other side of the world. We need to let manufacturers and retailers know that we want things to be repairable, and to be designed so that they can be repaired.
We need to be part of a Mending Revolution, one that I think is already starting, and one that I hope Mend It May is contributing to.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. I know it’s a biggie.
Leave a comment below, or join in the discussion in the Mend It May Facebook group.
And don’t forget to show your support for mending, and for the Mending Revolution, by signing the Mend It May pledge: