Repair, Repurpose and Reuse: A Slow Fashion Movement Gaining Momentum

When The Restory announced the resignation of its co-founders, with imminent administration, the future of fashion repair looked bleak. 

Established in 2017, The Restory, was considered a trailblazer. It was fashion’s leading luxury repair and aftercare service, with retail partners including Selfridges, Farfetch and Browns. 

Forging new service sectors that swim against the prevalent tide need resilience. The Restory might have been the early sacrificial startup that paved the way – and lessons learned – for newer players. But whatever the impact of Restory’s demise,  there’s a big problem we need to solve.  

Recent research from the Waste and Resources Action Programme warns that aggressive production levels by fashion companies are wiping out the positive impacts of sustainability initiatives. 

Fast fashion has a significant environmental impact. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. 

But Wiedemann et al. found that if the number of wears increased by 50%, the climate change impacts would be negative. 

And according to Leather UK, garments made from long-lived, natural materials can have an undeniably positive action in reducing the climate impact of fashion and textiles. 

So if we want to reduce emissions and the disastrous effects of global warming, we need to move towards repair and retain.

The good news is that consumer appetite for repair, repurposing and reuse already exists. According to Precision Reports 2024, US and European consumers are driving significant demand in footwear repair services. And global sales of pre-loved items surged by 18% last year according to Global Data. 

What’s more, a worldwide survey by Deloitte revealed that 90% of 16-24 year olds plan to increase fashion recycling & purchase pre-loved items.

Indeed fashion brands are now beginning to stitch repair into their customer services. And we can celebrate that reuse and resale options through the likes of DePop and Vinted have struck fire with Gen-Z shoppers. With CEO Kruti Patel Goyal  at the helm of Depop, the business has increased sales to £54.3million. 

There is a step change. Repair, reuse and repurposing is emerging as a steady but growing industry. 

For World Leather Day 2024, we want to spotlight the champions of the repair, reuse and repurposing industry. The global players. The trade bodies. The campaigners. The repair partnerships, the teachers and the small studios. And the fact that many of the leaders in the repair and recycle industry are women? Something additional to celebrate!

Who To Follow in Fashion and Footwear Repair?

1.The Boot Repair Company

The Boot Repair Company formed in 2011 in the UK from two family businesses with over 120 years of experience in the boot and shoe repair trade. 

Having recently secured a partnership with Dr Martens boot repair, The Boot Repair Company is also responsible for the repair of boots for the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, including the Household Cavalry’s riding boots and jackboots and the boots worn by the Brigade of Guards. 

The business offers a UK wide repair service for many high street brands and is an authorised repair partner for Birkenstock, Lowa, Redwing, Vivo Barefoot, Dubarry of Ireland, Haix and Solovair. The team repairs up to 5,000 boots each year for the British Armed Forces with highly skilled craftsmen repairing, stitching and welting each boot by hand.

2. Save Your Wardrobe

Global luxury fashion house LVMH recently awarded its 2023 Innovation Award to repair platform, Save Your Wardrobe (SYW), a London-based startup that connects store representatives with tailors, cobblers and restorers to fix clothing, shoes, jewellery and bags.

“Save Your Wardrobe perfectly illustrates our ambition in creative circularity, a pillar of our environmental roadmap, Life 360,” Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH said in a statement.. “I am convinced that their solution will very quickly resonate with the aspirations of our maisons and the expectations of our customers.”

Founded in 2017 by Tunisian female entrepreneur Hasna Kourda, SYW can be integrated in store, online or with brands’ existing CRM. The platform is able to onboard in-house service providers or leverage its network of clothing care specialists. It currently works with an ecosystem of artisans in Germany, UK, France and the US (with the plan to expand to the Middle East, South Korea and Japan).

3. Loewe

In May last year, Loewe opened a new leather goods repair and maintenance store in Osaka, Japan.

The store hosts leather artisans ready to repair and refurbish damaged Loewe products for customers. Loewe ReCraft also features services to personalise products with monograms, straps, charms and studs and sells goods made from upcycled leather scraps and material from old collections such as baskets and plaited leather clutches.

The brand has previously offered a repair service at its stores but is extending this further with a store entirely dedicated to care and repair. 

4. R.M. Williams

Established in Australia, 1932 R.M. Williams believes there’s only one thing more comfortable than a new R.M. Williams boot, and that’s an old one! One that has become a trusted friend, that has shaped itself exactly to the eccentricities of your foot. Their ethos is that such a boot is to be treasured, to be maintained and preserved for years of faithful, comfortable wear. This is the foundation of their repair service.

Whenever their boots are in need of a tune-up, customers can bring them back to be repaired and restored by the hands that crafted them.

5. Christina Roth

In Austria, Christina Roth not only makes custom, made-to-order items, she  gives new life to old pieces by helping customers learn the skills of leather repair. 

This includes cutting, glueing, and sewing leather, as well as learning  how to place buckles and zippers, sculpt volumes and achieve perfectly smooth edges. 

These techniques allow customers to create new leather goods or modify, reuse and repair. From belts and watch straps to home accessories, decorative objects, and handbags.

We recognise that many fashion houses are now offering leather repair services including Hermes, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. And just this month, Selfridges announced the further expansion of its ReSelfridges concept store, offering second-hand and a curated selection of pre-owned accessories, while the London flagship will also offer repair, resale and customisation services, as it looks to continue encouraging customers to love and use what they already own.

We hope that by spotlighting these changemakers in repair, reuse and repurpose, we are also playing a part in encouraging consumers to think differently and honour long lasting leather pieces in all aspects of their use.

Repair, reuse and recycle – help us grow this global list: