Waste not, want not – Habits of previous generations can shape our future

Outdoor brands have been adopting a repair and reuse mindset for some years- now that luxury brands are taking notice has it gone mainstream?

For those whose grandparents lived between the world wars and got through the strict rationing that persisted into the 1950s, who hasn’t heard the phrase ‘Waste not, want not’ uttered to us as we – in our late 20th-century profligacy – were poised to discard something we considered old and broken?

Fast forward twenty years or so and it appears we could be poised once again to take on that new/old mindset, one that harks back to a culture of ‘make do and mend’, eschewing the mantra of perpetual consumption and growth. Witness the popularity of The Repair Shop on the UK’s BBC1, for example, and the number of repair and swap shops that the programme has helped spring up across the UK alone.

The outdoor market is already proactively tapping into this ‘make do and mend’ mindset. For years they have looked at and taken action on how to keep their products out of landfill. Patagonia and Berghaus are two key exponents of the advantages of adopting this as part of a sustainable business model.

Patagonia Worn Wear

Patagonia’s Worn Wear started life as a travelling service to repair Patagonia items. It’s now a feature in store and the firm even ran live Worn Wear webinars during lockdown, showing customers how to do their own fixes. Recrafted is Patagonia’s collection that makes clothes from the offcuts produced during the making of other clothing lines. They may be from offcuts but the business finds that these, often unique pieces don’t stay in stock for long.

Berghaus Rehaused

Berghaus not only repairs its garments free of charge but once an item cannot be repaired they ensure it is reused through a collaboration with Dirt Bags who make them into climbers’ chalk and kit bags.

Both Patagonia and Berghaus have found success by making repair and reuse part their business model, not a ‘nice to have’ adjunct and they aren’t the only ones. REI has its Good & Used platform wear members can trade in used gear. VivoBarefoot launched ReVivo where customers can buy reconditioned returns or get their shoes repaired.

Luxury reimagined

The outdoor market, with its engaged community may have led the way, but now the appeal has gone luxe. Loewe has started up their Surplus Project, which uses offcuts of softest leather to weave them together and stitch into new (and highly desirable) products, while Coach also weaves slim offcuts to fashion into the Upwoven collection of bags. All equally covetable. And none other than LVMH recently made the unprecedented announcement that it would sell its deadstock fabrics and leather in an online marketplace.

What do these brand activities have in common? They’re all adapting their business model by using their raw materials more fully, producing short runs of products that create instant ‘It’ factor, and helping nurture new designers in local ateliers and workshops develop and thrive.

Use, repair, re-use. Repeat.

Leather, with its natural by-product origins, long lasting and repairable qualities, has an important role to play in a future where we should look to design product, not just for the here and now, but with a view to how it can be repaired, repurposed and ultimately recycled.

Sounds niche? Household name Clarks have already launched the Origins shoe, designed from the ground up to be easily taken apart, with its components reused or recycled at the end of its wearable life.

Want to know more?

Peterson & Stoop
A company that takes pre-loved leather sports shoes and remodels them into unique and highly desirable new styles.

Loewe Surplus Project
Check out images of bags being handwoven.

A business based in Portland, Oregon that upcycles product destined for landfill, including making old leather airline seats into bags

Coach Upwoven
Watch the process as Coach snips and weaves leather remnants into bags- it’s mesmerising!

The Restory
Luxury bags and footwear are renewed and restored with this specialist service, worth a visit to review the fascinating case studies.

Our Choice Fashion
A new footwear brand that started with the objective of creating a fully circular business model that keeps sneakers out of landfill.

Patagonia Worn Wear & Recrafted
Repair, share and recycle. Learn more about the Worn Wear programme and buy renewed worn wear or product made from other clothes.

Berghaus Rehaused
Learn more about the collection and read the interview with Dirt Bags founder Jennifer Woods.