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What if we can wear our favorite clothes for longer?

By Esmee Blaazer


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Mended Credits: Mended

Background: A closer look at the EU law 'Right to Repair' that is in the works [and the fashion industry]

1. The Rise of Repair, also in the fashion industry

”Well, I'm obviously in the repair bubble, but I dare say the repair domain is growing,” Sieds Wijnja, founder of repair platform Jafix.com which develops DIY manuals for consumers and companies such as Dutch textile discounter Zeeman and outdoor retailer Bever, tells FashionUnited.

Jafix.com is an independent platform entirely dedicated to fixing things, with free consumer repair manuals for a wide range of products from clothing to furniture and electronics. Founder Sieds Wijnja has been building the business for about three years now. Wijnja grew up in a family where repair is the most natural thing in the world, he says. He also has a technical background: he is originally a UX designer, a profession that is all about user-friendliness.

According to Wijnja, the platform stands out because, unlike DIY videos on YouTube, it takes the consumer completely by the hand. The consumer will read how easy or difficult a repair is, how much time it will take, what items are needed and sometimes we include links to pages where any necessary parts can be ordered,” Wijnja says, “and then step-by-step instructions follow, illustrated using images and text.” The idea is to provide the consumer with maximum support in such a process and ‘above all, a bit of reassurance’, the founder summarises. “Research shows that people do want to repair, but they need a little help,” he says.

On the Jafix.com platform, Wijnja also links consumers to (experienced) repairers if they prefer to outsource the repair work, for instance because they do not have the time or skills to do so themselves. In his search for partners, Wijnja came into contact with outdoor sports retailer Bever, he tells FashionUnited. This collaboration led to the development of 20 repair manuals for the outdoor sports shop, ranging from clothing to camping gear, which can be found on Bever's website as well as on Jafix.com.

Last year, Jafix.com also went to work for family-owned Zeeman ‘which considers sustainability a top priority’.The textile discount retailer's website has a repair page dedicated to repair manuals for clothing and textiles. The technical back-end of this page was created by and is managed by Jafix.com. “This is an example of a so-called white label solution, something that makes it easier for companies to come on board,” Wijnja explains.

Currently, Wijnja is in talks with a number of well-known retail chains. He cannot name names yet.

“We can see clear signs that, for instance, the number of repair cafes is growing and that tech giants such as Apple and Samsung are offering repair kits for phones and televisions. Although the latter does involve some greenwashing,” he adds, smiling.

“Repair is no longer reserved for the 'originals' like Patagonia and brands like Jack Wolfskin, Arc'teryx, Mammut from the outdoor segment, for whom repair fits their (so-called high performance, ed.) products and customer base,” Agnes Weber, co-founder of Mended a platform for garment alteration and repair, says.

Mended was founded in 2022 by Agnes Weber and Daan Maasson. The company is ‘a circular service platform that makes extending the life of clothes as attractive as buying something new’ through online clothing repair, entertainment and resale, plus branding and marketing, among other services. The Dutch sustainable clothing brands Kings of Indigo and Mud Jeans are already working with the company.

Besides this B2B service for fashion brands, by the way, there is also a B2C service: Mended also does repairs for consumers, though on a much smaller scale. “We do this mainly to collect data,” Weber explains. “It gives us information about the items of which brands consumers want to have repairs done for and furthermore, we can use this information to approach potential customers."

Mended recently collected an investment. Details of the investment sum were not disclosed.

”Mending has been adopted by brands that operate in a very different customer segment. Denim brand Nudie Jeans, for example, has made repair an integral part of its business model. That success story has opened the doors for other apparel brands such as Asket, Ganni, Nanushka, Net-a-Porter/Mr. Porter, Cos and Kuyichi.”

According to Wijnja and Weber, the increasing focus on repair is due to two more things: growing consumer demand and more regulations.

Growing consumer demand

”Consumers are driven by money, but sustainability is top of mind," Wijnja says. He observes that a large group is willing to pay more for high quality ‘or better' products.

This is also reflected in a large-scale consumer survey conducted by Euromonitor International. “Unlike in the past, when sustainable consumer behavior was hampered by the higher cost of products, consumers nowadays more often choose to buy more durable and versatile items and consider renting or repairing these items over buying new ones," the market research firm reported. This is because budgets are becoming more tight due to inflation and rising living costs, among other factors. “Consumers increasingly see value in items that are long-lasting and can be repaired,” Marguerite LeRolland, Industry Manager Footwear & Apparel at Euromonitor, tells FashionUnited. “This is why brands are increasingly focusing on durability and repair.”

Customer services are also increasingly getting questions about warranty, repairs and overall product performance, says Weber, who speaks to these company departments on a daily basis. “And these questions no longer come only from customers who prioritize sustainability.”

More legislation: upcoming sustainability regulations

“In addition, fashion companies are experiencing increasing pressure from governments and policymakers to change their business practices,” Euromonitor says. There is a lot of new sustainability legislation in the pipeline. In the EU it involves an entire regulatory framework (the so-called Green Deal). “For instance, there will be a tougher crackdown on greenwashing, a strong push for more traceability through the introduction of digital product passports, mandatory reporting on sustainability for companies (CSRD) and a directive forcing organizations to address abuses of the environment and people in the supply chain (CSDDD),” LeRolland summarises.

Also under way are rules for all EU countries that make manufacturers responsible for collecting, reusing and recycling products they put on the market when they have become waste, Wijnja highlights. This is called the Extended Producer Responsibility for Textiles. The Netherlands was the second European country to launch an EPR (UPV in Dutch). Here it has been in effect since July 2023.

“Clothing companies know that the traditional business model, based solely on pushing new clothes to consumers, has had its best days,” Weber reports. “In the past, most fashion companies thought, there, I have sold my products, great, my job is done and now I can move on to produce more goods. Moreover, some products were made in such a way that they would break down after a while , so new clothes could be sold again.” She believes the sense of responsibility for products after sale is now very present among fashion companies. “The ‘’how’ [to take that responsibility], they are now working out,” Weber says.

This is called planned obsolescence. The concept of planned obsolescence emerged in the 1920s, Belgian sustainability expert Jasmien Wynants wrote in a guest contribution for FashionUnited: “Back in the day, manufacturers were experimenting with ways to limit the lifespan of products to stimulate demand for new products. This strategy was applied, for example, to light bulbs and later to electronics, household appliances, cars, smartphones and also clothes,” Wynants said.

Source: [FashionUnited.be article ‘Duurzaamheid verduidelijkt: Waarom iedereen het over de circulaire economie heeft als oplossing’]

Wijnja notes that companies used to be more focused on recycling when it came to sustainability efforts. "Now repair is rising on the 'R-ladder'," the Jafix.com founder says.

The focus on repair is expected to increase further, as a Right to Repair directive is in the pipeline in the EU.

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Images from the Jafix.com Zeeman tutorial 'Repair hole in knit with crochet applique' consisting of five steps. You can see the main image here.Credits: Jafix.com
Image courtesy Jafix.com. Zeeman tutorial 'Repair hole in knit with crochet applique' consisting of five steps. See the required supplies here. Credits: Jafix.com

2. Right to repair and looking to the future

The Right to Repair proposal that is currently on the table will give consumers the right to repair if repairing a product is cheaper than replacing it. For now, the obligation will apply to electrical appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators and mobile phones. Fashion and textile products are not covered by the directive.

”However, there is a possibility that repair may be integrated into the Eco-Design Regulation in the future, yet another forthcoming government directive that will impose product design requirements. This would mean that repairability requirements could be imposed on new clothing and textile products in the future,” Brussels-based law firm Edson Legal explained to FashionUnited.

Source: ‘A closer look at the upcoming EU’s Right to Repair legislation and its impact on fashion ’ (March 2024).

Weber: "Ideally, you want traditionally organized fashion companies to make a 180-degree shift and it starts with sustainability at the sketching and design stage.” It would be helpful if manufacturers would already consider at the development stage that the product can be repaired or recycled at a later stage, as research by the Technical University (TU) Delft also showed," Wijnja argues on his part. This design principle is called 'design for disassembly'. “But this will not be so easy to implement for the clothing industry, because how can you replace parts of a sweater?,” he ponders aloud. In that case, “improving quality will make more sense,” the Jafix.com founder says.

The complete turnaround such as the one Weber mentioned earlier is of course not always feasible for traditionally operating fashion companies, the Mended co-founder says. “It is therefore a good thing that clothing brands are starting somewhere, such as by offering or facilitating repair, for example."

Because the biggest advantage of repair work, the two emphasize, is that it allows us - consumers like you and me - to get a longer use out of our clothes.

3. 'A better way to keep clothes in play'

“For a more sustainable future and circular economy, we need to make and buy less stuff,” Wijnja says. But that whole ‘consuming less’ thing, he finds, is not so easy. “When I see nice clothes in a store, I am also tempted to buy something,” he says.”

“I think the solution lies much more in extending the life of products we already own, through maintenance. Repair is a very important tool in this,” Wijnja continues. “And that is in fact exactly the message I want to get across with my platform [Jafix.com].”

Mended shares the same view. The company's slogan is 'A better way to keep clothes in play’. “We stand by the saying that you catch more flies with honey or syrup than with vinegar,” Weber says. To tell people to stop buying is not very effective, she believes, unless there is regulation, such as the French ban on certain fast fashion marketing practices..

“A positive approach that promotes love for existing items and maximizes use could indirectly reduce the impulse to buy more,” Weber tells FashionUnited. “After all, being able to wear your beautiful dress or favorite jeans for longer might prevent some impulse purchases.”

Repair and the power of a new narrative

Weber thinks the golden key when it comes to [further improving] perceptions of and sentiment around repair is a new narrative. People almost always talk or write about ‘old school repair’. “We need to move away from the stuffy image and create new, engaging conversations,” Weber believes.

Mended is therefore committed to creating an experience when it comes to alteration and repairing. “Shopping is an experience, but mending a garment is not,” Weber says. "Besides that, you always have to wait and see if the tailor around the corner is able to fix your garment as you'd like.” Mended guarantees a high-quality repair (“by working with the best local tailors throughout the Netherlands”). It also delivers repaired garments ‘with a big bow’ to create an unboxing moment.

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Mended founders Agnes Weber en Daan Maasson Credits: Mended
Image: Mended. Credits: Mended

4. Repair has not yet been structurally implemented by organizations or fully embraced by consumers. What is needed to achieve further scale-up of repairs?

In order to upscale repair, there are still a few challenges to be addressed, including consumer perception regarding prices, Jafix.com and Mended concur.

Costs versus benefits

“Consumers are used to the low prices of fast fashion and therefore expect that repairs, such as replacing a zipper or attaching a button, should not cost much," Weber says. "But what we have to explain to them is that each repair is unique and requires manual labor."

The co-founder of Mended thinks companies have a duty to “educate consumers a bit” when it comes to price. "In many sectors, it is normal for customers to pay for (part of) the service because there is an appreciation for service and craftsmanship. An auto repair shop, for example, does not repair scratches in the paintwork of cars for free beyond the warranty period either.”

Besides, a garment must have sufficient financial value to justify repair work, Weber notes on her part. “Think mid-price range products of decent quality,” she says. She believes repairing very cheap clothes is usually not practical or desirable, "unless, of course, it holds emotional value for the consumer”.

The business and revenue model for companies is another concern. Weber: "Fashion brands and shops usually ask us about the benefits of repair first.”

“First of all, repair can simply be an extra way for companies to generate sales," Wijna explains. Bever for instance, refers in its repair manuals to parts it sells itself. The same applies to Zeeman: the textile discounter sells essential sewing materials, knitting thread and elastic which add to its sales. "But it is true that investments usually exceed revenues," he admits. His company, too, is not yet making a profit.

“I think everyone in the repair business is currently looking for profitable business models,” Wijnja continues. According to the Jafix.com founder, customer loyalty is a possible answer for companies. "The moment you as a company do not let go of that customer and help them when a product breaks down by either repairing it yourself or facilitating repairs, that will lead to more customer loyalty. When a customer is satisfied it is more likely that he will return," he believes.

“Those business models are particularly important when it comes to scaling the circular economy,” Wijnja insists. "We have to make money from repairing. That is why I am so ambitious. Once returns exceed investments, repair is much more likely to take off.”

For companies, by the way, there is another concrete return of investment with Mended. "Tailors have a lot of information about the actual performance of products and specifically their weaknesses," Weber says. Think, for example, of a pant seam or a lining that always breaks down at a certain point. Brands will get access to this data. "With this knowledge, brands can make improvements in the design phase that will lead to better quality products on the market."

Repairs in the EU

In Sweden, there is a reduced VAT rate for repair services and in France, part of the repair costs are reimbursed to consumers. Wijnja believes that lower rates can also boost growth in the Netherlands.

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On the other side of the world, repairs are very common

“There is a stark contrast between the throw-away culture in 'the Global North' (read: the western world) and the culture of repairing and reusing in 'the Global South' (read: non-western countries),” Simone Preuss, sustainability journalist at FashionUnited, who lives in Mumbai, India, remarks. In the latter, the majority of the population belongs to the middle and lower middle classes: people cannot afford to throw away clothes after wearing them a few times, she explains.

In India, almost every household has a trusted tailor for mending and repairs because it is cheap, Preuss says. “Clothing tears are fixed and buttons and zippers replaced until the tailor says he can't do anything more and it's time to buy a new item,” she illustrates. “Many people also have clothes customized using leftover materials, such as old saris (India's most famous garment worn by women, ed.) that are turned into curtains or pillow covers,” Preuss says. Lastly, she says that in India, used items are passed from a parent to a newborn or young child for good luck or prosperity.

Both Jafix.com and Mended are not in favor of free repairs. "If you were to make repairs free for consumers, you would take away the incentive for producers to make decent-quality clothes," Wijnja stresses. They will think: my problems will be solved anyway, because it can be repaired for free."

Besides, there is a risk of free services being interpreted as ‘worthless’. "Some people already see repair as degrading the item and by offering it for free, you reinforce that view even more," Weber explains. "We actually want to add value with repair work. There was once a customer who sent in garments that were completely intact to upgrade the item through repair and that is exactly the sort of added value we want to create.”

Related reads:

- Interview Sieds Wijnja, founder of repair platform Jafix.com, on March 13, 2024
- Interview Agnes Weber, co-founder of Mended, a platform for repairing and altering clothes, on March 18, 2024
- Input market research firm Euromonitor International from 19 March 2024 and the Euromonitor ‘International Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyle Survey 2023’ conducted among almost 41,000 people.
- Input from Simone Preuss, sustainability journalist at FashionUnited, dated March 8, 2024
- Guest contribution about the Right to Repair of Brussels law firm Edson Legal for FashionUnited, dated March 21, 2024
- Parts of this article text were written using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool and then edited.

More background stories:
Fashion Education
Green Deal
right to repair
Sustainable Fashion