Fashion / Lifestyle

Creative Mending: Social, Cultural, and Sustainable Exchange

A creative mending workshop to unite the community and propose a culture of sustainability was the experience organized by Connecting Cultures. The cultural foundation and social enterprise, directed by Anna Detheridge and an all-female team, proposed an upcycle design initiative. The idea was born in response to the call for partners, “Future Days for Adriano Community Center,” with the theme “Care as Culture. Culture as Care.”

In the following interview, we asked the Connecting Cultures team to tell us how this experience was born and developed.

How did the idea of a workshop for creative mending come about?

The creative mending workshop came about thanks to the call for partners, “Future Days for Adriano Community Center,” on the shared theme “Care as Culture. Culture as Care.” An ambitious urban redevelopment intervention promoted by the Proges cooperative in the Adriano Community Center. A unique model of integration between care spaces and open places of culture, sociality, and innovation, as part of Fondazione Cariplo’s Lacittàintorno program. Creative mending seemed an effective tool for engaging the community and different target audiences. Able to raise awareness of topical issues such as sustainability in fashion and to activate-recreate relationships within the Adriano neighborhood. Thus, we chose to combine our experience in territorial design and engagement in promoting sustainability in fashion by proposing a creative mending workshop. In implementing it, we involved Göksu Kaçaroğlu, a designer known through our Out of Fashion course and a member of Makeflix. With Göksu, the idea of the workshop format was developed, the goal of which was to create community and teach with creativity.

To look at the “holes” and “flaws” in garments by accompanying people to discover these endless possibilities and creative stimuli.

Can creative mending as garment care be the real challenge in a sustainable fashion?

It is a crucial point.

We can use more sustainable fabrics made in transparent and traceable supply chains. We can make choices that respect the rights of people working globally in the industry. We can inform ourselves and be curious. The problem remains our habits and our ratio of clothing consumption. We will never be able to revolutionize a system still based on overproduction and overconsumption unless we change how we approach consumption. Replacing traditional consumerism with a new “green consumerism” model is unlikely to solve the environmental and social problems for which the fashion system is responsible.

What if we imagined a new way of relating to our clothing? What if we bought clothes that we become attached to? Clothes that we understand the value of, that we want to carry with us for as long as possible, caring for them, repairing them, and renewing them when they break.

This change of mindset is an essential key to a sustainable fashion path. It is the most challenging part because it requires a change in all of us.

It can be scary but also appear as a new opportunity, as a very challenging path. With the creative mending workshop, we observed how this approach could lead to new encounters, new friendships, and new opportunities to learn and share.

How significant was social contamination (bringing in knowledge, cultures, and traditions from different worlds) in the creative mending workshop?

The creative mending workshop’s exchange of stories, knowledge, and skills is at the heart of Repair Lab. Participants are invited from the first meeting to share their experiences and participate actively.

People tell the story of the garment they have chosen to repair, compare their repair projects, and exchange tips. If someone knows more elaborate techniques or special sewing stitches, they teach them to others in a peer-to-peer relationship. Sometimes some have a lot of technical skills and have been used to sewing since childhood but are stuck in their creativity, while other participants have good ideas but are afraid that they are incapable. In this process, the role of designer Göksu Kaçaroğlu facilitated and guided the exchange, inspiring more creative ideas and encouraging dialogue. In one of the two editions of the creative mending workshop, we were fortunate to involve some Afghan community members and guests in the spaces of the Adriano Community Center. This contribution brought further enrichment to the exchange.

How was the creative mending workshop received?

The feedback has been very positive. The creative mending workshop, for some participants, meant being part of a community. Many people who participated lived in the neighborhood, but we had never had a chance to meet.

For everyone, we asked them to take part in an online community created by Makeflix, “Creative Repair Community,”: a FB group that allows people to continue exchanging ideas and photos about their repair projects. Thus creative mending becomes a shared habit! In addition, group support can help overcome those obstacles that often discourage us from repairing an item or garment.

Proges and Shifton, the organizers of the “Future days” call, also positively received our proposal. This allowed us to participate in a co-design phase with the other 27 selected entities. Earlier this year, a very stimulating path led to the Foundation Magnete new Community Point of Fondazione Cariplo in the Adriano neighborhood. Both editions of the creative mending workshop were carried out together with Makeflix and took place in this space of relationship and plurality.

Connecting Cultures

Connecting Cultures is a cultural foundation and social enterprise founded in Milan in 2001 by Anna Detheridge, an author in the visual arts, curator, and lecturer.

It is composed of an all-female team whose mission is to promote sustainability through art, fashion, and design, all through cultural projects on the ground, especially participatory art and education. In 2014, in particular, we activated a research and training platform for sustainability and awareness in fashion named Out of Fashion.

Out of Fashion is aimed at young professionals, designers, and entrepreneurs in the textile, fashion, and clothing industries. It is an advanced training course created in collaboration with, the Gianfranco Ferré Research Center, CNA Milan, and the support of the Consulate General of the Netherlands, a new edition of which will start in November this year.

In addition to the training course, the Out of Fashion platform also includes events and workshops, publications, and exhibitions.

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