I’m noticing these days quite a few references to the idea of “shopping your own closet” and “mend don’t spend,” something that resonates with me personally as I get older. So often when I cross the street in New York City and see a kiosk advertising fast fashion, I think ‘I don’t need a dress for $19.99. I have so many things that are better made and that I care about in my own closet.’
On Instagram, I noticed that my favorite massage therapist and nutritionist Holly Haupt had posted an image of a cashmere sweater that she was mending, and saying that her new slogan is “mend don’t spend.” She is encouraging her followers to “save your good clothes”: “Buy good stuff and make it last!”
I look forward to my monthly massage with Holly, which contributes so thoroughly to my physical and mental well being. Holly is very attuned to what keeps her and her clients feeling good. She was recognized in Town & Country magazine as one of the country’s top practitioners in the area of beauty and wellness.
In another post, she writes, “I have to remember not to wear cashmere when foraging and being off trail. I’m spending hours pulling burrs on this sweater. My husband said he would have thrown it away. Not me. #wastenotwantnot #menddontspend.”
Holly is wise. She is on to something. Many people are realizing that luxuries like time and friendships are more rewarding than so many of the things we acquire as we move through life. It is part of a larger shift in society where people, young and old, are valuing experiences above more material pursuits. I’m not just speaking for myself when I say I don’t need ‘things’ to define me as much as I felt I did when I was younger.
Holly inspired me to pull out a needle and thread to mend a tear in one of our favorite bedcovers. As I was sewing, I looked up at our headboard, which is upholstered in vintage, beautifully-stitched Japanese textiles from Sri Threads. The concept of mend don’t spend has been with us for centuries.
Stephen Szczepanek is the founder of Sri Threads, a textile gallery in Brooklyn, NY. He is an artist who has devoted the last decade or so to studying and collecting Japanese boro textiles — antique fabrics that have been patched and re-patched with a degree of artistry where they are now sought after as collectible artworks.
There is something contemplative in these textiles. They are a window into another world. “Japanese boro textiles were made and worked on over time, sometimes over a generation or two, “Stephen says. “Because the same cloth is recycled, used time and again, boro textiles exemplify the inherent value of material.”
“Aside from having little material wealth, the women who crafted this every day cloth knew how to extend its life, using ingenious mending and stitching techniques to transform, for example, clothing into bedding,” Stephen says.
Antique textiles from Stephen’s collection have been exhibited in museums internationally including the Museum for East Asian Art in Cologne and the Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon.
Stephen reminded me that activity of mending and recycling textiles was not unique to Japan but global, including the long tradition of American quilting. Because Japan’s feudal culture prevailed into the late 19th century, Japanese boro textiles were commonly found until recently. Many cultures have these traditions of re-use and repurposing textiles.
“Boro textiles are a study not only in frugality but they are also a lesson in conservation and mindfulness–they can teach us to more fully appreciate what we already have,” Stephen says.
For me, the act of mending provides moments for reflection. I am present, not rushing off somewhere or lost in the world of my phone. Mending is a lost art for many people. We read recently that the thimble, having lost its relevance in our culture, was removed from the game Monopoly. My mother’s well worn thimble is an object that is dear to me because it is a link to my past. It is also a symbol of a slower, more deliberate way of life. So, I will continue to mend not spend — it helps me to save for the future, and to honor the past.
Follow Holly on Instagram @hollyhaupt or visit her website at www.hollyhaupt.me
Follow Stephen Szczepanek on Instagram @srithreads or visit his website at www.srithreads.com
On the blog of the Cooper Hewitt, Stephen shares his knowledge about the recycling practices that were deeply embedded in Japanese folk culture.
A wonderful video from Cool Hunting on Sri Threads:
See below for more exquisite textiles from the Sri Threads collection.