It bothers me, when I take my old clothes to the dry cleaners for mending or slight alterations and get charged exorbitant prices! It sometimes defeats and frustrates the whole point of slow Fashion.
The incident that broke the camels back, occurred a few weeks ago, when I took my beautiful traditional deep purple Chinese dress (which I have owned for over 12 years) to my local dry cleaner. I asked for him to hem a few areas on both sides, as they had become loose over time – his advice to me, was to – buy a new one. “It would be much cheaper” he said. I had heard these statements banded about so often, , and it was the main catalyst for taking all my broken shoes, and clothes to South Korea, whilst on a visit a few years ago. I have no shame in doing this, in fact a get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Dare I say, none of the tailors or cobblers there, pointed out which pair of shoes was made from leather or rubber, nor how frailed any of the garments were, they just asked, when I would like to come and collect them.
On the contrary, the purple dress cost £18.00 to fix, two returns to the drycleaner, (because some bits were missed), and with a sunken heart, a donation to charity, because, in the end, it was ruined, and I could not wear it anymore!
Whilst I am acutely aware that we live in a very disposable culture, I happen to like a lot of my clothes and take pleasure in keeping them going for as long as I can – This of course comes, with buying good quality garments that won’t fall apart after a few wears. I try my best to fix the odd loose button, a few loose seams, re-dye my loved shoes where appropriate, and add the odd badge or brooch to disguise a little hole, but some require a more professional touch.
Alas with January in tow, a drop in temperature, and a reality check on my bank balance, – (one of the perils of freelancing) – I take another look at my ever mounting pile of clothes that need mending or altering, as this could expand my wardrobe, and I would feel as though I have acquired a few new clothes again.
I embarked on a project, to find a local Taylor, who was able to mend/alter my pile, do a good job of it, without charging me an arm and a leg. I took 11 items with me, including 2 of my fabric bags , one with a broken zip, and the other with broken seams, and made my way to different drycleaners/Taylors in the South East of London.
A total of 8 visits later, and the variation in prices quoted were quite astonising! with some dry cleaners quoting up to £200! In the end, I settled for a Taylor called Tony, who quoted a humble £55.00 to do the job. Tony’s quote, and his ability to think outside the box, helped me make my mind up.
You see, over the 8 different visit, it occurred to me, that some drycleaners/Taylors, just cannot be bothered, if the item that needs mending is quite old, or a bit tricky to fix. Tony was the only Taylor, who did not eliminate, any of the 11 pieces I showed him. As I presented each garment to him, I explained what needed to be done, and offered the rational that had been given by alternative drycleaners/Taylors for not accepting the garment. Tony, kept coming up with ingenious suggesting on how to fix the different pieces – needless to say I was truly impressed. An with asking price of £55.00 clinched it for me and I truly felt that I might be able to have my cake and eat it!
The trick, I discovered, is to source out an old school Taylor who does alterations, preferably, the ones who used to work in the fashion industry, making garments – Or those with a generation of Taylors’ in their immediate family.(Like Frank, whom I met whilst walking through the small shopping mail near Portobello road Market) .They seem to have a fundamental understanding of how clothes are put together, and would even take the time to educate you, if you are willing to listen. Unfortunately the Tonys’ and Franks’, are a dying breed, – who have zero connection to the internet and social media. They are stuck away in there own little worlds, and you have to search them out! However, they are so worth the find, because of their skill sets, experience, ability to think outside the box, and the price of course..
Alas, I left my broken pile of clothes and bags with Tony, who it turns out, has been doing this for over 30 years, – can turn your dress into top easily, your 6 inch boots down to 3 or 2 inches, and your long coat into a short one. (My friend Helen, has been patronising him for years)
I went back a few days ago to collect my stash, and I must say, Frank had done a sterling job! especially on my orange Polka dot dress, (which had completely frailed around the side zip, and the Lining), in fact he did a better job of it, than the tailors in Seoul, AND wait for it….. he had dry-cleaned all of the clothes! BARGAIN!
I feel very pleased with the effort I have put into this project, and have already worn 2 of the pieces, and created new outfits as a result.
What is the solution to this very disposable culture, that we live in? I, honestly do not know. I am aware that sewing machines have become popular again, but how many people are willing to do what Tony does?
Happy Frugal January..