Conscious Living

How to care for your clothes according to local fashion experts

We ask industry experts how to look after and extend the life of our wardrobe heroes.

The conversation around how we consume fashion is one that continually shifts and changes; we have reached a vital time in that conversation around the sustainability of the fashion industry and a huge factor at front of mind is the life cycle of our clothing. As we continue to evaluate our shopping habits, it’s important to understand the valuable difference that taking care of our clothing really does make to its life cycle.

In generations past, our parents and their parents would repair and mend clothes to extend their wear rather than getting rid or them or buying something new. We have lost the art of slowing down and taking extra care of the pieces we adore, so with that in mind, we spoke to some local experts about prolonging the life cycle of your most treasured items.

Scroll down for their top tips.



Knitwear

Deanna Didovich, creative director of Ruby

Take care when washing
“Always read the care instructions. Generally speaking, make sure you have a good-quality, gentle wool detergent (we love Cable Melbourne’s wool wash), wash by hand in cold water, inside out, gently ring out and dry flat. This will ensure your knitwear stays fresher for longer. Also, knitwear doesn’t need to be washed after every wear. Try airing your pieces out; fresh air works wonders. If you get a small stain, spot clean it and air-dry. Knits are very delicate and need to be treated with care and love.”

How to store your knitwear
“Make sure your knitwear is stored in a dry place and folded flat. Don’t hang as it will pull the garment out of shape. Pilling can happen on knitwear, so make sure you have a pilling comb on hand. With loose-weave knits, also be very careful with jewellery, as it can catch and pull the yarn.”

Natural fibres are your friends
“Natural fibres have many benefits; they are great insulators, keeping you warm and dry. Cotton and linen knits are perfect for warmer weather, being breathable and light. Recently we have released knitwear in GOTS-approved (Global Organic Textile Standard) cotton linen. This yarn is spun in Italy, and is high-quality and sustainable.”



Caring for your boots

Lou Clifton, founder of Shoe School

Store it well
“Regularly polish your shoes, then store them with care. Store in a shelf to keep them dust free. Shoe stretchers are a great way to ensure they retain their form. You can find some beautiful vintage stretchers in secondhand stores.”

Keep leather clean
“Leather is great because it’s breathable, durable and will mould to your feet over time. Baking soda is excellent for cleaning white leather. Apply a little water to your shoe polish for maximum shine. If you scuff your leather, you can buff it out with some shoe polish. If unsuccessful at home, take it to a cobbler who’ll have an industrial buffer – the heat and friction of the buffer will smooth out inconsistencies. Patent leather is an exception, as it’s coated with inflexible plastic.”

Make do and mend
“Here’s how to apply shoe glue so that it actually sticks: I recommend Ados F2 from your local hardware store. Rough up your leather or rubber soling with a file before glueing. Glue both sides – Ados F2 is a ‘contact glue’ that won’t stick if it’s not applied to another glued surface. Apply, but not too much – if the glue is gloopy, the solvents which keep it wet will never evaporate. Wait until it is tacky to touch before bonding. To get a really strong bond, use a hair dryer to heat the glue, reactivating it before bonding.”

Last word
“Find a great cobbler! I’ve met so many shoe repairers that are genuinely passionate and rightfully proud of their trade. If you love your shoes, caring for them means they’ll  last you a lifetime.”



Heels

Steve Monks, Cobbler for Merchant 1948 Workshop at Westfield Newmarket

Care is key
“Stilettos or thin heels easily wear down, so ensure you rest them in between wears (just like you rest your feet) and pay careful attention to looking after the heels before they reach breaking point. Invest in a sole replacement or repair before the metal hits the road as this makes repairs much harder. Using a waterproofing spray on natural leathers and suedes at home is a great way to protect them from stains.”

Pay attention to your sole
“The need to resole really depends on the level of wear and how much you’re rotating them with other pairs in your wardrobe, but it should be about once a year. Winter boots need thicker soles due to the harsh weather so it’s best to do this at the beginning of the season. The Merchant 1948 Workshop will offer Vibram sole application, a footwear upgrade for your shoes that will extend their life.”

Store it well
“For closed shoes and strappy pairs, it’s best if you can use shoe trees to maintain shape when stored. If you don’t have a shoe or boot tree handy, a piece of rolled-up newspaper will create a similar effect to hold shape and ensure the leather doesn’t cave in on itself and crease. If your boots aren’t stored with trees, it’s best to lay them down on their side. If zips are folded over for a long period of time, they become weaker and prone to breakage in that area.”

Keep it clean
“The more you care for your shoes, the better they will look, for longer. My top tip is to clean your footwear and do it regularly – at least every two to three weeks. For suede, you need a good suede brush, while smooth leathers require a quality leather conditioner and a self-colour polish – apply the polish and leave for a few minutes and then buff off using a horsehair brush if you can, as this will make the result shinier. Giving shoes the TLC they need will undeniably extend their lifespan, meaning you can enjoy them for many more years.”



Outerwear

Maggie Hewitt, designer and owner of  Maggie Marilyn

Be careful not to overwash
“Much of the wear and tear that our garments face is due to overwashing. Not only does excessive washing contribute to 25 percent of the carbon footprint of a garment, but it also takes a toll on the lifespan of your clothing. Drycleaning clothes involves perchloroethylene solvent, which is very harsh on both our clothes and the environment.”

Fresh air does a world of good
“Great ways to combat overwashing of outerwear is to pop it inside out to air in the sunshine. The sun is a natural antibacterial so simply leave your clothes outside for a day and they will smell as fresh as new. If you have a stain, spot cleaning is an easy fix and doesn’t require lots of water or energy.”

Find an eco drycleaner
“Look for drycleaners that don’t use perchloroethylene solvent and that will be gentle on your clothes! Sometimes this means paying a little bit more, but it’s worth the investment. Blue-N-Green drycleaners in Auckland are great.”

Storage is key
“Hang your outerwear in a dark cupboard or wardrobe in a suit bag during the summer months to protect from light, dust and moths.”

Last word
“Love them and care for them, but ultimately our clothes are supposed to live with us through a lifetime of memories, so it’s fine if they get some love marks on them over time. One-hundred-percent wool suiting will last a lifetime.”



Vintage

 Aimee Egdell, owner of Tatty’s

Don’t be afraid to mix and match
“Bring new life to older garments by mixing and matching with new secondhand finds. If it’s a summer dress, pop a long-sleeve top and a pair of jeans under it in winter. If it’s a winter maxi dress, shorten it to a mini or remove the arms for a sleeveless look. Deconstructing your secondhand finds is easy, just find the connecting seam and undo.”

Don’t crowd your clothes
“Never overfill your drawers or wardrobe, your garments need air circulating around and through them to avoid mould, smells and moths. Only own what you wear – fabrics aren’t designed to be stored for long periods of time, they’re designed to be worn!”

Easy does it
“Less is more when it comes to washing and drycleaning, including how many garments you pack in the washing machine – it should never be more than three-quarters full. If you have silk, fur, wool or denim, you can hang them in the bathroom while you have a hot shower; the steam will also act as a basic cleanse for the fabric. Just make sure to lay your wool piece flat afterwards to dry so it doesn’t stretch.”

Material world
“Synthetics need to be washed in hot water or with an antibacterial liquid as well as a washing liquid. This will remove the smells that linger. Wash all other fabrics in cold water always, and preferably with a gentle spin. Delicates, like silk and linen, go on a gentle cycle with low water, a very soft spin and a small amount of liquid. Cotton and denim can handle a normal wash cycle, but again always cold water, as you don’t want the cotton to shrink.”

Behind the seams
“If you have a tear in the fabric, a small piece of iron-on fabric stuck to the back will hold it together, instead of sewing a new fabric panel.”

Unconditional love
“For old garments (pre-’80s) watch out for disintegration. If the fabric is brittle, or the garment has shrunk, then any patching or repairing will only cause more stress to the original garment. The best idea when purchasing an item that looks like it may start to fray, rip or unravel is to be at peace with the damage, embrace it and be proud to be wearing a very loved piece.”

First try
“The best way to ensure you are buying an undamaged garment is to try it on and check the item inside out. This way you will see any stains, smells, broken zips or buttons with your own eyes. A lot of stains only appear when the garment is on. Bags and shoes also need to be tried to ensure the straps and clasps work, and soles and laces are in working order. Remember, any secondhand item you buy should be fit for said purpose. If this is not the case, then the price for the garment should reflect the damage.”

“Fabric disintegrates over time, colours change and garments stretch or shrink. Caring for your vintage treasures correctly will prolong their life, and your enjoyment of them.”


Introduction: Ruby Hamilton
Interviews: Jessica-Belle Greer

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 1, 2020.

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