Repair has been an essential aspect of the life-cycle of objects until quite recently. The contemporary ‘Culture of Newness‘ that defines and drives so much of our object world, has accelerated the rate at which we replace things for their newer, shinier alternatives in an insidious cycle of perpetual upgrading and replacement. This cultural imperative is driven in part by a capitalist framework—demands exercised by unexamined profit margins and craetive collateral. This cycle needs urgent interrogation, both in terms of its material outputs as well as the ways in which it begins to address and incorporate the life-cycle of objects. Very little value is embedded in the notion of extension of the life of things, and, as a consequence the care given to repair is neglected, dismissed or one that is impossible to access. How we think about design needs to address repair as integral to use and extension given value over replacement. This may be done through legislation as seen in Sweden where the government offers incentives for repair by giving tax offsets or even compensating for time lost in the pursuit of repair.
Historically, the extension of the life of things has been linked to frugality and moral value. All cultures have their own versions of sophisticated technologies around repair for simple products ranging from simple products like kitchen pots and pans to more complex assemblies, like those of cars or locomotives.
As designers it is important to question what factors hinder our ability to repair things – these are often a combination of both practical or technological closed doors as well as cultural barriers to value the ‘old’ embedded often in ideas of the superiority of wealth over poverty. How can we address these issues socially, economically and subsequently make it essential to include a capacity replacement and repair, in the products we design.
Boro is the clothing that was worn by peasants, merchants or artisans in Japan from Edo up to early Showa (17th – early 19th century). In feudal times, the majority were peasant farmers. Not everyone could afford the lavish silk kimono and vivid obi worn by the aristocracy. Clothes were crafted from cheaper materials, but were no less beautiful than those worn by the upper classes.
Literally translated as rags or scraps of cloth, the term boro is also used to describe clothes and household items which have been patched-up and repaired many times. Once clothing was made, it would be maintained throughout the owner’s lifetime, or perhaps even longer. Cotton was scarce in Japan, but hemp was abundant. Hemp would be homespun and woven into beautifl patterns. Cotton could be woven through the hemp fabrics to make it warmer.
Australian consumers buy on an average about 27 kgs of clothing every year. A significant proportion of this is attributed to fast fashion and the availability of cheap clothing. In her book Wardrobe Crisis, Clare Press, a fashion journalist told Lateline that women wear a garment an average of seven times before getting rid of it. She alleges that the average woman wears only 40 per cent of what’s in her wardrobe, which means that 60 per cent is there ready to be discarded. Australians direct 6000 kg of clothing to landfill every 10 minutes! This was demonstrated visually by the the ABC’s War On Waste program aired in 2017!
Working around the idea of repair as a way to extend the life of clothing, moth in material as well as cultural dimensions we did class exercise to explore this. Working in Groups of 4 – 5 in this class we addressedan initiative towards the repair of clothing.This is explored in 5 distinct areas of clothing and its repair
- Traditions of Clothing repair.
- Methods and techniques involved in clothing repair.
- The average 20 year old’s wardrobe: A modern inventory of clothing and clothing materials.
- Wear & Tear & Repair as a fashion: Case studies
- A Clothing Repair Manifesto : A reflective 15 point guide for someone who wants to adopt a more ethical stance on clothing
According to the prestigious Japanese dictionary Kojien, the word mottainai (pronounced moat-tie-nigh) is most commonly used to express a feeling of regret when something is put to waste without deriving its value. Recently the term has become a keyword in coping with global problems related to resources and the environment. At the G8 summit in July, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro told the leaders of the other countries, “It may be difficult to translate the word into English, French, German, or other languages, but I believe we can just use the Japanese word mottainai.”
Jugaad is the hindi word that roughly translates as “hack”. It suggests practical methods of intervention, design and repair that offer solutions which may subvert the original intentions of components. It could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way. It is also often used to signify creativity—to make existing things work, or to create new things with meagre resources. (Wikipedia).
The beauty of practicality.