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Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
Social media can sometimes feel like an endless Lucy-at-the-chocolate-factory procession of multicolored Stanley cups, mini Uggs, and assorted plastic doodads clogging our feeds. But when Mandy Lee posts a haul video, it doesn’t consist of her opening endless Shein packages. Instead, the fashion writer and analyst, who goes by @oldloserinbrooklyn on TikTok, is showing off her freshly repaired Margiela Tabis or Simone Rocha platforms, courtesy of Fulton Cobbler in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. “They really can do anything,” she says, calling it “kind of a luxury, living in New York City, to have these artisans that have passed down their craft from generation to generation.”
Her “mended hauls” have sent plenty of business Fulton Cobbler’s way, and they’ve also inspired many of her followers to repair and refurbish what they already own. The beginning of a new year always brings with it an ascetic, shop-your-closet ethos, with challenges like Lee’s own #75hardstyle encouraging people to use what they already own. On TikTok, creators are giving lessons on mending, repairing, and darning your clothes; refurbishing bags, or simply enlisting the help of the pros. Emilia Petrarca’s fashion newsletter Shop Rat just concluded its Repair Month, while Jess Graves’ The Love List recently published a detailed guide to clothing care.
Lee started making this series because “I ended up having a pile of shoes in my closet that were either broken or unwearable, literally collecting dust,” she says. “My shoe collection is my pride and joy, and it was just breaking my heart.” Now, in addition to her in-need-of-TLC shoes, she’s started bringing ones she bought secondhand that might otherwise be headed for the landfill. (She looks for C- and D-grade items on eBay that Fulton Cobbler is then able to transform into like-new pieces for a fraction of the price of a new pair.)
She’s not the only creator finding ways to inject novelty into her videos without necessarily buying (and subsequently unboxing) loads of new things. U.K.-based fair fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna started posting her #OOOTD (Old Outfit of the Day) as “a bit of a middle finger to Outfit of the Day [posts].” The hashtag began, she says, because “I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the constant newness that I was seeing peddled by fashion influencers on social media.” She has since produced YouTube videos about topics like caring for and repairing your wardrobe.
“I have had plenty of people say, ‘I’ve stopped buying fast fashion since watching your videos.’ Truly, that’s not really my intention. It’s just a very happy byproduct,” La Manna tells me, stressing that she focuses on corporations over individuals when it comes to the climate crisis. “My intention is to get people thinking more widely about who is running the system, who has the power, who has the money. And then when they understand that and question that, they might go, ‘Okay, I don’t really want to give my money to that corporation anymore.’ If that ends up with them going, ‘Oh, cool, I’m not buying fast fashion anymore,’ amazing.”
Lately, conversations about fabric quality and properly caring for your clothes have dominated certain corners of fashion Twitter, with “menswear guy” Derek Guy and lingerie expert Cora Harrington among those weighing in on how to identify quality pieces and care for them. People are gravitating to creators who provide some sort of value, whether it’s teaching a skill or offering concrete style advice—part of a growing backlash against the rampant consumerism of influencer culture.
TikTok has become a hotbed of this kind of content. Stephanie Hind, the company’s North America head of lifestyle & education, says that “with ‘mend hauls’ on the rise, views on hashtags like #mendtok, #clothingcare, and #upcycledfashion have increased by over 70 percent in the last year.” The app plays host to creators like @socorrosociety, who posts thrifted hauls and teaches her followers about visible mending repair; Will Tyler, who restores vintage Coach bags, and @yooon_ie, who narrates sweater “spa days” devoted to extending the life of wool and cashmere treasures. “Thrift hauls” and upcycling content are also thriving on the platform (with #upcycledfashion currently at 1.8 billion views).
The rise of the mended haul is, of course, also a bolster to small businesses that have been in families for generations. (For those who don’t have a cobbler or tailor close-by, repair-by-mail services, like the U.K.-based startup Sojo, launched by Josephine Phillips and recommended by La Manna, can replicate the experience.) And clearly, the fashion set is taking notice. Every time she goes by Fulton Cobbler now, Lee says, “They’ll have some of the projects that they’re working on in the back on the shelves, and I always see multiple pairs of Tabis now.”
Véronique Hyland is ELLE’s Fashion Features Director and the author of the book Dress Code, which was selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year. Her writing has previously appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, W, New York magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and Condé Nast Traveler.