Stitched Up: towards a Viable Economy, locally and globally

This is the second in our series of pieces about organisations that have received Steady State Manchester’s Viable Future Mark.

Bryony Moore spoke with Mark Burton about the work of the Stitched Up co-operative. You can listen to the full discussion (28 minutes) HERE.

Stitched Up members with some of their upcycled and repaired clothing.

The Stitched Up team at their sustainable clothing hub in Stretford, with some of their upcycled and repaired clothing.

Stitched Up was set up by a group of people with varied backgrounds to do with fashion, creative arts and well-being who shared concerns about the dominant model of the fashion business. The issues of waste, unsustainability and exploitation seemed to be so global and remote that it was difficult to take action. However, by focussing on reducing consumption locally, by promoting repair and upcycling and the skills to do that, they have been able to raise the issues with many people and make a distinct contribution to both understanding the issues and doing something about them.

In our conversation we noted the contradiction between the way people here were brought together to work in textile factories, thereby developing a collective consciousness, something that has largely gone (but being celebrated in one of the co-op’s projects) leaving its opposite, the isolated consumer, preyed on by the marketing function of the global textile and fashion industry. As research at the University of Exeter has shown, learning how clothes are made helps shift the relationship people have with fashion, helping us value how things are made.

Stitched Up is now a Community Benefit Society, with a membership, some 50 volunteers and a small staff team.

Stitched up runs workshops on upcycling, mending, making and also on repair (via its fortnightly Repair Café). They work with local groups and arrange clothing swaps too. Stitched Up joins with globally focussed campaigns and action calls. Fundamentally they work to increase the sustainability of clothing, keeping clothes in use for longer, thereby opposing the throw-away culture of the fashion industry, especially “fast fashion”. They also take donations of cloth and have prevented the destruction of some three tonnes this year alone.

Yet, like most innovative, community-led projects, Stitched Up faces challenges. It relies on small grants, earned income and volunteer time and lacks the cushion of ongoing core funding that would enable more planning, expansion and replication of their work. An immediate challenge is that the base in Stretford Mall (formerly Stretford Arndale) will close in March when the site is demolished. So they are looking for an alternative: maybe you can help!

Thanks to Bryony for an insight into a project in which we can see many elements of our Viable Economy and Society vision – convivial, ecologically sensitive, concerned with sharing and with social and economic justice, while maximising the capacities of citizens.

Listen to the full conversation HERE. Find out more at the informative Stitched Up website.

Viable Future Mark logo

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