Twenty-four year old visual designer and author Lily Fulop began the Instagram account Mindful Mending as part of a school project in 2018. The assignment called for students to design for social good. Having grown up crocheting, interning with a local fashion designer in Pittsburgh using fabric scraps and an interest in sustainability, mending clothes combined her interests and skills. We spoke with Fulop from her home in Chicago about how she got started, tips for mending and what to expect from her in the future.
No Kill/Maria: How did you get into mending clothes?
Lily Fulop: I grew up doing fiber crafts like sewing and crocheting. I had just started learning how to construct garments. I was interested in the fashion and craft space. I just started learning about the industry and how bad it is and realized this would be the perfect place for me to apply some of my skills to make a difference.
At the time, I was also interning for a local fashion designer in Pittsburgh where I went to school. Her practice was really focused on sustainability, working in small batches and doing things with her fabric offcuts. That was one of the things I was tasked with doing, making stuff out of all of the scraps. I kinda came at fashion and sustainability from the production waste side and first began tackling that with upcycling.
When I started the project, I was trying to come up with a way I could reach more people, as opposed to just fashion designers. I was thinking fashion waste is such a problem. Is there a way everyday consumers could have an impact on that? I found mending as a solution. You can make a difference by extending the life of your clothing and reducing the waste that you put out by wearing and throwing away clothes. Part of the project was also creating instructional guides to help people learn and educate people about sustainable fashion.
What’s been your favorite creation?
Well, I have a go-to denim jacket that has had a lot of need for mending so there’s a lot of layers of work. It’s kind of interesting because I started working on it when I was new to mending and have worked on it over the years, so you can kinda see the history of my skills improving side by side which is pretty fun.
What are your top tips for mending clothes at home?
There’s an abundance of resources online. I taught myself to mend. There are great YouTube videos. Obviously, I wrote a book and there’s lots of books out there that will take you step by step. I think just seeking out those resources that are free and available is really helpful.
Another tip would be not striving for perfection. Understanding that as long as it serves its function, it is good. There’s a lot of really beautiful mending you see on the internet. When you’re starting out, I think a lot of people compare themselves and get frustrated, or don’t want to continue. It’s okay to have ugly mends. Honestly, imperfection is what makes them beautiful.
What do you think about the visible mending movement?
I think there’s a time and a place for more subtle mends, depending on the area. In places where people can see it and you don’t mind them looking, it’s a great way to start a conversation. Share with them why you mended it and why you care.
I’d love to hear more about writing your book, Wear, Repair, Repurpose! What was that process like?
The publisher actually reached out to me right after I graduated. I started working on it pretty early in my journey. It’s kind of interesting because I was still learning things myself and teaching others at the same time. You understand the process when you’re learning it yourself. You understand what needs to be explained. I definitely came at it from a place of not being an expert yet and starting the journey of making it accessible for other people to start with me. I worked on it for a year and a half, almost two years. It came out in March 2020.
Looking back, is there anything you’d change about it?
I wasn’t planning for it or ready. I might take some years and make a second edition. I think one area I’ve grown in is darning. I have a few more methods for it so that’s an area that could be extended.
What kind of content can we expect in the future?
I had a post a week or two ago that went absolutely viral, more viral than anything else I’ve ever posted. It was this post calling out people who do fast fashion hauls and overconsumption. That sparked a huge, huge, huge conversation. I guess that’s venturing off into a different conversation on more general sustainable fashion and consumption. There’s also major ethical problems. That’s something I haven’t gotten a ton into yet. There’s accounts like Fashion Revolution and The Slow Factory that are doing a lot more heavy duty education and political stuff.
Since there was such a good response to my post, I’d like to do more educational things from a wider perspective. A lot of people brought up how sustainable fashion isn’t accessible, harder for plus size people to find their sizes, and they can’t afford sustainable clothes, which is all true and unfortunate. I want to provide more resources for a greater array of people. Not everyone has to spend their time mending, so providing more tips and more resources for people with limitations to still be a part of the movement.
Where to donate your old clothes beyond a thrift store or basic charity
Where and how to swap instead of shop
Wear, Repair, Repurpose: We talked to the author Lily Fulop on mending your clothes
Visible Mending: Tips + Tricks to Get the Look
5 Best Books on Climate and Consumer