“Get your fix: Garment repair businesses are taking off,” said a recent headline.
The accompanying article detailed how there seemed to be a shift in attitude during COVID when it came to fashion sustainability. As more and more people realize the negative impact that clothing consumption has on the planet every year – according to UK statistics, around 600 million kilograms of clothes less than a year old end up in landfills there – an increasing number have begun to go out of their way to extend the life of what was already in their wardrobe, by having it mended and the like, or by limiting their purchases to only clothes that they had before.
Little of this comes as a revelation for Anna-Marie Janzen, owner of Reclaim Mending, a West End company that’s been taking something old and sprucing it up since 2016.
The longer she’s been at it, the more she’s seen people get “super excited” about having a cherished sweater or pair of jeans restored, Janzen says, sitting in a Westminster Avenue juice bar, dressed in a blue and white sleeveless top, beige pants and sandals, thrift store finds, everything.
“There’s kind of this idea out there that we live in a throwaway society, but I really believe the majority of people don’t buy into that,” she says. “I mean, it’s perfectly natural to become emotionally attached to something as innocuous as an old concert t-shirt, isn’t it?”
Janzen, 34, can’t think of a time when she didn’t work with needle and thread. One of her earliest memories is of sitting on her paternal grandmother’s lap in Port Hardy, British Columbia, where she grew up, guiding material through a sewing machine while her grandmother operated the pedal.
“She was born in Ukraine during Stalin’s time and lived through famine… all sorts of horrible things,” says Janzen, the second eldest of four siblings. “And because her family was poor, she started making her own clothes at an early age and, in turn, taught me how to do it too.”
Janzen, who once got 103% in a high school sewing class (she was so fast she did more, she says with a wink), can’t remember if her classmates thought it odd that she wears almost exclusively homemade outfits. It was the “first things,” she says, and “things were weird, all around.”
Also, don’t get me wrong; she loved fancy outfits as much as anyone else. It was just that the more she learned about the fashion industry in general, the more she was appalled by the events, so much so that she eventually formed a student-run human rights group. whose main objective was to draw attention to the mistreatment of workers. etc
“There’s kind of this idea out there that we live in a throwaway society, but I really believe the majority of people don’t buy into that.”– Anna-Marie Janzen
She moved from British Columbia to Winnipeg in 2006 to study peace and conflict transformation at Canadian Mennonite University. Rumor spread that she was a serger whiz, and one day, after she expertly mended a tear in a classmate’s jeans, he asked her, “How much?”
She had done it as a favor, she replied, and certainly did not expect any kind of compensation. She eventually agreed to accept his money, but only after he repeated, “You’re not a sweatshop, everyone should get paid for their work.”
Janzen got a job with an international peace organization after graduation. She made headlines during her tenure there, wearing the same floral cotton dress to the office for 30 consecutive days, as part of a global campaign to raise awareness about wasteful drinking.
Surprisingly not, she said, when asked if her colleagues had questioned her overall choice, or lack thereof. “Literally nobody got it, which was kind of encouraging because now I knew people didn’t really care what I threw away before I left the house…they weren’t the least bit interested,” she says, adding in case anyone’s wondering, yes, she washed her dress regularly.
She quit her job for mental health reasons in 2015. After a long battle over disability benefits — “I guess I wasn’t depressed enough for them,” she cracks — she thought back to a conversation she once had at CMU when a friend asked her what she would do for a living if money weren’t a concern? It’s easy, she says; she repaired people’s old clothes.
And sew, uh… so she should, her friend told her.
What started as a side hustle six years ago is currently a full-time operation run by Janzen and her partner, with whom she shares a one-and-a-half-storey abode in the West End, along with their two cats, Teto and Moony.
It may sound like a cliché, but no job is too big or too small for her or her two employees. If a zipper needs a new puller, it’s pretty simple. Or if someone wants to don their grandmother’s decades-old wedding dress as they walk down the aisle, they can update it for you and make any necessary changes.
She recently built a teddy bear out of someone’s late father’s favorite clothes and also converted an old down comforter from a queen bed into a full king. Don’t explain to her how she probably shaved off five years of her life when it came to this latest project, due to all the eider duck she inhaled in the process. (“Never, never again,” she says, leaning over a reporter’s digital recorder, in case any readers stare at their own bedspreads and say, “Hmm, good idea.”)
“I also repaired tents, hammocks… pretty much anything made of textile,” she continues. “What I like the most, I think, is that it’s never the same job twice. I have a customer who has been bringing me the same pair of jeans for six years now, and even though I know them inside out now, it’s not like they were already ripped or worn, in the same place, when they are deposited. »
As well as accepting repairs, Janzen also offers a range of merchandise for sale, at events such as the Wolseley Farmer’s Market. She regularly goes to the thrift store in search of interesting fabrics. One of her favorite activities is converting lace tablecloths – she has a bunch of them – into product bags. Additionally, random fabric swatches, the more colorful the better, are repurposed as bags, quilts, outerwear and — his current bestseller — bucket hats.
“What I like the most, I think, is that it’s never the same job twice. I have a customer who has been bringing me the same pair of jeans for six years now, and even though I know them inside out now, it’s not like they were already ripped or worn, in the same place, when they are deposited. »– Anna-Marie Janzen
“I hope to develop that aspect of things, but honestly, I’m so busy with my regular repairs that’s all I can do to find enough hours in the day to do it, even,” she says. .
Finally, you know that old adage about how a cobbler’s kids kick their shoes off, because they’re so busy using their skills for others that they neglect their loved ones? Same thing with Janzen.
“At home, I have one of those Ikea-type cabinets full of our own stuff that needs attention,” she says. “The running joke in our house whenever my partner or I grabs a sleeve on a nail or whatever, ‘Oh, no! If only I knew someone who could fix this.
For more information, visit instagram.com/reclaimmending.