Photo by Marina Lnakina
with, lily fulop
an interview with lily fulop
interviewed by Pangea Kali Virga
Lily Fulop is at the forefront of DIY fashion sustainability with her informative, personal, and colorful approach to mending. This interview with author, mending expert, artist, and sustainability advocate Lily Fulop discusses the beauty of mending and the benefits of sustainable fashion. Lily recently published a book guiding all fashionistas through varied mending techniques titled Wear,Repair, Repurpose: A Maker's Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes filled with colorful and fun instructional pictures, text, and inspiration! She also posts regularly on her mending community Instagram @mindful_mending with gorgeous images of mending projects, tutorials, and more.
Mending is one of the most important things we can all do to help defeat the destructive forces of the fashion industry and consumerism. Mending allows us to flex our creative muscles, fosters an intimacy between us and our belongings, and results in the beautification and personalization of our most cherished pieces.
The average person in the USA discards of 80+lbs of fabric goods every year which end up in a landfill or incinerated, both energy consumptive and polluting processes. If clothes do not end up in a landfill they are often donated to local outlets where these clothes often find their way being shipped in bulk to the global south where they saturate the fashion market, stifling local business and eventually ending up in landfills there as well.
If a consumer hangs on to a piece of clothing for an additional 9 months it can reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by 20-30%. Mending inspires the wearer to fix the holes, cover the stains, and add a unique flair and hold onto clothes for years and years, allowing the wearer to extend the life cycle of their clothes indefinitely. Sustainability and mending are even more effective when you are purchasing second hand clothing!
Keep reading to hear about Lily's thoughts on sustainable fashion, her new book, her tips and tricks for a more sustainable lifestyle, her favorite sustainable artists, and more!
get to know lily
author, sustainability advocate, expert mender, and artist
you recently published a book about mending titled, "Wear ,Repair, Repurpose: a maker's guide to mending and upcycling clothes". congratulations! Can you tell people a little bit about it and the process you went through to make it?
Thank you! After learning about the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry, and massive amounts of textile waste that are created by the way we consume fashion, I wanted to do something about it. As one person, I wasn’t sure how to address all the huge problems in the industry, so I looked for solutions at the individual level that could add up to create change, like addressing harmful habits and mindsets. I started my instagram account @mindful_mending to inform people, and encourage them to reflect on the way they consume clothes. I want people to learn to value their clothes more, to take care of them, and reduce the amount of waste they create. Visible mending does just this— it forces people to slow down and invest time and care in the things the wear, and wear them for longer. Upcycling also causes people to value materials more, and to reduce the amount of things they throw away.
I’m a designer and illustrator, so I started making and sharing tutorial zines for mending and upcycling projects. I started to build a community on Instagram by sharing projects and inspiration, which caught the eye of my publisher who approached me about writing the book! It was a natural extension of the work I was already doing, and a great way to create a more thorough guide for people who want to learn how to transform their clothes. The book is a great introduction for beginners who are learning how to sew, as well as more experienced makers, because it has a range of projects for different skill levels. It encourages people to get started on their sustainable fashion journey, with lots of fun projects for repairing clothes and transforming them into things that can be useful around your home.
where can people find your book?
Wear, Repair, Repurpose is available at major bookstores, as well as indie bookstores! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound, to name a few. A full list of retailers can be found here!
why do you think sustainability is important for the fashion industry? what inspired you to take a sustainable approach to your wardrobe?
Sustainability is important in every industry, and especially the fashion industry. Fast fashion puts trends and aesthetic over functionality, which encourages constant consumption and waste, as these clothes aren't meant to last long. Plus, the production of clothes uses a ton of natural resources and causes pollution—oil is used to make synthetic fibers, fabric dyes leach into water supplies, pesticides are used to grow cotton (which is a very thirsty crop)… the list goes on.
I wanted to separate myself from this resource-intensive process, and reduce the amount of textile waste I create (especially synthetic fibers, which don’t break down in the landfill). So, now I try to only buy secondhand clothing (thrifted, swapped, or vintage, ideally with natural fibers like cotton or linen), and mend clothes to extend their lifespan. Or, if they’re beyond wearing, I’ll look for ways to upcycle them.
This is a more circular approach to fashion, which avoids the not-so-sustainable beginning and end of clothing’s lifestyle.
do you have any advice as to what people can do to be more sustainable on a day to day basis?
Stop shopping fast fashion! Whenever you’re considering making a purchase (fashion or otherwise) ask yourself if you really need this thing. Do you already have something like it? Can you see yourself using it longterm? Do you know how/where it was made, and do you align with the values of the company that made it? What will happen to it when you no longer have a use for it?
Similarly, when you’re tempted to throw something away, ask yourself why. Is it damaged beyond repair, or is it just no longer aesthetically pleasing to you? Are you throwing it away just because it’s easily replaceable? (what would you do if it wasn’t easily replaceable?) Could there be any other uses for it?
Pausing to reflect on the way we consume and dispose of things will cause us to be more aware of our environmental impact, and be more sustainable. Sustainability isn’t about buying new reusable shopping bags or leggings made from recycled water bottles— its about using using the old tote bags in the back of your pantry, and mending the leggings you’ve had for years.
Carry around a set of metal utensils and a fabric napkin, to avoid disposables when you get take out food.
Arrange clothing swaps with your friends
Wash your clothes less often (to save water, and reduce the amount of microfibers that get into the water supply)
Research clothing care—some clothes that you might think are “dry-clean only” can actually be washed by hand! Washing by hand is also gentler and can help delicate clothes last longer.
Research recycling in your area— many plastics that we think are recyclable actually aren’t. Avoid these!
Opt out of express shipping when ordering things online
your IG @mindful_mending is such a great source of inspiration for mending and is a popular resource for designers/menders/the eco-conscious. can you tell us a little bit about the mission behind @mindful_mending?
Similar to my book, I use the account to encourage people to mend and upcycle their clothes as part of their sustainable fashion journey. @mindful_mending has become a community and resource, where people can share their tips and techniques, and get inspiration from novices and experts alike. It’s really fun to share works in progress and videos that show the behind the scenes process. I love to highlight other makers, to create a growing resource base and support the visible mending movement. I also like to create shareable posts that communicate important messages about consumerism and clothing care, that can circulate in the community and increase people’s awareness on the importance of sustainable fashion.
What are some of your favorite sustainable brands/artists?
The Series which makes garments out of existing materials (like old quilts and crocheted blankets) and upcycles vintage denim with vintage patches.
BODE, which is a menswear line made from upcycled quilts and other heritage textiles (I’m a sucker for quilts, there’s a theme here!!)
Tessa Perlow, who transforms secondhand clothes with intricate embroidery art and beading
Easy Does It by Mara B. Who creates small batches of hand-sewn clothing
Psychic Outlaw, which makes jackets from quilts and lovely dresses from vintage bandanas
Beyond being a designer and author, you are also an extremely talented illustrator, painter, graphic designer, and art director! Where do you find your inspiration as an artist? Is any of this inspiration carried over into your mending and design work?
Thank you so much! I’m certainly always looking into ways that my various creative practices can inform each other. For example, being an illustrator and graphic designer has helped me communicate information about sustainable fashion (through tutorials especially). Having experience with art direction helps me curate the @mindful_mending account (I’m always thinking about color and lighting and photography…) I actually find a lot of inspiration from textiles, and find parallels between my own textile work (scrap quilting, experimental work with yarn) and collage. (I enjoy both paper collage and digital collage) When I’m making visual art, I try to create texture and juxtapose patterns and colors, just like when I’m working with fabric and yarn.
Where can people find your other artistic work?
Lily Fulop is an author (buy her book) expert mender, illustrator, artist, designer, and sustainability advocate. You can find out more about Lily at www.lilyfulop.com and on Instagram @mindful_mending and @lil_ful.
Pangea Kali Virga is Executive Producer and co-Founder of Miami On Sight and is a full time fashion designer, stylist, creative director, and producer. She is dedicated to radical sustainability, veganism, and social justice. You can learn more about Pangea at www.pangeakalivirga.com and on Instagram @pangeakalivirga.