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Mending Fashion’s Worn-out Image

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Worn Fashion Journal‘s monthly mending night at Freedom Clothing Collective is not what you’d expect from a pairing of fashion magazine and design boutique. For one, there’s no champagne. And when one mender recounts her day’s diet, there’s no mention of grams or guilt—rather, she proudly details how delicious the Gandhi rotis she had for dinner were.
But the thing that really set the evening apart were the name tags.


Pinned on with head pins, the name tags ease any intimidation and create instant bonds amongst menders. No pretense or need for introductions here, just the staff of one of the hippest fashion magazines around darning socks on a sunny afternoon.
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New Worn intern Kat Brightwell sets to work beading a collar. She just moved here from Seattle a few months ago, but even before she’d arrived in Toronto she knew she wanted to get involved with Worn after reading about the magazine on 15-year-old fashion world icon Tavi Gevinson’s blog.
Now going on its 12th issue, Worn‘s alternative take on fashion has won acclaim from the fashion world in Toronto and beyond. The journal (which “sounded smarter” than “magazine,” their website cheekily proclaims) publishes over 3,000 copies per issue and is sold in more than 60 newsstands and boutiques across North America and around the world, thanks to the glory of the internet. But even though the staff can be charmingly self-effacing, they really do sound smarter than most fashion publications out there. Whereas so many fashion magazines are beholden to the demands of advertisers and the fashion industry writ large, Worn‘s indieness allows an exploration not just of clothes, but what goes into the clothes: the history, the craft, the sociocultural ramifications. For wornettes (the name given to all those who help make the mag), fashion is about much more than the trends.
Worn‘s not about the idea of selling clothes,” says Hillary Predko, director of shows, sales, and fairs, as she looks up from adjusting the lining on a vintage lace jacket. “We’re about personal style.” This is where a mending night starts to make sense. “If you take the time to sew something yourself, even if it’s messy and crappy, it will mean more to you.”
Mending night was born when Worn teamed up with Toronto Craft Alert and City of Craft to hold For Keeps: a mending show, an art exhibit that showcased “ordinary objects made extraordinary” by the efforts of their owners. Before the show got underway, there was a mending circle with supplies and expertise available to anyone who needed it.
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“People came and mended and hung out, and I really liked the feel and the mood of it,” explains Worn editor-publisher Serah-Marie McMahon.
“A lot of times people think fashion magazines are very snobby and elite,” says McMahon. But she wanted to dispel the myth that fashion and the people that love and write about fashion are inaccessible. As with the magazine, mending night promotes a fresh fashion dialogue by providing a space for it.
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“A mending circle is really conducive to talking and discussion,” says McMahon. “We’ll talk about Isabella Blow, we’ll talk about Alexander McQueen, we’ll talk about the hats at the royal wedding.”
At this mending night, no discussion is off-limits.
“Are we talking about porn again? Two mending nights ago we talked about all sorts of—,” Worn’s graphic designer, Alex Barton, stops short when she notices us dutifully noting every word, “…those things.
Worn’s editor-in-pants Serah-Marie McMahon tries to steer the conversation back to sewing terms, “I am doing a whip stitch. Wait, that sounds dirty too.”
It’s hard to avoid dirty talk when we’re sitting right next to an adult video store. The porn store opened up last summer, Marsya Maharani (Freedom’s member in charge of programming and exhibitions) tells us. And as porn shop etiquette goes, the storefront windows must be completely covered to keep unsuspecting pedestrians from getting a free sneak peek, or being offended.
So in the spirit of collaboration that is the Freedom Clothing Collective, Maharani says they’ve approached the porn shop owners about doing an artist collaboration to cover the windows with a mural rather than the blaring yellow-with-red-XXX-lettering that’s there now. While the shop owners were receptive to the idea, so far no artists have come by with a solid proposal. It’s an open call, though, if you’re interested.
Worn Journal holds a mending night the first Thursday of every month at Freedom Clothing Collective. The Fancy Pants Dance to celebrate the release of issue 12 of Worn is Saturday, May 7 at the Dovercourt House.
Photos by Nancy Paiva/Torontoist

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