We’re in an art gallery! A while back Manchester Art Gallery contacted us with a project for their (then) upcoming Unpicking Couture exhibition. Running from 21st July 2023 to 12th January 2025, Unpicking Couture explores the workmanship behind couture creations, as well as the lifecycle of these creations. In their words:

“The two main themes of the show are: investigating the links between fashion and emotions, in the form of dopamine dressing which encourages dressing for joy, and focusing on repair and restoration, inviting us to consider the lifecycle of a garment and the way it is valued and cared for.”

It was in the intersection of these themes that they asked us to create a visibly mended jacket, to sit side by side with an invisibly mended and restored Schiaparelli jacket. 

We are absolutely in love with the result, and it’s great to see it installed in the museum! Our Textile Reuse Worker and Workshop Facilitator, Katy, was the creator behind this jacket.

She utilised a variety of different repair techniques – join this digital guided tour of our jacket to find out more.… Over to you Katy! 

I wanted this jacket to emulate the fun and organic nature of DIY repair, which is accessible to anyone willing to pick up a needle and thread, in contrast to the professionally mended Schiaparelli. I chose to work in bright colours reminiscent of our shop in Stretford, and to reflect what dopamine dressing means to me – lots of colour! 

The jacket itself had many patches of wear which dictated the layout of the techniques. Both traditional and more contemporary repair techniques were used, from darning and Japanese inspired Sashiko, to reverse applique using the sewing machine. I started with the largest patches of wear. For these I used scraps of denim to patch up and embroidered over in the style of Japanese Sashiko. Then I used salvaged fabrics to reverse applique some of the smaller patches of wear using either hand or machine stitches to hold them in place. These added little splashes of colour to tie in with bright embroidery.

I saved the most decorative repair techniques for the collar where the patches of wear were small enough that they didn’t need to be reinforced with extra fabric. I used coloured embroidery thread to darn some of these patches, and incorporated an embroidered eye as the focal point, inspired by decoration used in recent Schiaparelli couture collections.

The materials used to repair the jacket were salvaged from textile donations and given a new lease of life as part of the jacket and wider exhibition. 

If you get the chance to go down to The Manchester Art Gallery, have a closer look – you might just recognise something…

Unpicking Couture is on until January 12th, 2025, and is free admission.