Our in-house repair specialists, based in six of our shops, have been extending the life of your much-loved garments since 2019. Using creative repair techniques, the team have mended over 3,245 TOAST items, and in the process, honed their skills with hours of studied handiwork. With the launch of TOAST Renewed earlier this year, the team now work to create our collection of creatively mended pieces available to shop online, as well as repairing cherished items for our customers. This latest initiative further supports our circular approach for a more considered choice for people and the planet.
Each of our specialists extend their expertise to mindfully mend pieces that would otherwise be wasted. These garments and homeware pieces have been sourced from items returned by customers and faulty stock that we are not able to sell in our shops. Each piece is assessed for damage before a sewing technique is chosen. From sashiko-repaired workwear and Swiss-darned knitwear to patch-appliquéd quilts and embroidered shirts, each Renewed piece is revived in a unique way, making it one-of-a-kind.
“There’s a lot of creative freedom when working on a piece for TOAST Renewed,” says Maria Teninzhiyan who works out of our Notting Hill shop. “These pieces haven’t been worn yet and haven’t had an owner, so you’re creating a visible mend that someone will be drawn to and love the garment for the first time.” Maria started working for TOAST two and a half years ago and has mended approximately 600 garments in that time. “I really enjoy repairing for our customers and restoring something that’s long been part of their wardrobe. I think it’s amazing to be able to fix something and make it beautiful and see the joy it brings them.”
Maria first learnt to sew from her mum who always repaired clothing, shoes and accessories for the family. “I'm from Eastern Europe, and growing up there was a culture of repairing and looking after the clothes you have because there wasn't much available,” she explains. Studying fashion design at Moscow State Textile University gave Maria a foundation in technical skills and construction after which she moved to the UK to study womenswear at Central Saint Martins. “From there I worked at a couture house, learning from the seamstresses – there were a lot of hand-stitching and couture techniques,” she explains.
After a break from work to start a family, Maria was looking for a new challenge and began her role at TOAST in 2021. “I think over the past few years people have really started to look at what clothing they have and how they can look after it, rather than replacing each season,” she says, reflecting on the customers who have brought in repairs. Now she balances her time between our free in-store repair service and mending pieces for TOAST Renewed. Utilising her extensive background in sewing techniques, Maria assesses the damage of a particular item before deciding on the approach.
For a recent Renewed sweater, she chose a decorative appliqué technique. “This jumper had a slightly loose stitch at the front, so first of all I used a large needle to hide the loose thread inside. Then I used duplicate stitching in a contrasting navy blue colour to reinforce it, making sure the thread will not get loose again after wearing. From there, I looked at the garment and decided to add an ecru colour to lighten up the piece as it was quite heavy wool.” Using the pale thread, Maria created a decorative running stitch along the shoulder seam and also finished the front with a diamond shape, for a playful touch. “I had customers watching as I did this and they said it looked like a decorative necklace,” she adds.
Further north in our Edinburgh shop, Emily Mae Martin puts their design background to practise, particularly when working on pieces for TOAST Renewed. “Often the damage isn’t in a logical place, like an elbow or a knee, as it might be with our customer repairs,” they explain, “so you have to create a design that doesn’t look random and that someone would see and say, ‘oh, I’d totally wear that piece with that white stitching along the side’.”
Emily graduated in 2018 with a Masters in Textiles before joining TOAST in 2019 and moving into the role of repairs specialist in 2020. “My Masters project was all about sustainable fashion, which involved a lot of slow crafts, embroidery and patchwork,” Emily explains. “In my research, mending did come up and I began practising at home. So when this role was created, ethically and craft-wise, it ticked all the boxes for me.”
With a repair style they describe as “always sympathetic to the garment and inspired by the TOAST colour palette,” Emily created a patchwork design on a Renewed quilt in shades of sage, citrine and indigo. “I always save the small scraps of fabric from my repairs, so I selected some of those in colours I felt would work well with the quilt and designed improvisational patchwork piecing,” they explain. “I did the patching on the sewing machine first and then I pinned those onto the quilt to decide on placement. Once I was happy with the design, I ironed the edges under and then stitched them in place by hand using a whip stitch with embroidery thread.”
For Emily, inspiration comes from being surrounded by the current TOAST collection in the shop. “The beauty of working in-store is that if I ever get stuck for ideas, I'll just take a wander around the shop and take detailed photos of the prints or certain checks we're using this season and then I get unstuck pretty quickly.”
Moving down to Bath after graduating from Glasgow School of Art, Molly Kennedy-Blundell has been mending TOAST pieces for almost a year. “My mum and my grandma taught me sewing and knitting techniques from when I was about seven or eight,” Molly says, alluding to a long family history of creating by hand. “My grandma is an amazing knitter and used to own her own knitwear shop, so there’s a shared love of textiles and cherishing handmade things in my family.”
The mending techniques she employs most are sashiko stitching and woven darning. “I love sashiko and find the repetitive stitching to be quite a calm and meditative process,” she explains. “I really enjoy the outcome at the end, how the stitches kind of create a slightly uneven texture, but also add another layer that rebuilds the garment and makes it stronger.”
Using this time-honoured technique, Molly recently repaired a skirt for TOAST Renewed that had a tear at the pocket. “On the inside I used a piece of ikat woven cotton and then began with horizontal sashiko stitches in a brickwork formation,” she explains. After sewing to the edge of the pocket “so it was all joined back together”, Molly decided to take a decorative approach, adding vertical stitches over the horizontal ones. “I used a pale turquoise thread and created little crosses, which is something you often see with the sashiko technique.”
While the visible repair may be admired by many, the choice to use a beautiful patch which is hidden on the inside of the garment may seem counterintuitive. Molly reasons that not all beautiful repairs need to be on display, “I feel like it's quite a nice little secret that the person who'll be wearing it knows that it's there, and enjoys it when they put the skirt on.”
Each Renewed piece, while varied, has been made using long-lasting materials – something each of our repair specialists feels is key. “Working with such quality pieces makes it easier to approach as a repairer,” says Emily, “otherwise you’re fighting a losing battle if the fabric itself is of low quality,” they add. “The consistent style of TOAST collections means each item really suits stitch work and patches being added to them.” Each item mended becomes a canvas for the repair specialist – a way to express their creativity while reinforcing the original construction. “I get a chance to express my vision for what colours, what shapes, what patterns and techniques would be suitable,” adds Maria. “As a person who's worked with textile and dressmaking for so many years, it's fun, and that freedom is something special.”
Words by Andie Cusick.
Lead image by James Bannister. Photographs of repairs by TOAST. Maria photographed by TOAST. Emily photographed by Gabriela Silveira. Molly photographed by Hannah Jones.
TOAST Renewed is our collection of creatively repaired pieces. From sashiko-repaired workwear garments to darned knitwear and intricately embroidered dresses, each item has been thoughtfully mended by one of our in-house repair specialists.