The Local Repair Guru Slowing Down Fast-Fashion & Embracing Sustainability

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In recent times, we’ve become louder proponents of stepping away from the fast-fashion culture that dominates in today’s world, including Malta. Though we’re aware it ain’t just us, it’s always heartening to meet like-minded people and businesses, and breathing new life into previously owned items is what WhizzFix is all about. We caught up with owner Julia Tonna to see what it is she does exactly, what makes the business tick and why it’s important to embrace more sustainable practices when it comes to fashion.

Businesses have a responsibility to educate

Before even discussing her business per se, the discussion focuses on the industry at large, particularly whether businesses need to educate their customers about product care. Right off the bat, Tonna is convinced that it’s a step in the right direction. “I absolutely believe that they have a duty to educate customers on how to take care of items and how to store them,” she tells us. “How products were made is also information worth having, because people can properly gauge the product’s carbon footprint”.

It’s information seldom given, because of the mentality of always wanting to buy the newest and latest product, a kind of out-with-the-not-so-old and in with the new. It’s not too dissimilar to what goes on with most tech gadgets. In both industries though, times are a-changing.

“As WhizzFix, we encourage sellers to give as much info as possible and customers to ask when they’re not sure,” Tonna continues. “I’d love to engage with the private sector, especially those who show more concern towards environmental and ethical issues, whether sellers or resellers. When conditions like Malta’s humidity are taken into account, it’s in everyone’s interest that products are well looked after, and we can teach them how to do it”.

Beating back misconceptions

Looking after items isn’t always easy though, and sometimes things do get damaged. That should never be the trigger to just get rid of though. Instead, it’s times like these the repair experts like WhizzFix can help out. Offering a convenient and efficient on-demand service to repair and restore shoes, bags and clothes, their vision is to change the way you view fast fashion by repairing and restoring loved items.

“There’s been a shift in culture and belief that fashion items don’t need to be immediately thrown away; some items can have an afterlife! Each item we can save and sell is pre-loved; there’s a story behind each and every single item, so even if we can’t restore each and every item to perfection, the concept of loving vintage is back in, thankfully, so pre-loved fits in just right.”

The vintage theme being back in style is just a happy coincidence, up to a certain extent, but responsible fashion goes beyond simply taking better care of certain items and not throwing them away. “Watching our carbon footprint is just one aspect; child labour is another factor that needs careful attention, but there’s a tangible shift particularly with big brands”, Tonna explains.

Some of Zara’s clothes now come with a label indicating that the item was ethically sourced, and although brands in Malta might lag behind some like Selfridges in London, where an entire floor from the department is dedicated to pre-loved garments. “In Malta, I’d say we’re about a year or so away from embracing this culture, but I have no doubt we’ll get there”, Tonna says with more than a hint of hope.

Don’t forget the laundry

It’s easy to forget that Julia Tonna is just 22, given the maturity and experience she speaks with when discussing the ethical ways of garment care and embracing slower fashion. “One of the big highlights for me has been educating people that there is a second life or home for clothes they no longer want or need”, she reveals. “Seeing a change in culture gives me a sense of pride because I feel that it’s leaving an impact on society”.

Speaking of garment care, how does one wash their laundry sustainably, we ask? “One massive one, that not many will like, is to wash on cold temperatures”, she says with a wry smile. “I understand their point, but washing on cold is far more sustainable as the water doesn’t need to be heated, which requires energy to be produced, thus requiring fewer emissions.”

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“However, there are also a lot of organic soaps that can be used. They might be slightly more expensive, but they lack the dangerous chemicals that many popular soaps contain that all end up in the sea or water table. We’ve also got 300 days of sun a year, more or less, so make use of that and avoid using the drier! It’s beneficial to the planet and to your electricity bill, so why not go for it?”

Getting society to reconsider its position on fashion by the age of 22 is no mean feat, but by no means is Tonna resting on her laurels. Her website shows that more projects are on the way, and her enthusiasm is hardly contained. “It’s very exciting, especially since item repair is in the family blood, as it was for my father and his father before him since 1975. We’ve reopened with this new idea, which we all believe in, and if you believe in something, then you’ve got to push through!”

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