Aug 03, 2023
by Karl Smith
Want To Make Some Money? Repair Your Old Clothes.
by Karl Smith
Aug 03, 2023

That’s the message coming out of France, anyway. Following on from recent news of EU legislation that will punish fashion brands for wastage, a new scheme could put some of that money back in the hands of ordinary citizens.

Beginning in October this year the “Repair Bonus” scheme will award between €6 and €25 per garment repair, depending on the materials involved and the complexity of the repair required. And if you’re wondering where that money is coming from, there’s a €154m EUR sustainability fund ready and waiting to go that the French government has put aside for the next five years.

Now, this isn’t going to make anybody rich. But, if you’re saving money not buying brand new clothes and you’re being paid to repair the old ones, that feels like something people might be willing to get behind.

Call it what you want: an incentive, a bonus – maybe even a bribe. But, whatever name you want to give it, this makes a lot of sense in a world where overproduction is a poison and cutting through at a grassroots level can be difficult. (Understandably so when its corporations doing most of the damage, rather than individual people.)

Formally announcing the program in Paris, Junior Ecology Minister Bérangère Couillard explained that the object of the repairs initiative is to “create a circular economy for shoes and textiles so that products last longer, because in government we believe in the second life of a product.” And, this sense, it’s essentially rewarding those who purchase wisely, avoiding low-grade, high-impact fast fashion products. As Couillard rightly suggests, “It could encourage exactly the people who have bought, for example, shoes from a brand that makes good-quality shoes or likewise good-quality ready-to-wear to want to have them fixed instead of getting rid of them.”

It’s also worth noting that one of the arguments often wheeled out in favor of fast fashion brands is that their low prices are more accessible – that sacrificing quality is a small price to pay for, well, a small price to pay. The repair bonus scheme takes some of the power out of that argument and could persuade lower-income consumers to make more conscious purchasing choices.

As yet, there’s no exact word on which stores will be participating but – with Couillard noting that a secondary goal of the program is to “support those who carry out repairs” – it seems like this will be rolling out on a neighborhood level, rather than placating the fashion brands themselves.

While France is only one country and the fashion industry’s waste problem is a global concern, having Paris – the world’s unofficial (but basically official) fashion capital – taking the lead on this isn’t insignificant. A successful roll-out could well lead to similar initiatives appearing elsewhere and a worldwide uptake in repairs could, eventually, lead to a downturn in overproduction.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little here. But, with the number of garments produced yearly having doubled since the year 2000 and an estimated 92 million tons of fashion-related waste being produced annually, any cause for optimism is always worthy of discussion.