Earlier this month, we welcomed friends, makers and members of the TOAST community to our first Circle Pop-Up. The 11-day programme brought all of our circular initiatives together into one collaborative space. In our light-filled Notting Hill shop, we hosted swapping events, sashiko repair and knitwear darning workshops, an exhibition exploring the concepts of creative mending and repurposing techniques and opportunities to shop our latest Renewed pieces and our newly-launched Reworn collection.
“It was a proud moment seeing the culmination of all our hard work over the past five years,” Madeleine Michell, Social Conscience Communications Manager at TOAST, reflects. “I recall the initial brainstorming session about Circle back in 2018 and the first repair workshop that took place around the same time. Evolving these initiatives at TOAST and watching them grow into the inspiring community-driven offerings they are today is one of our biggest achievements.”
We celebrated the launch of TOAST Reworn, the newest of our Circle initiatives, which offers an alternative to buying new, with pieces that have been previously loved or selected from past collections. Members of our community who share a collective passion for shopping more sustainably gathered to find a new-to-them piece from the collection. Alongside these rails sat our latest Renewed pieces, our collection of creatively repaired pieces, each mended with a unique technique such as sashiko, darning or intricate embroidery. In the centre of the space, TOAST Visual Merchandising Manager, Paula Ellis, crafted a beautiful exhibition of selected Renewed pieces, with a suspended installation inspired by regenerative woodlands that featured ferns, moss and monkey vine.
The line-up launched with a successful swapping evening which saw 38 archival TOAST designs find new homes. The following morning, we held a special reading and repair workshop, led by circularity advocate and author of Broken: Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World, Katie Treggiden. The intimate gathering was inspired by the Icelandic tradition of kvöldvaka, which sees family and friends come together during long winter evenings to share stories and work on handicrafts.
“Before the advent of electricity, households in Iceland would gather around the only lamp and undertake activities such as mending, while someone read to them,” Katie explains. “I loved the idea of doing readings from my book while Jessica ran a mending workshop. It was even more magical than I had envisioned – the readings really connected with people and sparked conversations. People who came along have stayed in touch since, speaking powerfully to the potential of mending to build communities, one of the themes we discussed.”
Among the most popular events held over the period, our sashiko repair tutorials demonstrated a method of upcycling which emerged in Japan roughly 300 years ago. Not only is it an uncomplicated craft, but the uniquely beautiful result gives tired textiles an interesting refresh. The technique involves pulling a stitch through to the back of your fabric from the front and up again. You can create a row and then fill in the gaps, creating an opaque wall of stitches. “Stitching is like handwriting,” says TOAST Repair specialist Jessica Smulders-Cohen, who runs some of our sashiko workshops. “Everyone's technique is slightly different. As you gain confidence, you can start trying cross stitches or turn the running stitches into little boxes.”
Jessica is a trained designer and weaver and one of a team of six specialists who have given new life to 4,341 garments to date through TOAST Repair. This free service is available to all; simply bring any TOAST clothing item to one of our shops to be mended. Depending on your location, you may also have the opportunity to spend time with a repair specialist to discuss creative approaches, from darning to appliqué, and discover the most suitable option for your garment.
Across the 11 days, our Circle Pop-Up programme of four workshops, four swapping events and 66 repair consultations encouraged visitors to think twice before neglecting well-worn clothing, fostering a can-do attitude and a positive association with mending. At TOAST, we believe garments are made to be carried through the years, rather than disposed of after a season or at the first sign of wear. A poem by Davina Quinlivan, titled She Will Still Wear This Dress, was on display in the space next to its subject, a wool dress. In it, Davina supports the message our pop-up sought to express, writing:
“Her hand reached out to touch the sleeve of a boiled wool dress.
Green – the colour of Burmese Jade.
Made, stitched with two pin-tucks at the waist
and sleeves with edges frayed.
One zip, one hand drawing it upwards, while the other holds on tight.
Two sides brought together like the closing pages of a
book, or a poem bound by thread.
Now these threads, patient friends,
travel through time,
split memories into colour and feeling,
Autumn, Winter, Spring. Autumn, Winter, Spring.
They make a gentle silhouette while life turns itself inside out.”
It takes little effort to elongate the lifespan of your clothing, but through the use of versatile techniques, you will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind piece that has a story to tell. At this first pop-up, we introduced many new people to the different routes for repurposing clothing. Not only did visitors cultivate skills to mend their own clothes, but an additional 96 items were swapped through TOAST Exchange, benefitting those who felt their garments would be better cherished in another wardrobe. Additionally, we welcome you to donate your previously loved TOAST garments. Our pieces are designed for longevity but if your TOAST items are no longer needed, please return them to us – we will welcome them regardless of their condition. By taking them back, we will find a way to extend their use.
If you were unable to make it out to our Notting Hill event, we invite you to enjoy a range of repair workshops over the coming months at Burgh House in Hampstead Village, north London. We will be holding another Circle Pop-Up in the future – sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Instagram to hear about it first.
Words by Bébhinn Campbell.
Photography by James Bannister.