Crafted to Last

A thoughtful exploration on our relationship with clothing, in collaboration with TOAST and Celia Pym.

A grid of mended pieces from textile artist Celia Pym.
In an exploration of longevity and renewal—tenets of sustainability—TOAST commissioned the textile artist Celia Pym to explore life cycle of garments from the brand through a group of sweaters, as well as a single pair of socks.

Employing darning, reworking, and repair techniques, Celia's work takes a look at how tattered garments can become imprints of our daily lives. With each tear and hole, these imperfections become evidence of our movements and the wearers themselves.

Jen Mankins spoke with TOAST CEO Suzie de Rohan Willner and textile artist Celia Pym about the work as a means to further discuss the movement towards slow fashion and how our relationship with clothing has evolved during the pandemic.

Bird Brooklyn: How did the both of you meet, and how did this collaboration come to fruition?

Suzie de Rohan Willner: Longevity is integral to what TOAST has been doing for over 20 years. We've always been concerned with the lifespan of our clothes and want to inspire our customers to live a more conscious, thoughtful and circular lifestyle.

Celia is interested in how damaged garments become evidence of our movements and actions, holding an imprint of the wearer. We have been following Celia’s work with interest as her creative process aligns so closely with our own values, and invited Celia to explore our own customer’s relationship with their TOAST clothes.

For the project, Celia spoke with each owner, discussing the cause of the damage and hearing about the particular stories attached to each piece. Through her interviews she caught a snapshot of everyday life and the small habits, routines and rituals that fill our time – from gardening and train commutes to hospital visits. We are really excited to share the results.

BB: Celia, what is your process when deciding how to mend the garment? Is it methodical, or is it mostly from feeling?

Celia Pym: Before I mend a garment – it is important to me to meet, ideally in person, so that I can get to know the owner and make a mend that is sensitive to them. I also want to feel the garment so will always touch it, turn it over and stick my arm inside it. This physical examination provides a lot of tactile information about the damage and what is possible with repair. We then discuss how the damage to their garment has been caused, the history of the garment, how they wore their garment and why they want to get it mended. Together we will discuss options for repair, color and yarn choices to jointly agree what the repair will look like. This conversation usually takes up to an hour. The mend is always in response to the damage and also the way the owner feels about the garment.

BB: What was the first thing you mended?

CP: The first thing I mended was my great-uncle’s sweater. It had been knitted and already mended by his sister, my great-aunt, Elizabeth Cobb. I was very close to and fond of my great-aunt and was greatly inspired by her and this sweater. I loved the matter-of-fact quality of her darning – it was not perfect and with care.

Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater, Annemor 
Sundbø’s 
Ragpile
 collection,
 2010

BB: What has been one of your favorite pieces to mend?

CP: A Norwegian Sweater (2010) from Annemor Sundbø’s Ragpile collection. It was very damaged with one arm hanging on to the body by a thread and with lots of large holes. To date it is the most damaged thing I have ever mended. I felt like a detective working on it, discovering areas that had previously been mended and finding yarn changes on the sleeve that hinted at some kind of damage or replacement. The sweater told a story – the pattern of damage suggested that the owner used their right arm more than their left and possibly later in life the felted damage could have been caused by animals. The sweater was hand knitted with even tension and intricate color work which also prompted thoughts about the maker. Was the maker connected to the owner? Did they enjoy making sweaters? How did they decide on the colors and yarns? I chose to mend in white because I wanted the repair to be visible and to highlight what had been missing and the damage.

BB: Sustainability has been so widely used within fashion to a point where it's now somewhat devoid of meaning. What does sustainability mean to you when it comes to fashion?

CP: I am attracted to garments that are the well-worn, soft and practical such as comfy clothes that people wear in their kitchens, studios, workshops and bedrooms. I like to learn why people love the clothes they love and about their relationships with their clothing over time. For me, a useful way to think about sustainability in fashion is to imagine it as an emotional sustainability. We are more motivated to look after, mend and care for clothes we love. There’s no point in mending a garment you dislike – you won’t like it anymore just because it’s fixed.

Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater, Annemor 
Sundbø’s 
Ragpile
 collection,
 2010

BB: What has been one of your favorite pieces to mend?

CP: A Norwegian Sweater (2010) from Annemor Sundbø’s Ragpile collection. It was very damaged with one arm hanging on to the body by a thread and with lots of large holes. To date it is the most damaged thing I have ever mended. I felt like a detective working on it, discovering areas that had previously been mended and finding yarn changes on the sleeve that hinted at some kind of damage or replacement. The sweater told a story – the pattern of damage suggested that the owner used their right arm more than their left and possibly later in life the felted damage could have been caused by animals. The sweater was hand knitted with even tension and intricate color work which also prompted thoughts about the maker. Was the maker connected to the owner? Did they enjoy making sweaters? How did they decide on the colors and yarns? I chose to mend in white because I wanted the repair to be visible and to highlight what had been missing and the damage.

BB: Sustainability has been so widely used within fashion to a point where it's now somewhat devoid of meaning. What does sustainability mean to you when it comes to fashion?

CP: I am attracted to garments that are the well-worn, soft and practical such as comfy clothes that people wear in their kitchens, studios, workshops and bedrooms. I like to learn why people love the clothes they love and about their relationships with their clothing over time. For me, a useful way to think about sustainability in fashion is to imagine it as an emotional sustainability. We are more motivated to look after, mend and care for clothes we love. There’s no point in mending a garment you dislike – you won’t like it anymore just because it’s fixed.

BB: TOAST has always been a brand that manifests the idea of a more thoughtful way of living. How would you describe the importance of a slower way of living?

SRW: Everything we do at TOAST, from supporting artisans to complimentary in-house repairs and our regular workshops, conveys a different pace to the bustle of everyday life.

It’s no more evident than in our garments. Our design team don't follow trends. Instead, they create timeless pieces using quality materials to ensure they last. We embrace simplicity with a pared-back approach, and a key aspect of our design is using traditional techniques on quality fabrics in modern, easy silhouettes to ensure they stand the test of time.

We are also keenly aware of our impact on people and the planet and our responsibility towards both is embedded in every decision we make.

BB: Has COVID-19 shifted the way TOAST thinks about retail?

SRW: The recent shift – from the physical to the digital – has provided us with innovative opportunities to engage with our community.

This is one of the reasons why in this time of uncertainty, we decided to exhibit this project online. We hope that in this way, it is much more accessible to a broader global audience.

BB: What are some steps people can take to become a more responsible shopper?

CP: I encourage everyone to have a go at mending and making. This doesn’t have to be just clothes but could also include ceramics, books or even plastic objects. Please become curious about materials, where they come from, how they wear down and degrade and how easy or difficult they are to repair. In time, start asking yourself questions when you shop. For example, "Could I mend this once it’s worn down or if got damaged?"

Buy some really sharp scissors and darning needles. They are powerful tools to develop your own language and mending style.

"Before I mend a garment – it is important to me to meet, ideally in person, so that I can get to know the owner and make a mend that is sensitive to them. I also want to feel the garment so will always touch it, turn it over and stick my arm inside it."

- Celia Pym

BB: How do you think people's relationships with buying new clothing has changed in the wake of the pandemic?

CP: I’ve seen a recent increase in demand for people wanting to learn how to darn clothing. A lot of the feedback I receive from students in workshops is that they now want to look after the clothes they have so they last longer.

Judith Scott, Untitled, Fibre-and-found-object sculpture, 2004
Photograph: Brooklyn Museum

BB: How would you describe your personal relationship with fashion and clothing?

CP: My preferred place to be is working, knitting, stitching, weaving and cutting in the studio. My favorite clothes are ones that I can move easily in and are loose fitting such as dungarees, aprons and cardigans. I love wearing color especially mauves, blues, yellows and pink. I have a light yellow glittery forked shaped pendant necklace on a bright green string and a pale lilac carved circular brooch as big as the palm of my hand. Whenever I wear either of them, I feel great and they get lots of compliments.

BB: What other types of textiles or design do you look at for inspiration?

CP: This summer I’ve been looking a lot at Judith Scott’s work. Her sculptures feel very alive. There is a great energy in them and the way she wraps and threads yarn around and in on itself.

I also recently finished an excellent book, Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers and their Stories by Roland L. Freeman. Freeman was a documentary photographer who recorded and reproduced first-hand accounts of making and living with quilts, laying out a story about the cultural influences and magical powers of quilts and the diversity of African-American quilt making. I especially loved the stories related to the healing power of quilts and dreaming experiences underneath them. The book is illustrated with Freeman’s wonderful photographic portraits of the quilters and preservers.

BB: How would you describe your personal relationship with fashion and clothing?

CP: My preferred place to be is working, knitting, stitching, weaving and cutting in the studio. My favorite clothes are ones that I can move easily in and are loose fitting such as dungarees, aprons and cardigans. I love wearing color especially mauves, blues, yellows and pink. I have a light yellow glittery forked shaped pendant necklace on a bright green string and a pale lilac carved circular brooch as big as the palm of my hand. Whenever I wear either of them, I feel great and they get lots of compliments.

BB: What other types of textiles or design do you look at for inspiration?

CP: This summer I’ve been looking a lot at Judith Scott’s work. Her sculptures feel very alive. There is a great energy in them and the way she wraps and threads yarn around and in on itself.

I also recently finished an excellent book, Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers and their Stories by Roland L. Freeman. Freeman was a documentary photographer who recorded and reproduced first-hand accounts of making and living with quilts, laying out a story about the cultural influences and magical powers of quilts and the diversity of African-American quilt making. I especially loved the stories related to the healing power of quilts and dreaming experiences underneath them. The book is illustrated with Freeman’s wonderful photographic portraits of the quilters and preservers.

Judith Scott, Untitled, Fibre-and-found-object sculpture, 2004
Photograph: Brooklyn Museum

Discover their stories


Green, Blue, Red and Orange Sweater (2020)

From Anna Skrabacz

"I wear this sweater with everything – jeans, pants, skirts – and at least once a week in winter."

Red Sweater (2020)

From Becky Peterson

"This is the perfect sweater. It’s so comfy and I wear it often. I have no idea how it got holes. Maybe from work, leaning on my desk or maybe my son."

Blue Green Sweater (2020)

From Annie Luce

"I hope this sweater will last for always. I am trying to be aware of sustainability in my own choices and to focus on clothing that will last and always be wearable."

Grey Sweater (2019)

From Sue Green

"The sweater got caught on a blackberry bramble and it snagged a hole at the front on the left side, just above my heart."

Pink Mohair Sweater (2019)

From Kate Wafer

"I keep clothes for a long time. I wanted to mend [this sweater] because I love it and would love to carry on wearing it forever."

Purple Sweater (2019)

From Rebecca Caldecott

"I got this sweater about four years ago, well no more than five years ago. It’s not a sweater to look smart in but to feel cozy."

Powder Blue Sweater (2019)

From Martha Burn

"I have a rabbit, Daphne. She nibbled the elbow and made the hole while she was in my lap."

Mustard Knee Socks (2019 & 2020)

From Debbie Smyth and Zac Mead

"My socks have been involved in this project twice. Zac’s mum bought these socks for me about five years ago. Zac quickly adopted them, wearing them around the house, occasionally showing off his moon-walking skills."

Grey Sweater (2019)

From Emily Ashworth

"The hole is at the left elbow – maybe because of my sharp elbows. My Dad has sharp elbows too and goes through his sweaters in the exact same spot. Elbow inheritance."

Grey Sweater (2019)

From Jane Barrett-Danes

"A significant memory around this sweater is that I had knee surgery immediately after getting it and then I wore it daily, throughout my recovery. I associate it with that period of recovery."

White and Blue Square Chunky Sweater (2019)

From Polly Higginson

"I used to wear this sweater every day in the winter but packed it away when it got holey. I have been feeling bad that I haven’t worn it for a while. I dug it out recently and started wearing it again. Whereupon a neighbor seeing me in it politely suggested I mend it."

Green Cardigan With Reverse Seam on Sleeve (2019)

From Josie Steed

"The damage in the cardigan is a small hole, in the middle of the back below the collar. No idea how the cardigan got a small hole. It’s a weird hole. It’s not a moth. Might have got caught. Doesn’t look like a fault in the yarn or knit."

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Fisherman Mockneck Sweater-navy
Annie Side Button Jeans-indigo