pic taken by the talented @rhomatt
Remade in Brooklyn is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to teach creative reuse and repair skills. It belongs to a global network of community fixer spaces, launched because repair and reuse are even better for people and planet than recycling; they close the loop in a circular economy. Learning how things break helps consumers make better choices in the future which reduces waste and puts pressure on manufacturers to design better products.
MADE LOKAL: How did you get involved with the network of community of fixer spaces?
REMADE: My mother taught me to sew when I was in grade school. It’s a really useful skill to have and there’s a great feeling that comes with making and mending things. I met my husband on a blind date 27 years ago. I fell in love when he told me he owned a Bernina and knew how to sew. He’s a property master on movies and he gets paid to gather the stuff that actors use on camera. He has to know how to repair stuff when it breaks! So we are both long-time fixers and most everything we own is old. All our stuff is memories and we really like it that way.
About a year ago a friend sent this link: Every Town Needs a Remakery and we agree! We visited Remade in Edinburgh and it just made sense to us. We were very lucky at that time because Sophie Unwin (the remarkable founder of Remade in Edinburgh and a serial social entrepreneur) was just launching the Remade Network globally. So Remade in Brooklyn became the first US member of the Remade Network!
The seeds of the Remade mission came from Nepal where Sophie spent a year teaching and she stayed with a rural family. She experienced a culture where reuse and repair is a way of life and realized that it makes a community more resilient and sustainable by saving resources and reducing solid waste.
Back in London, Sophia saw her city with new eyes. Alarmed by the disparity between the simple ‘mend and make do’ life in Nepal and the global culture of disposable consumption, she started a social enterprise and a repair revolution. Her very first remakery was Remade in Brixton, which Sophie co-founded in south London. Remade in Edinburgh came next, launched with just £60 and a handful of volunteers. And now eight years later the Edinburgh Remakery has an annual income of £230,000, a team of 10 employees, 12 freelance tutors, 20+ volunteers and it diverts 250 tons of solid waste from landfills annually. In 2016 Sophie was recognized as UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
MADE LOKAL: How many fixer spaces exist across NYC, the country and world
REMADE: There is what I would call a repair revolution gaining momentum. On any day you can find countless pop-up ‘repair cafes’ in cities all around the world.
Remakeries are different from repair cafes because they have a permanent location and a mission to teach creative reuse and repair skills. Currently there are 60+ applicants for new remakeries worldwide - from Philadelphia to Tasmania!
MADE LOKAL: Remade in Brooklyn offers classes to assist individuals make repairs on their own. What courses do will you offer?
REMADE: We are launching this month! We offer classes in basic sewing, simple electronics and (coming soon) furniture repair skills.
More specifically, our first class is repairing denim with Japanese Sashiko stitching. We’re developing an evening class to teach how to clean and maintain a laptop - inside and out. In July we’ll have a sewing camp for middle school kids. And we’re partnering with Sculptors Alliance to offer a series of autumn workshops with established and emerging artists who use reclaimed materials in their work.
Our strategy is to start slow and discover what works best for our local community. Our course offerings will reflect what people want to learn so we encourage everyone to visit and write their requests on our workshop suggestion board!
MADE LOKAL: Will Remade in Brooklyn make repairs for individuals who support the initiative, but don't have the time or desire to make their own repairs?
REMADE: Yes - we’re planning to offer affordable electronics repair for those who don’t have time to learn. It will be a little while until we have that service in place so please check our social media for announcements!
MADE LOKAL: Are there fixer space communities that are role models for you and the community as a whole?
REMADE: Here in NYC the Fixers Collective has organized regular drop-in repair sessions for many years. They have been wonderfully supportive of our mission and we’ve become great friends. We host free drop-in fixing sessions with Fixers Collective and it’s a very fun vibe when they’re here. They showed us that there’s a big social aspect to fixing things together - it’s joyful and exhilarating when you finally plug something in and it works!
Within New York State there is the Finger Lakes Community Reuse Center in Ithaca. They’ve done a great job creating an online template for groups starting their own community reuse and repair centers and that’s been an extremely helpful guide for us.
And globally, we are members of the Remade Network which is UK-based. We’re working with Sophie Unwin to replicate her business plan and tailor it to serve our community here in Brooklyn. There is so much interest in reuse and repair right now - I dare to hope it may be the beginning of real change.
MADE LOKAL: I've heard of 'lending libraries' so that people have access to community tools instead of every household having to purchase them. Is that part of what Remade in Brooklyn will offer?
REMADE: A tool lending library is one of our dreams! But right now it’s out of reach given our resources.
We have a membership program so our sewing machines, electronics benches and all tools will be available for rent to members by the hour. At our free drop-in repair workshops we provide the proprietary tools required to disassemble, repair and reassemble electronic devices. Which brings us to the Right to Repair question…
MADE LOKAL: Can you touch upon the "Right to Repair" initiative?
REMADE: It sounds incredible, but when you buy an iPhone you don’t have the right to fix a cracked screen or replace the battery! Only Apple technicians are legally allowed to repair your broken device. Apple requires you to use their repair service and if you don’t, they brick your phone or void your warranty.
Replacing a cracked iPhone screen costs about $150 at the Genius Bar and takes about a day if you’re lucky. You can buy a replacement screen online for about $30 and DIY in 30 minutes. We replaced a cracked screen with one from iFixit.org and the new touchscreen is noticeably stronger than the original. Think about it: when the manufacturer makes money on repair there is no reason to design a better, more rugged device!
MADE LOKAL: Do you think legislation will pass for other industries besides the car industry?
REMADE: I hope so - the automotive legislation is a start. People are just learning about this issue and how it affects everything.
MADE LOKAL: Where do you think there is the biggest opportunity to repair goods?
REMADE: The biggest opportunities for a repair revolution are in clothing and technology. These are two enormous waste streams where creative reuse and repair can make a difference and help shape a circular economy.
Clothing and technology are also markets where retail competition is intense and marketers are watching consumer behavior closely. Conscious consumption - repairing, reusing, buying less - sends a clear message to manufacturers: make products that work for users, not shareholders!
There is no earthly reason to pump a completely new line of clothing onto H&M retail floors every 2 weeks or to buy a new Apple smartphone every 18 months! These cycles have been artificially created by manufacturers to manipulate consumers and accelerate spending - not to fill a real need.
Right now there’s big energy around young designers with a new philosophy of ‘Slow Fashion’ - garments made from sustainable materials by people who are paid decent wages. There are also infinite ways to creatively deconstruct and refashion discarded clothing and we’re excited to be a resource for these emerging designers and artists!
MADE LOKAL: How do you locate repair specialists in your area?
REMADE: I talk to everyone I know and ask questions, even to strangers sometimes. Nothing beats a personal recommendation.
MADE LOKAL: How do you personally participate in conscious consumption in other ways?
REMADE: Conscious consumption begins when you first start to think about buying what you need. We always do a lot of research to find the best quality we can afford. We refuse to buy anything designed to be disposable - if there’s no way to open and change a battery for example. It’s important because a lot of stuff ends up in landfill because it’s cheap and breaks right away and that’s actually much more expensive in the end - for people’s wallets and the planet.
Sometimes we choose to buy an old refurbished machine or winter coat because older stuff is often made better. Our washer and dryer are about 30 years old and have been completely rebuilt over the years using DIY info and parts from The Repair Clinic. New machines are designed to be replaced in 5 years - so we’ll never part with our old ones - we would have used and replaced 6 washers and dryers by now!
Basically I stopped buying anything new about a year ago (except underwear and socks). I’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years that it feels great to stop buying...plus it saves money (and as the unpaid founder of a nonprofit I really appreciate that). And finally, we always check craigslist, freecycle and ebay before Amazon.
MADE LOKAL: What are Remade in Brooklyn's next steps?
REMADE: We’ve been setting up the Remade framework for nearly a year now and working in broad strokes. We’re really looking forward to spending time on the details, polishing our website and considering limitless possibilities for future fixing sessions.
We’re thinking about classes in leather bag and belt repair, cool and useful things to make from old electronic parts, sweater mending and moth prevention, simple re-upholstery, deconstructing and refashioning old blue jeans and t-shirts, making outdoor planters from reclaimed wood and scrap metal, book (re)binding, simple home repairs, a workshop for kids to learn how to fix their broken toys. I could go on and on and on...there’s so much to repair! But mostly we can’t wait to spend more time connecting with our community and discovering what our tribe of fixers is up to do next.
MADE LOKAL: What are areas that are most challenging for you and/or Remade to make repairs?
REMADE: Definitely electronics! Manufacturers want to control the repair market for the devices they produce. One way they accomplish this is by voiding the warranty if a device is repaired by an independent shop. So our repair classes are restricted to only devices on which the warranty is already expired.
MADE LOKAL: Where is Remade in Brooklyn located?
REMADE: We are located at 663 Driggs Avenue just around the corner from the Apple store in Williamsburg.
MADE LOKAL: What is your long term vision or dream for Remade in Brooklyn and the entire network of community fixer spaces?
REMADE: Well, it is a very ambitious dream, but why not? I hope that by helping communities learn how to extend the useful lives of their everyday things the repair revolution will grow until consumers become innovators and create a circular economy of ideas.
MADE LOKAL: If someone is interested in launching their own fixer space, how would they get involved with the community?
REMADE: Drop by our remakery and see what it’s like. Talk to us! And as I mentioned before there’s a really useful online template written by the Finger Lakes Community Reuse Center.
Remade in Brooklyn's mission is to teach repair skills, create jobs and promote sustainable, ethical consumption for a zero waste future. This is super exciting and for Remade in Brooklyn to succeed, we all need to get on board. Support Linnae by following @remadeinbrooklyn; attend their repair classes; make use of Remade in Brooklyn's resources and most importantly make an effort to repair the items you already own. To support the Right to Repair bill in your state, go to Repair.org and fill out a 30 second form to legislation stating you support this initiative.
Please click links below to follow Remake Brooklyn, stay in touch and see what they offer and support this new initiative!
Face Book: Remade in Brooklyn
WEB: Brooklyn Re-Makery