Defence in the Field of Design: MPhil Marium Durrani

This study primarily intends to understand, observe and illustrate an alternative conceptualization, by proposing to examine mending as a sociomaterial practice
Through the Threaded Needle cover image

MPhil Marium Durrani will defend thesis “Through the threaded needle: a multi-sited ethnography on the sociomateriality of garment mending practices” on Tuesday 3.12.2019

Opponent: Dr. Anne Louise Bang PhD, VIA University College

Custos: Professor Kirsi Niinimäki, Aalto University Department of Design

Commonly associated with times of hardship and austerity, garment mending has come a long way from being just a domesticated practice of need to an act of commodity activism. As a backlash to the ‘throw away’ culture of fast fashion, recent years have witnessed the emergence of various public garment mending events in Western countries. Although academic interest in mending has been growing among fashion researchers, their focus has remained limited to an exploration of perspectives on mending in domestic spaces. Through this dissertation a shift is made towards an examination of processes undertaken to mend by studying existing off-the-grid mending practices that run parallel to mainstream fast-fashion systems in self-organized communal repair events in four cities. How the practice of mending comes to matter is comprehensively investigated through this dissertation.

This study primarily intends to understand, observe and illustrate an alternative conceptualization, by proposing to examine mending as a sociomaterial practice. Through identifying humans and non-human or social and material forces as intimately interlaced, this study anchors itself in a pragmatic philosophical paradigm. Building on this, scholarly works that forms part of the umbrella term ‘Practice Theories’ are used to develop a non-cognitive driven understanding of the practice of mending in a clothing use context. The work draws on three years of in-depth, multi-sited ethnographic field research in 18 communal garment mending events in: Helsinki (Finland), Auckland and Wellington (New Zealand) and Edinburgh (the United Kingdom), during 2016–2018. Data is gathered through non-participant and participant observations, 67 in-depth semi- and unstructured interviews of event organizers and participants, short surveys, web research, and pictures and short video clips are used as mnemonic support.

In the last instance, the focus was on the role of the body and the interplay between the sensing body and the materials, to show how menders construct taste for and form an attachment to their practice over time. Their mending practices resulted in increasing the physical life, reshaping the symbolic life and redefining the aesthetic life of garments. In this way, people are seen as disrupting existing social and material orders by defying mainstream fashion practices, levelling off the playing field through active engagement in appropriating garments, mobilizing variations in dress practices, attuning to the matters that make up their clothing, while also forming an attachment to their practice (Article 4).

Overall, in taking a non-cognitive approach to the study of mending, this study reveals the practices of menders as not merely reproductive but as dynamic and reflexive. In trying to understand how mending practices are performed, learned and sustained, the study also highlights the broader implications of mending that need attention in the current sustainable fashion discourse. Thus, the study invites future research to explore the practices of vernacular menders and to actively challenge fast fashion dictates towards the practices of caring, inclusivity and stewardship.


The dissertation notice and the published dissertation are placed for public display at Väre (Otaniementie 14), close to the Info Desk, at least 10 days before the defence date.

Link to audience etiquette and dress code of the public defence (

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