NYC tailor rebels against fashion waste by fixing clothes from street cart

  • New York City tailor Makayla Wray mends clothes on the streets of Manhattan from her mobile cart.
  • She’s pushing back against the fast fashion industry by urging consumers to save their old clothes and have them repaired rather than buying more.
  • Fiber from discarded clothes amounts to over 37 million tons of material wasted each year.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

Makayla Wray wants to show people that style doesn’t have to come from buying new clothes.

The 29-year-old is running her own mobile sewing shop in the streets of New York City, revamping old clothes on the spot.

People can stop by her mobile Manhattan sewing shop and drop off anything for her to revamp.

Wray has seen firsthand the piles of waste that come from big fashion manufacturers. Now, she’s urging people to save their clothes.

“A lot of people do think that fast fashion clothes is only supposed to last them for that season of trend,” Wray told Business Insider Today. “It’s still material at the end of the day. Like, it still can be made into something.”

“I would like to normalize people rewearing and saving their clothing.”

A few times a week, she parks her cart in the heart of SoHo, surrounded by luxury and fast fashion retail brands. Her office is a former nut-roasting cart she’s rigged to function as a mobile sewing workshop, stocked with secondhand equipment for quick repairs.

She can do all kinds of mending on the fly, from patching up torn backpacks to replacing buttons on old shirts.

“Buttons, man. Buttons have been a lot of my business here,” she said. “People get rid of things because of not having a button. And it’s such an easy fix.”

When she’s not at the cart, she’s working as a seamstress for a vintage textile designer. And on the weekends, her apartment doubles as a workshop where she transforms cowhide rugs into jackets and a pup tent into a bucket hat, among other projects.

street tailor

Makayla Wray urges consumers to save and fix their clothes rather than buying more.

Dylan Barth/Business Insider Today

Seventy percent of the fiber produced globally each year ends up in a landfill or gets incinerated, amounting to over 37 million tons of material wasted.

Upcycling fabric is a huge logistical challenge for large manufacturers — but Wray believes that consumers have the power to change the fashion industry. 

“If those people would stop buying, that industry would not produce as much. And we could just go back to like more small-house manufacturers that treat their workers well,” she said. “They don’t have to be working all day and all night because millions of people are not asking for these jeans that are going to be worn for a week.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way people shop. Fashion retailers have taken a hit this year, but some secondhand clothing companies have seen an uptick in sales.

With less financial security, people are looking to sell off old clothes and buy used.

It’s a mindset Wray can relate to — growing up, she found a way to develop her own style without spending much.

“We didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “I got into making clothes because that’s what helped me be able to compete with people that would be in high school, and all the new shoes and all the new stuff. Like, I could be unique.”

Ever since then, she’s been making clothes out of almost anything. 

“My clothing has stains, it has holes, and I’m able to fix them and mend them and add little patches and make them speak more than me,” she said.

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