Wardrobe 101: Where We Go For Clothing Alterations & Repairs

By Dan Ahwa
From alteration places we frequent, to community repair support networks and in-house repair services. Photo / Nicole Brannen

A brief assortment of reputable suggestions from industry experts and more.

Making the best of a situation is how the concept of make-do-and-mend came about when it was employed during World War II to inspire and aid those rationing supplies and trying to live frugally.

In today’s modern life, the

While some of us haven’t inherited a desire to learn our way around needle and thread, there’s a range of reliable small businesses offering support when we’re in need of an alteration or a simple repair that will help get more mileage out of our clothes and shoes.

Alteration places we frequent

Tailors 2000

My family and I have been going to Tailors 2000 in Mt Eden for years. A Chinese family-owned tailor by the name of Jack runs it with his son out of their family home. My family has been going there for alterations and custom-made garments. A lot of Pacific community church groups go there for their uniforms too. Jack also made my brother’s wedding suits for him and his groomsmen. 929 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden. (09) 620 2333 — Sammy Salsa, stylist, and costume designer

Depending on the type of alteration, I always try to attempt small alterations myself or with my costume team. Otherwise, I highly rate LookSmart alterations; they are a cost-effective, efficient service and you’ll find them at most Auckland malls. Gemmell’s is also my go-to shoe repair shop. I’ve had all types of shoes repaired here. Whether it’s a business or dance shoe, they’ve managed to repair it back into use. I also recommend having Shoe Goo on hand for a quick home repair. Gemmell’s, 191 Symonds St, Newton, Auckland. (09) 379 0322 — Sacha Young, costume designer

June Clothing Alterations and Lissy Turner

Located at the end of Khyber Pass near the popular Malaysian restaurant Selera, up a flight of stairs, you’ll find the quiet business of dressmaker and alterations whizz Wing. Considering a person’s individual style and overall body type, Wing is honest and helpful when it comes to collaborating with you on an alteration. She’s direct — a valuable trait when you’re getting something altered in order to get more longevity. Turnaround time is a few days depending on the complexity of the alteration. She’s so low-key she doesn’t even have a website, you’ll have to visit in person. 485 Khyber Pass Rd, Auckland. (09) 522 0388

For more complex repairs, Lissy Turner is an Auckland-based costume designer for film and TV and runs a bespoke alteration service. Having someone who has worked in the fashion industry for a number of years with a specialty in tailoring and suiting, Lissy has a clear understanding of high-end garment construction and reconstruction, and she’s someone you can rely on for those more challenging items like wedding dresses or a designer vintage item. Lissy is also an expert at wardrobe rebuilds, working closely with clients on maintaining their prized possessions. Another industry insider contact worth having for emergencies. 021 209 9925 — Dan Ahwa, Viva creative and fashion director

When I moved back to Aotearoa in the middle of winter in 2020, I immediately dug through boxes from my Sydney storage unit for all my old boots. After a few weeks of walking around Pōneke’s constantly wet, puddle-ridden streets I realised I desperately needed to get pretty much all of them re-soled and Mum gave me Ed’s details. He re-soled them perfectly, meticulously painting along the sides to give a seamless match. I’ve been back so many times since, he saved a broken strap on a vintage Gucci overnight bag and gave numerous worn-down heels new life. If there is one tip I would give get your boots resoled as soon as you buy them, it will make them last years longer in the long run. Shop 3, Level 3, Plimmer Towers, Plimmer Steps, Wellington. (04) 472 8046 — Chloe Hill, stylist, contributing fashion editor and founder of Cool Pretty Cool

Silhouette Alterations

If it’s something I’m unable to do or have time for, I recommend Silhouette Alterations in Auckland’s CBD. They are really great at suits and shortening trousers. The Colonial Building, 163 Queen St, Auckland CBD. (09) 366 3053. — Lissy Turner, costume designer and stylist

Footwear is something that’s worth investing in, if you can, both from the outset and ongoing care. I try and buy the best quality shoes I can afford (nearly always second-hand) and commit to regular resoling and maintenance — well-made footwear is designed to be fixed. As walking is my main way of getting places, I keep an eye on my shoes. Once that heel starts wearing down, or the sole gets thin, then it’s time to get it fixed. Do not delay — doing so can cause irreparable damage. When my old shoe repair service shut up shop a couple of years ago (RIP Dr Shoe) I headed uptown to Expert Shoe Repairs on Karangahape Rd. They do a great job, and really know their leather, brands and the changing quality of footwear on the market. So far, I’ve had Marni sandals and Sebago loafers all fixed very well at the shop. And just this weekend I took in my very worn Frye boots, and locally made (now closed) Minnie Cooper shoes for some TLC. It’s also next to Zeki’s, so you can stop by for a coffee and a bite to eat while you’re in the neighbourhood. 537 Karangahape Rd. — Emma Gleason, Viva writer and commercial editor

A few years back, I bought my dream pair of suede leather pointed heels (the super-low and very wearable kind), but the problem was, I was in between sizes. The 39 flapped around and the 38 just squeezed my feet that little bit too much. I bought the 38 and took them to Takapuna Shoe Repairs to have them stretched, and instantly they were transformed to fit me perfectly and I subsequently wore them non-stop. The shop is located down an alleyway on Lake Rd, Takapuna (near the French bakery), so you do have to keep your eyes peeled for it. They do full repairs and restorations, and they even make their own made-to-order footwear too. — Lucy Slight, Viva beauty editor

Community repair support networks

If learning to do your own repairs is something you are interested in, there’s a range of local services that encourage this in a friendly, helpful community-driven environment.

The Wellington-based Sustainability Trust runs free monthly workshops, or repair cafes, all over Aotearoa, where people can come along with clothing that needs repairing, guided by the trust’s team of volunteers. The aim of Repair Cafe NZ is to help foster a culture of repair in New Zealand. Sewing workshops are held on the first Saturday of every month, and there’s a helpful list of upcoming events on its website supported with a ‘repair map’ of cafe destinations around the country hosting a repair cafe session.

Many hands make light work, as local community sewing group Kohna Zari Ko prove; a close-knit group of migrant women from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan sharing their passion for sewing and offering their services for upcycling, mending and alterations. Led by Dr Fahima Saied, a registered counsellor with the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC), the group is an opportunity for migrant women to come together, celebrate their culture, and provide an emotional support system that Fahima believes is invaluable to the migrant experience in Aotearoa.

“This entire project is helping guide migrants through their emotional well-being,” says Dr Saied. From patchwork pillowcases, embroidered tablecloths and vintage clutch purses highlighting a rainbow of colourful stitches. Kohna Zari Ko—which means “to turn old things into gold”—also provides drop-off points for items needing mending or bespoke orders, including at Māngere Arts Centre in Māngere, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Pakuranga, and Objectspace in Ponsonby.

These brands also offer a handy in-house repair service

The local knitwear stalwart continues to pioneer a thoughtful approach to knitwear and preserving your knits to last the distance. If a Standard Issue garment has a small, repairable flaw, the label offers a complimentary mending service, with larger repairs incurring a small fee. The opportunity to renew an item of clothing is a large part of the brand’s ethos.

Complimentary repairs are offered and for larger rips, Kowtow offers the Japanese patching technique of sashiko, which adds an additional layer of character to a Kowtow garment. The art of sashiko repairing methods is centered around valuing and extending the life of the garment that strengthens the item while making it beautiful in the process.

The Wellington-based leather goods brand has become a go-to for local luxury and offers a unique buyback initiative and laundry service.

Yu Mei Buyback focuses on the brand’s circularity efforts to extend a product’s life through mending and refurbishing. Customers are invited to return their preloved Yu Mei bags for credit towards their next purchase. Preloved bags will be refurbished in-house and given a second life and on-sold. With a target of rehoming 100 Buyback bags every year from 2025 onwards, the hope is that the Yumei Buyback will become part of the brand’s permanent product range.

The Yu Mei Laundry service supports the brand’s use of its signature material of NZ deer nappa. A natural product, the refurbishment service helps address the natural wear and tear that comes with age. Customers can send in their bags and have it repaired by its in-house team. Since its launch, Yu Mei has rehomed, refurbished, or repaired 927 bags.

A repairs initiative is offered at Kate Sylvester to help prolong a garment’s life with complimentary repairs service on any garment from any time or season. Minor repairs include anything from lining repairs to broken zips, however, larger repairs like stained items, holes and pilling are not able to be fixed. Customers are invited to head to a store for a closer inspection and to go through repair options with staff.

The label also has an upcycling initiative releasing several times a year where it takes past season dead stock or past season fabric or flawed garments and reimagines them into completely new items, which makes it a unique proposition for those who want a one-off piece from one of their favourite New Zealand labels. It also offers a recycled initiative where customers can return a garment that’s reached the end of its life to your closest Kate Sylvester retail store. For every item returned they will load a $10 credit onto your account to use on future purchases, partnering with Upparel, who divert 100 per cent of textile waste from landfill into recycled homewares, furniture and construction items.

There’s a range of jewellery repairs out there, one that we’ve recently used is the repair service at Walker & Hall where their skilled workers can polish and repair your precious metal jewellery at its Anzac Ave headquarters on-site.

Do you have an alterations or repairs service you enjoy using? Send us your recommendations to Viva@nzherald.co.nz

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