Damaged, flawed, broken, blemished, weathered... these are all terms we use to negatively describe something usually before we get rid of it. However, in a lot of cases, we are too quick to discard our stuff. Instead of thinking damaged = disposal, we could change our perception and embrace imperfection in all of its diverse unique forms. It’s that type of unique imperfection that VAER is trying to capture in our sneaker design.
Perfectly Imperfect - the VAER way
individual, unique, imperfect
At the heart of our circular design process is the individual character of many of the discarded textiles we source. Because some of the textiles we use are “post-consumer”, which means they have been bought and used by someone before we get them - there will always be variations in the look, colour and texture of the materials.
It’s the difference in the fabrics we choose that gives each of our sneakers an individual touch. Subtle small details in the colour of the jeans (which would normally be seen as imperfections) enhance the uniqueness of the sneakers.
In the beginning, the people at the factory producing our sneakers were very confused by the design. They kept thinking that there was a mistake because every pair didn’t look exactly alike - like they are used to. So it took some getting used to for them to realise that at VAER, we celebrate uniqueness, not uniformity.
Because we upcycle and use the textiles as they are without shredding them, the past life of the textiles becomes woven into the design of the sneakers, creating something new and fresh.
Meet the imperfectionists
Challenging the perception that everything has to be perfect..
Here at VAER, we have a special place in our hearts and homes for the perfectly imperfect. Each member of the team has picked out something special that they cherish despite their so-called imperfections.
Emma- What’s the perfectly imperfect item that you cherish?
Jeans with family ties
A particularly loved item, Emma inherited a pair of jeans from her father in law. Besides the personal connection to a loved one, the blue jeans have their own unique character. In their past life, Emma’s father in law had the jeans repaired with a black leather patch on the back. This unusual detail has prompted people to ask Emma the story of the jeans.
Unfortunately, when looking for the jeans to take a photo for this blog, Emma couldn't find them. Misplacing our stuff is something we can all relate to doing at some point. Hopefully, the jeans have found a new home and are now part of someone else’s story.
Luckily, Emma has lots of other items gifted to her that she loves.
Lili - What’s the perfectly imperfect item that you cherish?
Mystery Jeans with a perfect fit
As part of the design process, the team sort through the “non-sellable” jeans from Salvation Army. During one sorting session, Lili found a pair of jeans with a distinctive cow patch pattern that she was instantly drawn to. And as it’s always better to reuse if you can, Lili decided to adopt this rare pair. While not sure whether the design was intentional or accidental for Lili they were the perfect fit!
Linda- What’s the perfectly imperfect item that you cherish?
For her perfectly imperfect item, Linda chose the chairs made by her late grandfather. Despite having few memories of her grandfather, as sadly he died when she was pretty young, Linda feels the chairs are a way of connecting with him. What makes the chairs extra special is that they were handmade by her grandfather. Treasuring something as a way of reconnecting to a loved one or memory is relatable for everyone.
It’s also a great example of how the value of a possession is not always related to its physical condition. Rather we value the way it makes us feel because it connects us to a special person, or reminds us of a fond story or memory.
Helene - What’s the perfectly imperfect item that you cherish?
The travelling jacket!
The last time Helene was in Hong Kong, her friend randomly asked if she wanted some clothes from her aunt. Helene replied hell yeah, she most definitely did!
The clothes are from when the friend’s aunt was working for the Hong Kong division of an international fashion brand and were part of her office attire. Helene laid her eyes specifically on this jacket. The aunt quit the company at least 20 years ago, so the jacket was hanging forgotten in the closet for a long time! Despite being 20 years old it’s in really good shape apart from some very loose buttons that Helene has fixed.
Sometimes Helene wonders why her friend's aunt kept the jacket for 20 years without wearing it. But at the same time, Helene is glad she did because now she gets to wear it!
A little bit of imperfect inspiration
The Japanese concept of Kintsugi (golden joinery) where broken pottery is mended with gold coloured lacquer embraces the beauty of the damaged. Instead of throwing away the broken objects, the lacquer is applied in a way that emphasises the break lines creating something that is unique but at the same time familiar.
The art of Kintsugi is related to the philosophy of Wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection and the appreciation of the incomplete and the transient.
Kintsugi, by drawing attention to the repair process shows that an object's history, flaws and all, is part of its beauty.
While Kintsugi is very much embedded in Japanese culture, we can all try to find inspiration from this perspective. By taking the time to repair and find value and beauty in flaws, we can challenge today's throwaway culture.
Appreciating the imperfect is part of VAER’s identity. Not only does our design process add value to used textiles, but we also invest our time in repairing and upcycling stuff in our daily lives.
Emma especially likes to take the time to mend her clothes. Like the visible repairs of kintsugi, her unique patching style adds an extra special detail to an old jumper.
The baby sweater was actually started by Emma's grandma and found by Emma after she died. Emma continued her grandma’s work and finished the sweater (see below!). The sweater has now passed through 3 different generations in its life story!
Just like Linda’s grandfather's chairs, inheriting or being gifted something by someone important creates more of a personal attachment to it. The majority of the clothes in Lili’s closet were previously loved and given to her by friends and family.
These stories from the VAER team show that we appreciate the uniqueness of imperfection! Our sneakers just like our favourite stuff have a unique past and story to tell.
What perfectly imperfect items do you love? Share your stories in the comments
Written by: Mary Connors