Repair for a Longer Life — The Slipper Project

MUJI products are everyday object.

One of MUJI’s key products, Slippers, are designed for both ease of use and maximum comfort as you wander around your home. They are made to last but they can get damaged or worn out as you wear them every day.

MUJI collaborated with Celia Pym, a textile artist based in London, to explore ways in which to extend the life of MUJI slippers that are damaged or worn out. MUJI asked Celia to mend two pairs of MUJI slippers and to also share the story of her own MUJI slippers which she has owned for seven years. She has mended her slippers several times throughout this time.

Celia’s Cotton Denim Cushion Slippers

  • Purchased 2014
  • Mended 2021

Mend and text by Celia Pym

MUJI Slipper Project - Celia's Slippers

This pair of Denim Cushion Slippers was worn every day in the last year and half. The damage on them was from that everyday use. They have been mended with wool, linen and cotton yarns. Where they have been mended a second and third time the new darning has caught strands of wool from the original darns and woven them into the new mend.
This overlapping mending has created a layered patch of colour that only be achieved gradually and with repeated use and repair. The beauty is in their use and care.

Here is an account of my slippers and their repair:

“These MUJI slippers are 7 years old. I know this because I moved into my new flat 7 years ago and bought them then for guests to wear.

Last year spending more time at home, with the blurred boundary between working and living, I was wearing my slippers every day for all my activities and jobs. I loved wearing them every day. This was my first experience talking to my students or taking meetings in slippers. I loved wearing them when I was on a zoom call and enjoyed stretching my toes in the soft cushioning of the slipper. I found the soft feeling on my feet reassuring and easy.

One day I noticed that the slippers were looking a little tired and worn down. Am not sure when they got like this – must have been a gradual wearing away. Suddenly, I just saw them with fresh
eyes and they looked in need of care. I chose to mend them with blue, green, pink and yellow wool that was left over from previous projects. I wanted to clearly see the repair. The damage reflected how my feet rested in them; evidence of marks and spills from cooking; and where they got caught on a splinter in the floorboards. I wanted to see ,in the repair, the marks of my daily habits and body movements.

I continue to wear the slippers every day and have had to mend them again on top of my original repair. The mended areas feel nice, a woven texture that gently massages my feet. Over the last year and a half, I have increasingly noticed objects I use daily and been mending and looking after them as a regular practice. It feels as if I have mended myself into my home.”

Ella’s Brown Linen Twill Slippers

  • Purchased 2019
  • Mended 2021
  • 2 years old

Mend and text by Celia Pym

MUJI Slipper Project - Ella's Slippers

Ella’s slippers had worn down on both heels; there was a small hole by her little toe on the left slipper and by her big toe on the right; there was a small mark by her big toe on the right slipper and there were two small holes, perhaps from a burn or from catching on something sharp, on the sole of right slipper.

I mended the slippers with a woven darn, using a combination of wool and linen threads, reinforcing wide of the hole so that the edges were well strengthened. The darn on the inside of the slipper makes the heel a little more cushioned.

Ella was decisive that she wanted the mend made in pink. The first time we met she explained how much she loved the colour pink, especially bright pink. On the second meeting she explained that her daughter also loved pink. That got us talking about her daughter, who was away for the summer visiting her Grandma in Poland. Ella said she was missing her daughter and how she was looking forward to showing her the mended slippers when she returned to London. Ella hinted that maybe she chose pink for the mend, not just for herself but also for her daughter.

Here is what Ella says about her slippers:

“I was too sentimental to throw them away. I got this pair of slippers in late 2019. This style is my favourite slipper style. I’ve been wearing them for years and I was in the habit of replacing them when they got worn down.

I moved house last year and in the moving process I was sorting out my things into three piles ’keep’, ‘charity shop’ and ‘for my sister’. That’s when I noticed these slippers had holes on their soles and were a little worn down at the heels. Something about the emotions around moving made me want to look after these slippers – extend their life and bring them with us to the new house. So, the slightly damaged slippers moved with me and my daughter.

I do mend my daughter’s things, especially items she is attached to, like toys. That feels important to me. I studied tailoring when I was younger and can make clothes and I remember family members mending from my own childhood. So mending’s a familiar thing to me. I think mending shows respect to the items, to look after them and be resourceful with a needle and thread.

I’m not sure how the hole in the heel of my slippers happened, I didn’t notice it in the moment – but maybe it’s from when I popped into the garden, wearing them when I should have changed my footwear.

I’m excited to get these slippers mended I like bright pink and embrace the visibility of the repair – I feel what’s the worst that can happen? The slippers are already damaged, so the repair is going to make them better. My daughter also loves pink and I’m hoping when she sees them mended, she might be inspired to mend her things. She’s really excited about care and repair.”

Vittoria’s Malay Grass Cushion Slippers

  • Purchased 2018
  • Mended 2021
  • 3 years old

Mend and text by Celia Pym

MUJI Slipper Project - Vittoria's Slippers

Vittoria’s slippers had 3 bleached spots on the top of the left slipper, near the big toe; a small mark on the left slipper by the little toe and a small snagged thread on the right slipper by the inside of the big toe.

The wear on Vittoria’s slippers were superficial. The fabric of the slippers was intact, so the repair was about masking the stains. We discussed the repair and decided on a combination of wool and linen yarn in reds and oranges and I covered the marks using a woven darn. The mark by the little toe on the left slipper was at the meeting of the upper fabric and the sole, this was a nice challenge to create a 3D darn, the followed the contour of the edge.

When we first spoke about the damage Vittoria expressed how she would love to see the repair as an opportunity to make the slippers special and unique. When Vittoria came to the studio she was wearing a pair of jeans, around the cuffs she had made some beautiful hand embroidery of flowers – she was already thinking about ways to embellish and personalise her clothes.

Here is what Vittoria says about her slippers:

“I have a thing for pens and slippers! When I go home to Italy, I often bring all my family new slippers as gifts; I buy my flatmates slippers and I like to treat myself to slippers. In my family it is common to wear slippers indoors. I don’t know if I would say wearing ‘house’ slippers is an Italian cultural habit, but I know we just love wearing them. Keeps the house clean and your feet comfy.

I’ve had this pair of slippers for over 3 years and they are perfect for my flat which has a sort of rougher carpet. These cushion slippers don’t wear down on the carpet, they’ve got a strong sole. So when I spilt bleach on them I was sad and a little frustrated with myself. I remember exactly the moment it happened. It’s such a mundane, everyday damage – I was cleaning the sink and that’s when I spilt the bleach on them. You can see the spots precisely. It really wasn’t a big deal and yet I was sorry it had happened. Funny that a small thing like that can feel like a disappointment. They were not damaged enough to replace and yet they weren’t fresh and new anymore.

I was so happy when I heard that my colleagues were looking for damaged slippers in need of repair. It was like a project exactly for me because I love embroidery and mending, but also because this was a small problem, my bleach-stained slipper, but one that needed attention.

Since we’re talking about slippers, I have a funny story about another pair… I had bought my flatmate – who is also Italian, some MUJI slippers, when he moved in. It was the evening of the Euro Finals he answered the front door for a delivery, but the door blew shut behind him and suddenly he was locked out in his slippers. He couldn’t get back in for 8 hours and in that time walking around his slippers got really worn down. When he eventually got home, he decided the slippers were so damaged he threw them away. What was crazy was the next day I got the email asking for damaged slippers. They would have been the perfect repair challenge.

I really appreciate having my slippers mended, a small act of care that makes me love them more.”