design can generate added value in terms of product and user.
Sustainable design strategies
Never before has the variety of different design strategies been as great as it is today: Modern design today is not only aesthetic, target group-oriented and purpose-built, but in the ideal case it often includes several functions or design strategies in one product. Thus design can generate added value in the relationship between product and user.
Whereas 20 years ago fashion designers focused primarily on trends, optics and aesthetics, "making fashion" has become much more complicated in view of the ever-increasing pace at which it is produced and the resulting negative effects on social, ecological and economic grievances. On the other hand, the current situation of fashion not only contains a clear call for designers to rethink design, but also a high potential for co-designing society and the world in which we want to live in the future. In the long term, fashion design can therefore not only generate positive added value for users, the environment and future generations, but also for the designers themselves.
A selection of topics and design strategies in the current discussion about sustainability and future orientation in fashion are:
1) Resource efficiency / Minimizing waste
- Re- / Upcyclinginfo
Already used garments or other textile waste or leftovers become new garments. The spectrum currently ranges from shoulder bags made out of truck tarpaulins
(see label Freitag) to dresses made of used men's shirts (see label Schmidttakahashi) or old socks (see label Chaussette Orphelines).
This strategy was already used in wartime in the last century and was originally born out of necessity, of course: Skirts
were sewn from old tablecloths and a new sweater for the kids was knitted from grandpa's old sweater.
Today, the term recycling is often used in the sense of downcycling, because it is assumed that as soon as materials are recycled,
they lose value or can only be used for lower qualities, e.g. as cleaning cloths.
However, this does not apply to the design strategy per se, but only to processes from production,
in which materials are torn into fiber flakes, for example, in order to spin new ones.
These fibers are usually shorter and less resilient or attractive.
In contrast to recycling, the term upcycling originally refers to the development of new garments from overhangs and overproduction
as well as unworn faulty productions (see label "From somewhere"). In any case, the goods are new and unused, and are sold with a new design.
Unsold swimsuits can be turned into dresses or trousers into coats. Today the term upcycling is also often used for products that are upgraded
by a recycling design process.
- Zero Waste Designinfo
The production of clothing generates an incredible amount of waste of all kinds. In terms of fabrics, waste can be divided into pre- and post-consumer waste:
Pre-consumer waste refers to waste that is generated before the clothing is used. This includes, for example, sample collections and parts,
surplus fabric rolls and the approx. 15% of fabric, so called clippings, that is produced out of industrially manufacturing as cutting in layers and with cut layouts.
Post-consumer waste refers to the mountains of clothes that are created when we no longer want to use clothes and put them either in the residual waste
or in recycling bins.
Zero Waste Design's goal is to ensure that the production of the garments does not generate any more waste at all.
The design is developed under the premise that every piece of fabric, no matter how small, must be used.
This results in shapes that are loose and wide on the one hand, e.g. skirts or tube dresses made of simple rectangles and squares.
However, as soon as you get closer to the body and want to design figure-hugging clothes, the patterns become very complicated.
This is also the reason why Zero Waste Design has not yet been carried out on a large scale, but is still in the development phase (MacQuillan&Rissanen, 2016).
By the way, hand knitting has always been zero waste.
- Circular Designinfo
The term circular design can be described as an overarching design strategy that aims to circulate materials in production and consumption cycles for as long as possible. These cycles can be manifold, exist side by side and with each other and contain various strategies like upcycling or emotional design at the same time. The idea of a circular design approach originally comes from Braungart & McDonough, who developed it in the 1990s under the term "Cradle to Cradle®" (Braungart&MacDonough, 1993). A design and production that no longer thinks linearly as we know it today, i.e. from the cradle of the product to the grave, but from cradle to cradle, in order to create seemingly endless cycles and to be able to use the nutrients or valuable substances more and more.
The only criticism of this holistic approach is the fact that in the future, due to the growing world population, more and more products will be in these cycles and we will have to deal with more and more materials. Possible solutions here could be design processes that deal with how the right products can slow down the cycles even further and reduce the amount of materials in them in the long term.
2) Co-Design strategies
- Social Designinfo
Social design is about valuing and promoting the people with whom products are developed. It is a design that is created through collaborative processes and aims to bring us more in touch with each other across global and social boundaries. Products are therefore primarily developed in an interdisciplinary and intercultural way. Social design contributes to the promotion of social projects, e.g. the empowerment of women in countries with weak development or of refugees in their new home countries (see label bridge&tunnel).
- Emotional Designinfo
All products with which we surround ourselves every day awaken our emotions! Positive emotions such as joy, empathy and well-being can be triggered by emotional design and kept for a long time. Since all people would like to feel as many positive emotions as possible, products that can trigger these have a high success rate. These can be emotions of a personal nature or situation-dependent, e.g. a sweater in which one can feel safe and secure. Emotional design also ensures that we trust companies and at the same time stands for the high quality we expect from them. Tradition and craftsmanship can also be associated with direct and positive emotions and thus achieve a high level of appreciation for the products developed. Conversely, this ensures that we would like to commit ourselves to these products for a long time. Emotional design thus supports long-term relationships between products and customers. This design strategy also shows that a rethinking towards "less is more" is possible and that consumer behavior can slow down and change with the right products.
- Open Designinfo
Even fashion designers today no longer work on their unique creations in a quiet little room. They design together and share ideas openly and transparently. This is a relatively new development for fashion design, but it is only logical because of the challenges we face as designers today, especially with regard to sustainability. The problems that our current apparel industry has caused around the world are so massive and so urgent that we can only tackle and solve them together. Open Source is currently being discussed more and more in other areas such as science and ensures that developments can simply be advanced faster. There are also Open Source sources in zero waste design, from which various production documents and instructions can be downloaded (makeuse.nz).
co-design can involve very different stakeholders. Thus, inter- and transdisciplinary processes can also be initiated, in which, for example, products are developed jointly by designers, producers, researchers or even craftsmen. What is special about this is that all stakeholders have equal rights. If design is developed jointly, i.e. if it becomes more democratic, compromises and sacrifices of our own ideas will have to be made more often. But it has the clear advantage that we can develop a fu ture together with which and in which we can all live well.
- Gift Designinfo
The idea of gift design was originally born in the early 2010s in a college in London while teaching fashion design. In dealing with sustainability and fashion and discussing their own values, students were given the task of going out onto the streets, approaching a complete stranger and persuading him to design and produce something especially for him. The design process is a mediator here and at the same time includes another intensive development phase: that of getting to know about design in the sense of emotional intelligence.
Here, design becomes a tool for understanding and expanding one's own horizon of "values and beliefs". Within the own process, it can expand social competences of designers and presentees, such as compassion and empathy. This requires a great deal of emotional involvement from designers, but the project was very successful and the cooperation and getting to know two strangers was seen as very enriching and valuable in this context. Gift Design can also be applied to other areas, it does not necessarily have to be someone foreign. What is important is that the design becomes a symbol for understanding and for this it must be free of its actual use, namely the developed product, which is sold at a certain price.
- Local Designinfo
Local Design, as the name suggests, refers to the return of cooperation between designers and local companies. Here the focus is on preserving the structure of the community or neighborhood and at the same time preserving traditional crafts and historical techniques. Local design can reinterpret old techniques and thus revive and secure them. But it can also conceptually link local businesses with one another and secure and promote what already exists. The advantage of local design is that short distances and communication are not only more sustainable, but also lead to faster and more effective production and can thus be reacted to and produced at short notice or even on demand. "Back to the roots".
3) Service-oriented Design
- EasyCare und Userfriendly Designinfo
Userfriendly design is a design that is easy and, above all, self-repairing. It is developed under the premise of repair and maintenance and supports the users of clothing to use the products for a long time. A prerequisite for this service-oriented approach is that spare parts are available or that a repair service is available from the companies (see Nudie Jeans, Patagonia).
- Multiple Use / Re-Use Designinfo
This design focuses on the versatile use of products. These can be products that can be converted into other items of clothing, e.g. by using zips or buttons to shorten the legs or by using a winter lining. There are also products that can be used for other purposes after wearing them, e.g. a coat that becomes a blanket by means of fasteners or inserts.
- Adaptable Design / Smart Designinfo
Intelligent design that adapts to the habits or environments of users through high-tech materials and Smart Textiles, e.g. absorbing and releasing heat in sportswear or clothing that adapts to the individual shape of the body. The extended smart function and the special benefit in addition to the actual clothing physiological properties are the focus here.
- Versatile Designinfo
Multi-functional design that allows users to have different ways of using at once, e.g. Smart Textiles, which offers rain protection and sun protection at the same time, or a built-in charger for devices in trousers, which at the same time contains additional functions, or a T-shirt, which can generate different sizes at once through inserts or folds.