Using human-centred sustainable design strategies to reconfigure waste as an asset in the fashion textile value chain
Chelsea College of Art
Textile and fashion designers, like all designers, are currently facing a challenge concerning their role and their value to society. The textile and fashion industries have huge environmental and social impacts, at all stages of the lifecycle of textiles, with 1.8 million tonnes of clothing and textiles going to landfill each year in the UK (Allwood et al 2006).
While businesses and some designers have begun to change their view of sustainability, from a focus on abiding by existing regulations and laws, toward a more anticipatory and forward-looking approach that sees sustainability as a driver for innovation, many fashion and textile designers have maintained a limited set of ‘sustainability’ strategies that are focussed at the product/processes level, while missing the opportunities for designing services and systems that can transform or disrupt existing systems.
For designers, the complexity of these challenges requires a more sophisticated set of skills including ‘design thinking’ (Brown 2008) and a broadening of the role of the designer to include the ‘designer as activist’ and/or the ‘designer as facilitator’ (Fletcher and Grose 2012).
This PhD project is part of Textile Environment Design's (TED) research under the MISTRA Future Fashion project which is aiming for “systemic change in the Swedish fashion industry….while strengthening the competitiveness of the industry”. This PhD project will explore textile design intervention in a fashion textile value chain to bring about change through utilising a range of sustainable design strategies.
The design strategies will be based on and developed from TED’s ten strategies that are the central tool/method being used within the MISTRA project to “explore how sustainable design processes can be created and embedded within fashion companies (and gain the participation of the consumer)” (Earley 2011). This PhD project will operate alongside this research, focusing specifically on the reuse of textile waste, the opportunities for social benefits in this re-use process and the role of the designer as an activist/facilitator.
As well as exploring how the designer can re-configure waste as an asset in a supply chain, the project will explore a framework for measuring the ‘social impacts’ of the proposed design intervention and ways to build in new models or systems from the outset that create social benefits.