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Paul Yuille

Published date
03 Mar 2020

Only time enough: exploring the potential of developing a fashion strategy that uses time as a coherent factor when designing garments to have a predetermined lifetime

College: London College of Fashion
Supervisors: Professor Sandy Black, Professor Kate Fletcher


This research project is practice-based and will investigate whether the tangible lifespan of a garment can be considered in accordance to its desired lifetime. Currently, fashion garments have a finite lifespan. This is understood and accepted within contemporary fashion consumption practice; items must be discarded so that they can be replaced; new consumption means new products being produced; and so the cycle continues (Cooper, 2010)

Context and background

This investigation is being carried out using the practice of fashion design within a framework of sustainability. However, seasonal fashion cycles contribute to creating large amounts of both commercial and domestic waste; in many cases even when the garment has physical, as well as cultural, value remaining (Faurschou, 1988), it is discarded prematurely. Therefore the main aim of this study is to provide a set of sustainable design conditions that can be used to create garments that last only as long as they are required to, with the clear comprehension that ‘"all products have an impact on the environment during their life-cycle spanning all phases from cradle to grave, including the use of raw materials and natural resources, manufacturing, packaging, transport, disposal and recycling. More than 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined at the design stage." (Ecodesign, 2009).

This research will develop an understanding of how long a garment should be designed to last i.e. short or long-term. To accomplish this, a design strategy will be generated to accurately reflect the proposition, therefore the areas of interest to this study include; design process, material investigation, product obsolescence and fashion consumer behaviour. The resulting design strategy will consider both the intrinsic elements; the physical matter of the garment and the extrinsic, which looks at the external social aspects of the garment and user relationship.

The theoretical frame of this study investigates the rationale of a garment lasting for a predetermined and finite length of time; the period that the garment exists for may be longer or in some cases shorter than currently experienced. Therefore this paradigm is in many ways counter intuitive to current fashion custom, as external forces such as seasonal trends and the availability of cheap ‘new’ consumption can render a useable garment obsolete long before it fails physically. Furthermore, as each garment will be developed with an engendered conclusion, it is hoped that the timing of the garments life will accurately reflect the natural conclusion of the item; i.e. when it is no longer able to fulfil the needs of the user; emotionally or physically, it can then be harmlessly disposed of.