Emotionally Durable Fashion
: Theory, Practice, Process

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis critically assesses the implications of the concept of emotional durability for contemporary fashion histories, practices and discourses. By using design theorist Jonathan Chapman’s framework for emotionally durable design—an approach to sustainable product design that aims to encourage and nurture long-term relationships between users and objects—and his speculative definition of emotionally durable fashion as starting points, this research first interrogates the concept by drawing upon critical literature from fashion history, material culture, fashion studies and affect theory. Second, it applies these insights to the analysis of fashion practices from the 1990s to the present in order to identify and examine existing examples of emotionally durable fashion. In doing so, it challenges the understanding of emotionally durable fashion as a potentiality and thus aims to fill an existing gap in sustainable fashion scholarship.

In order to understand how, where and by whom emotionally durable fashion is produced, this thesis uses a range of methods, including qualitative interviews, archival research, visual analysis and practice-based research, to explore a number of practices such as fashion design, DIY practices, design activism and storytelling, and the contexts within which they emerge. In doing so, it argues that emotionally durable fashion already exists and that it includes, but is not limited to, product design, thus opening new research avenues.

By drawing on the concepts of ‘fashioning,’ ‘emotional value’ and ‘structures of feeling,’ this research proposes an understanding of emotionally durable fashion as a range of material and affective processes which produce experiences of fashion that encourage long-term emotional attachment, care, belonging and enchantment for the user/wearer. In doing so, this thesis argues, emotionally durable fashion creates structures of feeling which counter or challenge those created by dominant fashion practices and discourses, which generally rely on detachment and dissatisfaction to support the hegemony of market-driven values and the logic of planned obsolescence. This thesis therefore contributes to debates on contemporary fashion practices, fashion production and cultures of sustainability within the field of fashion studies. It also seeks to contribute to the growing subfield of sustainable fashion history and theory by building new knowledge on emotional durability in the context of contemporary fashion.
Date of AwardNov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorCheryl Buckley (Supervisor) & Jonathan Chapman (Supervisor)

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