Fashion design for longevity
: design strategies and their implementation in practice

  • Anja Connor-Crabb

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This doctoral research is situated in the field of fashion design for sustainability. It consists of three phases fieldwork to answer the question: How can designers be supported in designing garments with extended lifetimes? The aim of this inquiry is to provide parameters for framing longevity as a strategy for sustainability in fashion. 
Design for longevity stands in stark contrast to the dominant and highly profitable model of fast fashion. These items are mass-produced, sold at low prices and linked to environmental degradation. Despite arguably being the most effective means of reducing environmental impacts, there are significant gaps in knowledge relating to garment longevity in practice.
The first of three distinct but interlinked phases of research therefore consists of case studies to investigate how design strategies for longevity are manifest within these exemplary fashion micro-enterprises. The results are distilled into nine categories which describe ways of framing design for extended garment lifetimes. The findings were developed into a prism graphic, providing a philosophical foundation for integrating design-led approaches to extended clothing lifetimes as part of a sustainability portfolio. 
The subsequent phase of research investigated user factors affecting clothing lifetimes. Qualitative interviews with customers from a participating case study organisation provided in-depth data elucidating the complex interplay between material objects, cultural norms and individual personal factors. It became clear that the design of a garment alone is significantly less influential in affecting the length of its use period than previously assumed. 
In order for knowledge from Phases 1 and 2 of fieldwork to be applied inpractice, it is important that it is appropriately disseminated. The third and final phase of fieldwork addresses this need, as previous literature described an abundance of design toolkits but only few are successfully adopted in practice. 
It was found that guides developed together with an industry partner can provide gravitas and real-world context; also, that the flexibility and openness to change as evident within micro-enterprises, young businesses, or educational institutions is conducive to their success. 
In summary, the three core contributions to knowledge made by this thesis are:
(1) Philosophical foundations towards clothing longevity. (2) Evidence supporting the individual and social factors affecting clothing lifetimes, which include but exceed the designable characteristics of a garment. (3) Factors affecting toolkit uptake and success.
Overall, the contribution to knowledge provides greater clarity in relation to sustainable design practices for industry.

Supervisors: Chapman, J. & Miller, K.
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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