You Should Be Reading: Fashion and the Designer

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This week, Worn Through would like to highlight a selection of articles that explore the role of the designer in the fashion process. While these articles address a wide variety of issues surrounding designers, they all focus on what it means to be a designer in the 21st century. From facing problems caused by fast-fashion to working with trade associations, and from incorporating sustainability to tackling the ever-present “art vs. commerce” debate, these five recently published articles present an array of viewpoints on the role and importance of the fashion designer. We hope you enjoy! 

1.  Laamanen, T-K., & Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P. (2014). Interview study of professional designers’ ideation approaches. The Design Journal, 17(2), 194-217.

In addressing the subject of ideation in design, this paper reports on a series of focused interviews with nine professional designers from the fields of textile, fashion and interior design. The study concentrated on the practices undertaken by the designers before they come to, or form, a tentative idea for the design project. The authors were interested in professional designers’ ways of ideating, the use of sources of inspiration and the effect of previous professional experience on ideation. During the interviews, designers reflected on their ideation phase using materials from their previous design projects. The interview data were analysed by qualitative content analysis; the classification scheme was theory and data driven. In the analysis, the authors found that designers used supporting practices (such as collecting, sketching and experimenting) and triggers (sources of inspiration, mental image and primary generator) for framing the design space. Further, the authors distinguished four approaches to ideation: graphic, material, verbal and mental. Results are discussed in the light of previous research and the needs of design education. — Paraphrased Article Abstract 

2. Leslie, D., Brail, S., and Hun, M. (2014). Crafting an antidote to fast fashion: The case of Toronto’s independent fashion design sectorGrowth and Change, 45(2), 222-239.

The fashion industry has undergone a profound transformation in business practices and production systems over the past several decades. These shifts include the globalisation of production chains and the emergence of a new model of “fast fashion.” This paper investigates the response of independent fashion designers in Toronto, Canada to the growing competition posed by fast fashion. It identifies a number of strategies utilised by designers to compete, arguing that they are increasingly adopting a new model of “slow fashion,” which opens up possibilities for forging locally and ethically based relationships in the fashion sector. — Full Article Abstract

3.  Palomo-Lovinski, N., & Hahn, K. (2014). Fashion design industry impressions of current sustainable practicesFashion Practice, 6(1), 87-106.

Sustainable practices in clothing have not, thus far, created a significant impact and instead continue to be largely marginalized within the fashion industry. The fashion industry continues to work in an inefficient manner that creates massive waste, exploits workers, and makes it increasingly difficult to make a substantial profit. There is wide disagreement among design environmentalists where energies must be focused to solve these problems. Many believe that consumers are primary instigators in change. Consumers do not understand any of the logistical or practical considerations of clothing design. Designers are, however, responsible for as much as 80 percent of any product that is introduced and have the ability to influence how fabric is sourced and how clothing is produced, cared for, and then discarded. This article explores professional fashion designers’ understanding and awareness of the current best practices in sustainable design. Thirty-five design professionals were surveyed about sustainability in fashion to assess what was missing in their education. The results are interpreted and analyzed as a basis for a new focus on curricula within the American college system and to create lasting and substantive change in the fashion. — Full Article Abstract 

4. Pedroni, M., & Volonté, P. (2014). Art seen from the outside: Non-artistic legitimation within the field of fashion designPoetics, 43, 102-119.

This article focuses on the relation between art and fashion—two fields of cultural production marked by contrasts and shifting boundaries—by investigating it in light of the perceptions of art among ordinary fashion designers. Drawing on an institutional perspective that conceives fashion and art as social fields, the authors summarize the effects produced between the two fields and outline the processes of identity formation and the legitimation of fields of cultural production. Empirical research on a sample of Milanese fashion designers allows the authors to determine whether or not fashion designers use art as a means to acquire legitimacy and to create an identity, thereby institutionalising their field of cultural production (fashion) as artistic. The authors’ argument is that identification with art is often rejected by ordinary fashion designers, who seek to legitimate their cultural production, not through art, but through a culture of wearability. The case of Milanese fashion adds breadth and depth to the theory of artification and to the production of culture theory by showing that comparison with the fine arts by actors in a field of cultural production in constant search of legitimation may come about through channels other than assimilation into the world of art. — Paraphrased Article Abstract 

5. Rantisi, N. M. (2014). Exploring the role of industry intermediaries in the construction of ‘local pipelines’: The case of the Montreal fur garment cluster and the rise of fur-fashion connections. Journal of Economic Geography, doi: 10.1093/jeg/lbu019.

The fur garment cluster in Montreal, Canada has been undergoing a gradual process of transformation in the last two decades, marked by the increasing incorporation of fashion design as a competitive strategy. This article explores the role played by a trade association intermediary, the Fur Council of Canada, to promote this design-led form of development. In particular, it examines a series of initiatives undertaken by the Fur Council in collaboration with other actors to promote greater links, or ‘local pipelines’, between the fashion and fur industries. Drawing primarily on semi-structured interviews, the article draws particular attention to efforts to reduce the cognitive distance between potential pipeline actors as a basis for pipeline construction. — Full Article Abstract


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