On Teaching Fashion: the concept of ‘design’.

I am currently completing a project with my students surrounding the idea of ‘the design cycle.’ The aim of this unit is to get the students to identify with the concept of design and the individual processes that are undertaken to produce everything and anything that is man made and produced in this world. As I mentioned in my last post, this January I received a new group of students to work with, and our aim for the project is to identify and progress forward step by step with the research, design, refinement and creation of one outfit for our college fashion show.

In the grand scheme of the ‘design cycle’ we have as a class had some stumbling blocks along the way, and I believe this comes down again to the core skills of deeper thinking and critical evaluation. Firstly being, a student handing me a drawing of an outfit- before we even began researching and saying ‘I would like to make this.’ Lovely, I thought, however why do you want to make this? Where did the design come from? None of which could be answered. I think there is a fine line between dampening enthusiasm, which you never want to do, and discounting students’ ideas constructively. Again also another student said to me that she wished to make a pencil skirt so should she just draw all ideas with the same pencil skirt, ok I replied but; why do you want to make that?  Where has this idea come from? Any detailing on this? Pockets? Waist band features? Fabrics? Her reply next was, ‘oh I get it now’ and went away to consider and develop her ideas. Both of these examples make me reflect on enthusiasm of students, which is what every lecturer wants- ideas! I cannot fault anyone for coming up with ideas, opinions and thoughts. However deeper thinking is an art that needs improving. Dare I say it however, it is an art form that needs more focus in the creative studies.

How do you get your students to identify with the design cycle? Many sources on the internet give examples and proposals in different detail on the processes you go through in design. I particularly like this one below from ‘Design and Technology on the web‘, how it highlights thinking and also the constant evaluation throughout- not just the ‘final evaluation’ trap that many a student believes in only necessary.


I have been reading online information from ‘Stanford University Institute of design’ who have a model from there design thinking course that breaks the process down into 5 stages, empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test. There is a stage in the ‘empathise’ section (in there example this online course is completed by a pair of individuals under the theme ‘gift giving’ where they are designing a gift for each other.) where you are prompted to identify with your partner, discuss and most importantly ask ‘why’ often, alike my responses to my students. Questioning is so important in education and stimulates thinking and consolidation of learning. Stanford also breaks this first stage down into 1. Interview to gain information and 2. Dig deeper to refine details. The layout of this system I believe is very simple to follow in the processes stages. Questioning is such a key tool in relation to developing students independent thinking, using the blooms taxonomy process of knowledge, comprehension, application, analyse, synthesis and evaluation. This can help pitch questions to different students at their appropriate level.

Recently I mapped of the design cycle on my board at work with my students. Jumping around the room trying to get the students to identify with the stages they go through, without thinking most of the time. We first talked this through in relation to our work in producing fashion, and then, to their amazement I went through all the stages again and how they translated and fitted perfectly with the example of my brother being an architect and how he develops ideas for buildings. Finally, perhaps, they got it.

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