Today, there is no such thing as the traditional toolbox of a textile designer. A new suite of tools has evolved to provide access to digital design processes and social media channels. These resources are not restricted to the professional designer, and consumers themselves are becoming more engaged and active within the design process.
So in 2014 how does the textile designer and consumer alike, develop a design strategy and system or service, for the lifecycle of clothing? To keep things simple, they get creative.
Service design is a holistic approach that considers the needs and motivations of the end user. This often involves the designer engaging the consumer at the early stages of the design process, to better understand their behavior and motivations. This can include an observational study or a workshop, where the user is invited to offer feedback on a service prototype. Following feedback, the service design touch points can be tailored to match customer needs. This includes physical elements such as the product and its packaging, to intangibles like the retail experience and the aftercare post consumption. When combined, these elements make up what is referred to as the ‘product service system’ (PSS).
The fashion sector is broad and its stakeholders are diverse, therefore no service solution or approach can fit the needs of every consumer. Three examples are shared below, each offering a different service; (1) storytelling, (2) making and skill sharing and (3) swapping and bartering.
A good example of a store that invites shoppers to interact as much with the brand as the products themselves is the Swedish fashion brand Monki. Its interior design concept is based around immersing consumers in the otherworldly fictional ‘Monki Universe’. Each store is different and brings to life alternative Monki landscapes with animated characters, providing their shoppers with spaces that inspire and trigger imagination, making shoppers more receptive to their quirky and unusual clothing. This point of difference has enabled the brand to diversify within a crowded fast fashion market place. The brands are mindful of the associated impacts of ‘fast fashion’, and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy addresses this through its selection of materials and garment production within the supply chains.
This unique approach to designing consumer interactions is even more interesting from a sustainable design perspective. The fictional 'Monki World' is connected through a user-driven approach to enrich the customer’s physical shopping experience under global context, by taking advantage of social media to build a close relationship with consumers. For example, they encourage customers to share photographs of their clothing using social media (#monkistyle) and this user generated content is showcased within a section on their website.
(2) Making and Skill Sharing
Wool and the Gang is a new start up established by two former Central Saint Martins textile graduates Aurelie Popper and Jade Harwood, in partnership with fashion model Elisabeth Sabrier. This web-based peer-to-peer production service applies a holistic approach to consider the sustainability credentials and lifecycle of their knitwear. They work with fashion factories to repurpose their fashion waste into new yarns to reduce landfill. All of their items are handmade in the home by their global network of knitters. Alternatively, customers knit it themselves by purchasing a Do It Yourself (DIY) knitting pattern or kit complete with yarn and needles. Their goal is to bring back knitting as a viable means of mass production. Social media plays a powerful role within their business model and is effectively promoting knitting to a new generation.
(3) Swapping and Bartering
ThredUP, is a web-based peer-to-peer clothing exchange service for consumers to swap clothes inexpensively and efficiently. After an initial launch for men and women, user feedback highlighted that this provided a valuable solution for kids, with children out growing their clothing every 3-6 months. They describe their service in four simple steps; pick, pay, prepare and send. Via their online platform select a box of clothing you’d love to receive for your child (from another member), then pay for shipping, prepare and list a box of clothing your child has outgrown, and send it out once someone selects it.
Each of these examples demonstrate that new start-ups are experimenting with their business model to incorporate service design features and embed sustainable design values. As a result, the design process is becoming more transparent and this does not stop at the finished product. Service design offers a strategic approach to sustain consumer engagement for a longer period of time. And social media is providing a powerful medium to support innovative new marketing approaches by connecting the consumer directly to the designer.
So what does this mean for todays textiles designer? They must think outside of the box and be innovative in their ideas. The days of designing and making in isolation are over; consumers are actively interested and engaged in knowing how things are made and how they can get involved. The textile designer should no longer just be focused on creating things. Instead, they should recognise that it is about how things are created, and then re-created and re-used, to be re-packaged and then re-considered as new designs altogether. This is an exciting time to be a designer; no longer are we faced with a linear lonely process in isolation of one another. But instead we are connected to our environment in ways that have never been possible before. Just think of the possibilities.
Wool and the Gang https://www.woolandthegang.com