One of the most exciting developments to arise in sustainable fashion is the emergence of creative models of practice that bring maker and wearer closer together. Sustainable design strategies are enabling designers to shift their practice so that they can respond to and engage with the wearer. By using design strategies that embody a user-centred approach, a number of fashion labels are producing garments and / or services that require the wearer to become a necessary participant in the life cycle of a garment. This means that designers are not only transforming the way that they approach production but also they are influencing how wearers use garments.
Designer Annika Wendelboe of Swedish fashion label Matilda Wendelboe, could be considered an advocate of TED’s “Design to Replace the Need to Consume” since she is focused on developing garments that are timeless and adaptable. In a recent interview Wendelboe explained that she aspires “…to make long-lasting products. High quality fabrics of course, but also versatile designs so you, for example, can transform a jacket into a dress into a skirt and so on.” But for Wendelboe this is not the only way that the company endeavors to engage and support the wearer during use.
Figure 1: Mapping out the life cycles of a fashion garment. Promoting Life Cycle Thinking in Fashion Design, from Australian researcher, Alice Payne.
While versatility in fashion is important to Wendelboe, she is also keen to minimise waste through “Design for Recycling” and she does this by applying design strategies that resonate with TED’s “Design that Looks at Models from Nature and History”. Using materials that have been certified by Michael Braungart and William McDonough’s Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedCMprogram*, Wendelboe has developed a range of garments that have been designed for a specific end-of-life approach. For example, the biodegradable jacket can be safely composted and used as mulch at the end of its useful life, and jackets produced from the recyclable synthetic material, Nylon 6, can be returned to the company and recycled into new products using a closed loop system of production.
Figure 2: Menswear by Matilda Wendelboe. Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedCMfabrics from Pendleton Woolen Mill, and Trigema. Photo Tina Axelsson.
Designers can also use sustainable design strategies to help reduce specific environmental and / or social impacts associated with the production, use and disposal of a product. Used singularly or as a collective, each strategy has a specific aim and objective, and may work across one or several phases in the life cycle of a product. But to fully explore the synergies between sustainable design strategies it is important to understand the impacts of fashion from a life cycle perspective. This is where Wendelboe is excelling. As she brings together different strategies to address specific issues she is constantly aware that in terms of life cycle thinking a garment has a life that goes beyond the retail store.
Figure 3: The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute provides an online directory of certified materials. Visit http://c2ccertified.org/products/category/textile_fabric
The next area of investigation for Wendelboe is to explore the leasing of clothing and to further support wearers’ return used clothing back to the company for material recycling. Here Wendelboe is moving towards a model of practice that supports TED’s “Design to Dematerialise and Develop Systems and Services”, which demonstrates that designers can look for synergies between strategies so that the true potential of a shared responsibility between maker and wearer can be realised.
Figure 4: Womenswear by Matilda Wendelboe. Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedCMfabrics from Pendleton Woolen Mill, and C2C Returnity from Backhausen. Photo Tina Axelsson.
*Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedCMis a certification mark of MBDC, LLC