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Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts

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This article discusses the extent it is possible to delay clothing disposal through improved design, thus reducing negative environmental impacts. This has been done by including user centered design methods into more traditional quantitative consumer research to give new insights for design. Empirical data on reasons for disposal of 620 clothing items from 35 persons in 16 Norwegian households was collected. In total, 70 different disposal reasons were registered, which were combined into seven main categories. Changes in garments as well as size and fit issues dominated, while functional, situational, taste, and fashion related reasons were less common. The article concludes with design solutions on four levels related to the important disposal reasons including product design (material and shape), service design, and systems design, but also shows that consumer behaviour is crucial. In addition, the combination of results obtained with various qualitative and quantitative methods proved to be suitable for giving rich data that can be used to drive design research forward.
Content may be subject to copyright. 93 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Our modern Western society consumes large amounts of
resources, and there is a seemingly endless stream of new
products available. Textiles and clothing production is among the
industries that contribute most negatively to environmental and
social aspects of sustainability (Madsen, Hartlin, Perumalpillai,
Selby, & Aumônier, 2007). Textiles production and consumption
combined contributes to 3% of global CO2 equivalent emissions
(Carbon Trust, 2011). This article addresses the potential of
design to substantially reduce environmental impacts related to
clothing consumption. The research employed a multidisciplinary
approach which included design sciences, natural sciences, social
sciences, and cultural studies. The results of this research show
that this reduction may take place during any stage in the lifecycle
of clothing, including at the systems design level (Fletcher, 2008).
In the past couple of decades a considerable number of studies
have addressed the potential for reducing the environmental
impact in the phases before products reach the consumer,
including the production and transportation phases, as well as
the post-consumer phase through recycling and re-designing
of the discarded textiles (Morley, Bartlett, & McGill, 2009;
Morley, Slater, Russell, Tipper, & Ward, 2006). Recently there
has been increased focus on the “use” stage. To reduce negative
environmental impacts in the use stage, research largely goes
in two directions: How to diminish the total amount of textiles
in circulation through expanding the life of the existing textiles
and re-using the products (Cooper et al., 2013; Fletcher, 2012;
Jørgensen et al., 2006; Madsen, Hartlin, Perumalpillai, Selby, &
Aumônier, 2007), and how to reduce the consumption of energy,
water, and chemicals during the use including laundering and
drying of clothes within households (Bain et al., 2009; Laitala,
Boks, & Klepp, 2011; Pakula & Stamminger, 2010).
This article discusses the possibility of delaying clothing
disposal through improved design, consequently increasing the
active use period. Most existing research on clothing disposal
is measured either through quantitative surveys (Bianchi &
Birtwistle, 2012; Domina & Koch, 2002; Hibbert, Horne, & Tagg,
2005; Joung & Park-Poaps, 2013; Lang, Armstrong, & Brannon,
2013; Shim, 1995) or qualitatively (Albinsson & Perera, 2009;
Cluver, 2008; Ha-Brookshire & Hodges, 2009; Klepp, 2001).
By triangulating user-centered design methods of data collection
into more traditional ways of quantitative consumer research,
the authors sought to achieve richer data that would bring new
insights for design. In this article, we use the word design in its
broad sense, not only the direct forming of clothing, but also the
design of services or systems around clothing consumption.
Firstly, the article presents some background information
on sustainable clothing consumption and design, secondly a
section on methods used for collection of the empirical data.
The analysis of the data then provides input to a discussion
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing
the Environmental Impacts
Kirsi Laitala 1, 2, *, Casper Boks 2, and Ingun Grimstad Klepp 1
1 National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Oslo, Norway
2 Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
This article discusses the extent it is possible to delay clothing disposal through improved design, thus reducing negative environmental
impacts. This has been done by including user centered design methods into more traditional quantitative consumer research to give
new insights for design. Empirical data on reasons for disposal of 620 clothing items from 35 persons in 16 Norwegian households was
collected. In total, 70 different disposal reasons were registered, which were combined into seven main categories. Changes in garments
as well as size and t issues dominated, while functional, situational, taste, and fashion related reasons were less common. The article
concludes with design solutions on four levels related to the important disposal reasons including product design (material and shape),
service design, and systems design, but also shows that consumer behaviour is crucial. In addition, the combination of results obtained with
various qualitative and quantitative methods proved to be suitable for giving rich data that can be used to drive design research forward.
Keywords – Clothing Design, Consumer Behavior, Lifespan, Sustainable Design.
Relevance to Design Practice – The article has both practical and methodological relevance. It suggests several design strategies to
prolong clothing lifecycles and reduce the environmental impact based on a new methodological combination of user research.
Citation: Laitala, K., Boks, C., & Klepp, I. G. (2015). Making clothing last: A design approach for reducing the environmental impacts. International Journal of Design, 9(2),
Received Sept. 25, 2013; Accepted Nov. 3, 2014; Published August 31, 2015.
Copyright: © 2015 Laitala, Boks, and Klepp. Copyright for this article is retained
by the authors, with rst publication rights granted to the International Journal
of Design. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. By virtue
of their appearance in this open-access journal, articles are free to use, with proper
attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.
*Corresponding Author: 94 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
of potential design strategies. A summary, conclusions and
recommendations for relevant stakeholders, as well as an outlook
conclude this article.
Sustainable Clothing Consumption
and Design
Pettersen (2013) argues that design can contribute to changing
consumer behaviour in a more sustainable direction. In order to
understand the dynamics of the activities and the potential for
change she combined several theories, including practice theory
and system innovation theory, with a multi-layered sociotechnical
transformation perspective (Geels, 2004; Reckwitz, 2002; Rip &
Kemp, 1998; Schatzki, 2001). Pettersen concludes that the social
practices can be used as a measuring unit to quantify the dynamics
of private consumption, and can be used as a starting point by
those who wish to contribute to changes in practices through
design. Correspondingly, in this article our starting point is the
various consumer practices related to clothing consumption that
are covered by the acquisition, use, and disposal phases. Most
literature on clothing consumption concentrates on the acquisition
phase, where consumers’ selection of more sustainable products
is discussed. This article uses the two latter stages as a starting
point and connects sustainable design to clothing use and disposal
practices. It is also important to note that each of the consumption
stages inuences the other stages. For example, the amount of
clothing a person acquires inuences how much each garment is
used, and if garments are not properly taken care of, they can end
up sooner in the disposal phase.
There are numerous design strategies for making clothing
consumption more sustainable. For example, the Textiles,
Environment, Design (TED, n.d.) project proposes ten sustainable
design strategies for textile and fashion designers:
1. Design to Minimise Waste
2. Design for Recycling / Upcycling
3. Design to Reduce Chemical Impacts
4. Design to Reduce Energy and Water Use
5. Design that Explores Clean / Better Technologies
6. Design that Looks at Models from Nature & History
7. Design for Ethical Production
8. Design to Replace the Need to Consume
9. Design to Dematerialise and Develop Systems & Services
10. Design Activism: leave behind the product and work
creatively with the consumers and society at large.
Another example is a co-design toolkit for sustainable
fashion design and consumption that facilitates positive behaviour
(Hur, Beverley, & Cassidy, 2013). It includes six design and use
patterns with several examples of each.
1. Choice: e.g., choice of use of resources in production and
ways of use (wear, care, dispose).
2. Optimisation: e.g., cradle-to-cradle thinking, zero-waste
and rethinking alternatives such as swap and share services.
3. Empowerment: propose solutions that satisfy
psychological and social needs, such as personalisation.
4. Persuasion: ways to motivate people, e.g., providing
information or rewards.
5. Interaction: patterns in user-product relationships, such
as behaviour feedback and sensory effects.
6. Social conversation: enables changes through social
learning, use of open-source, creative communities and
ways of living.
Also Niinimäki and Hassi (2011) present design strategies
that can be used in promoting sustainable consumption of textiles.
Strategies related to extending the life span of clothing include
increasing product durability through higher quality and informing
the consumers about the expected lifetime, using emotional
attachment to increase product satisfaction, customization, as
well as co-creation. Some of these strategies were presented to
consumers to evaluate their opinion on the possibilities. Niinimäki
and Hassi conclude that consumers were most positive to the
solutions that they are most familiar with and that already exist
to some degree, but that a combination of design strategies might
improve efciency.
Design for durability consists of improving the physical
and technical robustness of garments as well as addressing the
emotional and expressive qualities they can provide for consumers.
This may lead to extended use and a longer functioning cycle
(Fletcher, 2008; Hethorn & Ulasewicz, 2008). Fletcher (2012)
points out, in her study of garment use practices in the Local
Wisdom project, the garments that were used for a long time were
not really intended to be special during the design phase, but
became so in unintentional ways and often because the user took
better care of them. This indicates the importance of both sides
Kirsi Laitala is a researcher at the Technology and Environment group at
the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, where she has been
working with textiles and clothing research and testing for 13 years. She
gained her MSc degree in textile, clothing and bre engineering from Tampere
University of Technology in 2001, and completed a PhD at the Department
of Product Design at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
in 2014. Laitala has researched and published on areas related to clothing
quality, maintenance, safety, environmental issues, design, as well as t and
size issues, including reports industry as well as scientic journal articles. Her
current research interest lies within sustainable clothing consumption. She uses
interdisciplinary research methods that often combine technical laboratory based
tests with consumer studies, as well as qualitative and quantitative methods. A
list of her scientic publications can be found at
Casper Boks is Professor in Sustainable Product Design at the Department of
Product Design, Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU) since 2007. Previously he was
Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at Delft
University of Technology (PhD in 2002). He holds a Master degree in Applied
Econometrics (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 1995). His research interests
include sustainable product innovation and education in general, and currently
focus on design for sustainable behaviour, sustainable design for non-western
cultural contexts, and organisational, managerial and stakeholder conditions for
successful implementation of sustainable product innovation.
Ingun Grimstad Klepp wrote her MA and PhD on leisure time and outdoor life
at the University of Oslo. She is a research professor at the National Institute
for Consumer Research in Oslo with research on sustainable textile, clothing,
laundry, and leisure consumption. She has written numerous articles and
books of these themes. She currently works with wool, both with consumption
and questions regarding the value chain. The relationship between textiles,
social and physical characteristics and how these are woven together is at
the core of her interest. In autumn 2013 she published a book about wool in
Norwegian. For more information, please see homepages:
page/Staff/10443/48249-10600.html or
projects/Wool/index.html. 95 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
of durability, the material side is needed as a starting point, but
product attachment is needed for the user to keep on using and
taking care of the garment.
Physical durability is often connected to clothing quality,
but consumers perceive clothing quality to include also other
features that can be either concrete, objectively measurable facts,
or abstract, subjective features. They evaluate these qualities based
on extrinsic, intrinsic, aesthetic and performance cues such as
price, brand, bre content, and how fabric feels (Hines & Swinker,
2001). The denition of quality in ISO 9000 (2005) is the “degree
to which a set of inherent characteristics fulls requirements.”
Consequently, quality is a question of degree. High quality can
be achieved if all inherent characteristics meet the requirements,
while the opposite is true for low quality. However, for clothing
there are not that many ofcial requirements. Legislation can be
found for labelling of bre content and care labelling, as well as
requirements for chemical content and production conditions,
and some safety features especially on children’s clothing,
but these requirements vary greatly between countries. Since
almost no clothing includes information about expected lifespan,
consumers’ evaluation of durability is mainly based on cues that
do not directly reect it, such as price or brand (Laitala & Klepp,
2013). Rahman (2012) has tested how young female consumers
evaluate quality and price level of jeans when no brand or price
information is given. These consumers developed expectations
of product durability based on visual evaluations of the fabric
and stitches, as well as tactile evaluations of hand feel and the
stretchiness of the material. In many cases they managed to
guess the price level of jeans, and assumed the high price jeans
to be of better quality. However, no quality tests of the jeans
were performed and, therefore, it is not known how correct their
evaluations were.
A consumer survey in ve European countries showed that
consumers assume high quality to be an important environmental
measure, as they perceived buying fewer clothes and extending
the length of use by repairing clothing to be environmentally
preferable measures compared to buying eco-labelled clothing
or reducing laundering (Austgulen, 2013). At the same time,
research on fast fashion clothing lifespans showed that most of the
informants thought that low price justies lower clothing quality
and shorter lifespans (Collett, Cluver, & Chen, 2013).
This short review suggests that several sustainable clothing
design strategies exist. However, there is limited research on their
connection to clothing lifespans and consumers’ clothing use and
disposal practices, and no empirical data connecting all these
aspects were found. Therefore, this article seeks to nd empirical
data on clothing disposal reasons that affect lifespans, and identify
design strategies that could increase the active use period of
clothing and postpone the disposal phase. In the following section,
the empirical data collection method is presented.
Research Methods
The research presented in this article has been part of a
nationally funded project on clothing research. Within this
project information was collected about consumers’ experiences,
opinions, and practices concerning clothing use, maintenance
routines (washing, drying, and ironing) and disposal practices. In
this article we aim to connect the results from clothing lifespans
and disposal reasons to potential design solutions.
Wardrobe Studies
Wardrobe study is a methodological approach that combines
methods such as qualitative research interviews, eld work,
inventories, and laboratory testing. It often includes an inventory
of wardrobe contents, either complete or partial, and enables us to
analyse the material and symbolic properties of clothing, as well
as the relationship between the clothes and their users (Klepp &
Bjerck, 2014). Our study included 35 persons from 16 Norwegian
households who stored all clothes that were to be taken out of use
during a period of six months. A total of 620 clothing items were
collected and registered for the study. One or two representatives
of the households were interviewed about the use and disposal
reasons of each item, including how long and how much they have
used the items, and why they stopped using or, in some cases,
never started using the garments. On average, each participant
stopped using 18 garments, but the gure varied from 0 to 71
items per person. Together with the garments, this interview
material is used as the empirical starting point of the analysis.
Lockton, Harrison, Cain, Stanton, and Jennings (2013) suggest
that behavioural heuristics involving problem-solution pairs can
be used to link the insight from user research to possible design
strategies. In their methodology, if using interviews the designer
approaches the relevant question by asking the informants a series
of “why” questions to get their behavioural reasons, and then
suggested design solutions for each reason. Our approach was
similar, but we have usually asked “why” question only once or
twice for each garment to keep the interview length limited to few
minutes per garment.
Informants were selected from respondents that had
answered to an earlier quantitative survey within the same project,
and agreed to be contacted for further interviews. The aim was to
select informants in different life situations and of different age,
gender, civil status, family size, and so on. Three main groups of
households were chosen:
1. Young adults age between 18 and 35 that are either single
or couples, but not living with parents anymore and do
not have own children.
2. Families with children below the age of 16.
3. Adults above the age of 55, who are either retired or
approaching retirement, and have no small children
living at home.
Based on the earlier survey answers, it was also known that
these informants had different economic situations and varying
levels of interest in clothes, fashion, and environmental issues.
The 16 households included 8 children, 2 teenagers, 16 women,
and 9 men. In addition to the main informants in each household,
three of the cohabitants/spouses were interviewed, two female and
one male, resulting in 19 interviews. The background information
of the main informant of each household is given in Table 1. The
interviews were recorded, transcribed, coded in Excel and nally
analysed with SPSS software. Quotations from the interviews are
given with age and a ctional name assigned to the respondent. 96 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
The collected clothing items were studied further in a
textile laboratory. All garments that were given to the study were
registered with the following information:
Type of garment
Fabric structure (woven or knitted)
Fibre content (if no label, a qualied guess was made in
easy cases)
Care label content
Country of origin (when given)
Changes (e.g., pilling, stains, holes, broken seams,
dimension, or colour changes)
Repairs or other adjustments
Home/handmade or not
In addition, some technical laboratory tests were
performed. Garments that were disposed of due to properties
that were suitable for technical testing such as amount of pilling
and degree of colour change were evaluated in order to quantify
the technical quality. The pilling grade was evaluated based on
grading given in standard EN ISO 12945-2 (2000), and colour
change was evaluated according to ISO 105-A02 (1993). Both of
the standards use a scale form of one to ve, where ve is best (no
pilling or colour change).
The sample was strategically selected, also called judgement or
purposeful sampling, meaning that the informants were actively
hand-picked in such a way that it maximizes the chance that
many different and even conicting sides of the phenomenon in
question are encountered (Eneroth, 1984; Marshall, 1996). The
distribution of respondents is by no means representative of the
population, but the wide selection criteria provide examples
of different consumers who are suited to discuss the project’s
research questions. Furthermore, the over representation of
women may accurately reect that clothing-related practices
such as purchase, maintenance and making nal decisions on
discarding may be unevenly distributed between males and
females in most households.
Although informants were questioned about each of the
disposed garments, some information is still missing, as not all
informants remembered how old some garments were, and in some
cases when a large number of garments were to be disposed of and
the interview extended over several hours, there was not time to
register all aspects as detailed as planned. This was especially the
case with children’s clothing, when there were heaps of clothing
and they were all to be disposed of mainly because the child had
outgrown them. In these cases, the informants did not necessarily
also say that the garments had other deciencies such as holes or
stains, or specify the use period of each item. Often they said at
least once during the interview that the child usually used clothing
for one season.
The Involvement of Design Schools
The research project involved three design schools from different
countries as partners; Chelsea School of Art & Design, Oslo
National Academy of the Arts, and The Swedish School of
Textiles. Students were given a task to design solutions to some
of the sustainability challenges based on the rst initial project’s
research results on disposal reasons, as well as general education
on how the different phases in the life-cycle of clothing effects
the overall environmental footprint. Students got too choose their
topics freely. Many of them chose to include the environmental
aspect to their graduation projects, and some of these designs
are presented here as an example of how designers worked with
these issues.
Overview of Clothing
Disposal Reasons
Informants talked freely about their use of garments that were
to be disposed of, and no disposal reason categories were given
beforehand. In total, 70 different reasons were registered. On
average, each garment was given 1.7 different disposal reasons,
and at maximum, ve different reasons. Research on product
disposal practices in general differentiates between absolute and
relative obsolescence (Cooper, 2004). Absolute obsolescence
means that the product has failed and is no longer usable. Relative
obsolescence applies to products that are still functional, but
discarded for some other reasons. In the literature, the main
categories generally used for distinguishing between reasons for
disposal are 1) functional: replaced by products with improved
Table 1. Main informants’ background information.
Property Variables Main informants
Women 13
Men 3
20-34 8
35-49 6
50+ 2
No children 7
Parents to small children 7
Parents (adult children) 2
Relationship status
Single/living alone 6
Living with partner 10
Area of living
Oslo 8
Neighbour counties to Oslo 5
Trondheim area 3
Vocational 1
Bachelor level 6
Graduate level 9
Employment situation
Working a12
Student b3
Retired 1
Note: a Three of them only work part time; b All three students had also part
time jobs. 97 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
utility or expression, 2) quality: product failure, or wear and tear,
3) psychological: also called symbolic obsolescence, and 4) new
consumer needs or desires (Heiskanen, 1996; Kostecki, 1998;
Packard, 1960; Strandbakken, 1997; van Nes & Cramer, 2006).
We decided to use a large number of descriptions to classify the
different disposal reasons that apply to clothing, before grouping
them into seven main categories. The distribution and grouping
of disposal reasons is given in Table 2. In this article, the disposal
reasons are given mainly as weighted results. That means that if
the owner gave four different reasons for disposing a garment,
each of the reasons is given 0.25 points, instead of each receiving
one point (i.e., each garment gets a total of one point).
Table 2. Grouping and division of clothing disposal reasons.
Disposal reasons in each group
Points % Points %
Changes in garments 41 40
Hole or tear 112 18 77.5 13
Looks very used or worn 42 7 20.7 3
Stains (not sweat) 35 6 22.5 4
Worn out 34 5 18.4 3
Colour change or fading 29 5 12.8 2
Lost elasticity 24 4 10.3 2
Shape changed (dimensional change) 21 3 13.3 2
Pilling 17 3 7.4 1
Discoloration - bleeding from other garments 15 2 7.3 1
Broken seam or sewing failure 15 2 7.3 1
Shrinkage (dimensional change) 12 2 7.2 1
Broken zipper 11 2 6.3 1
Material has become thin 10 2 4.2 1
Washed out 10 2 3.7 1
Sweat smell 9 1 5.6 1
Failed mending or repair 8 1 3.0 0
Stains of sweat 7 1 4.2 1
Print faded 7 1 4.0 1
Yellowing 7 1 3.3 1
Threads drawn out 6 1 3.1 0
Broken decorations 3 0 2.5 0
Felting 3 0 1.3 0
Bra underwire broken or bent 2 0 1.3 0
Fuzzing 2 0 1.0 0
Fabric became harder 2 0 0.8 0
Buttons missing 1 0 0.3 0
Spirality 1 0 0.3 0
Size and t issues 26 30
Too small – grown out of it 143 23 111 .4 18
Fit – length 31 5 15.1 2
Too big – always been 27 4 16.5 3
Too small – always been 24 4 16.2 3
Fit – general or not specied 22 4 10.0 2
Fit – waist 11 2 4.2 1
Disposal reasons in each group
Points % Points %
Fit – hips 6 1 3.1 0
Will outgrow soon or before next season 4 1 1.8 0
Fit – shoulders 4 1 1.7 0
Fit – bust 3 0 2.0 0
Fit – collar 3 0 1.0 0
Too big – lost weight 2 0 0.6 0
Taste related unsuitability 12 11
Dislike of design or shape 44 7 23.5 4
Not own style 26 4 13.7 2
Dislike of colour 22 4 11.4 2
Does not use that type of garments 20 3 7.2 1
Dislike of pattern or print 15 2 8.8 1
Does not like – unspecied 4 1 2.3 0
Situational reasons 8 7
Have several similar or better garments 71 11 35.7 6
No occasions to use it 6 1 2.7 0
Does not t with other clothes 5 1 2.3 0
Change in life situation 4 1 1.4 0
Someone else needed it 1 0 0.5 0
Functional shortcomings 6 5
Material not good 15 2 7.0 1
Uncomfortable (physical) 14 2 4.2 1
Unpractical 10 2 4.2 1
Too wrinkled, has fold marks or would need ironing 7 1 3.4 1
Too warm 6 1 1.8 0
Rolls up 4 1 2.5 0
Static electricity 2 0 2.0 0
Itches 2 0 1.3 0
Not water resistant 2 0 0.8 0
Does not fall nicely 2 0 0.6 0
Buttons or zipper do not stay closed 1 0 1.0 0
Functional failure 1 0 0.5 0
Too cold 1 0 0.2 0
(Continued on next page.) 98 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
The most common disposal reason was that the user had
grown out of the garment (18%). This was followed by holes and
tears (13%), and having similar or better garments (6%). Then dislike
of design or shape (4%), stains (4%), and worn out look (3%).
In some cases, the grouping of disposal reasons into
the main categories was not straightforward. For example,
“Own style has changed” was categorised as “Fashion or style
changes”, but it could also have been categorised as “Taste related
unsuitability.” In the separation between these two main groups
the meaning of change was emphasised. In the taste related main
category, the owner never liked the product, whereas in “fashion
and style changes”, the product has been used and liked before,
but goes out of use because there has been a change. This change
is often related to cultural aspects such as fashion, even though the
owner might not be that aware of it. For example, one informant
explained that it was no longer her style to use a short skirt made
of old jeans. These types of garments were fashionable in the time
period she used it.
In Figure 1 the main groups of disposal reasons are
separated between children and teens, and adult men and women.
The results show that material properties of the clothes dominate
when the informants describe their reasons to stop using clothing.
Nearly half of the clothing for adults had changed appearance.
The most common change was that the garment had a hole or
was torn (22%), followed by generally worn appearance (15%).
The next largest main group was related to problems with size
and t, either that the owners had grown out of their clothing,
or that the clothing never tted well to start with. This group
does not include cases where clothing has changed dimensions,
as these belong to the group of changes in garments. The third
biggest group comprised different taste related preferences, e.g.,
that clothing has a style or colour that the user does not like, or a
print that the user does not want to promote, such as commercial
t-shirts received from different businesses. The fourth group
includes different situational reasons, e.g., the owner having
several similar or better garments, or that the life situation has
changed. Typical changes in life situation were changing jobs,
becoming retired or not being pregnant anymore, thus having a
change in needs for clothing. The fth group is called functional
shortcomings. This group includes garments that are described as
unpractical, uncomfortable (physically), itching or not warm or
waterproof enough for the intended use. Fashion does not come
up until the sixth and second to last group, which shows that 4%
of garments are disposed of because they are out of fashion or
otherwise outdated. The same main group includes changes in
own style (3%), as it can be connected to changes in fashion, even
though the respondents may not be aware of it. These results partly
conrm those of three other studies on clothing disposal reasons,
as they also had wear and tear as the most important category
(Collett et al., 2013; Klepp, 2001; Ungerth & Carlsson, 2011).
However, the order of importance of the other categories varies,
and another study on young female students’ clothing disposal
reasons indicates that fashion was a more important reason for
them (Chun, 1987).
Table 2. Grouping and division of clothing disposal reasons
Disposal reasons in each group
Points % Points %
Fashion or style changes 4 4
Fashion change or outdated 25 4 16.2 3
Own style changed 19 3 7.7 1
Bored with the garment 1 0 1.0 0
Other or unknown 2 4
Unknown 15 2 14.5 2
Other 4 1 3.3 1
Missing pair 4 1 3.0 0
Lacks sentimental value 2 0 1.0 0
Figure 1. Clothing disposal reasons for adult men and women, and children and teenagers (N = number of clothing items). 99 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
When examining the clothing that went out of use because
of fashion, the type of garments plays a role. No underwear, socks,
stockings or nightwear were disposed of because of fashion.
Fashion was a more important reason for trousers and jeans, where
it was mentioned in 11% of the cases, and for jackets and other
outerwear (10%), than other types of garments. Four out of ve
socks and stockings were disposed of due to physical changes, the
next biggest reason being size and t (mainly children’s clothing).
Size and t issues were dominant for trousers, skirts, dresses
and jackets.
The material from 16 households is relatively limited. It is
not possible to generalise which demographic variables determine
the different disposal habits. The results of this study suggest that
teenagers may more often dispose of clothing based on fashion
than the other age groups: this is consistent with other studies
(Storm-Mathisen & Klepp, 2006). It should be noted, though, that
the teenagers did not give their own disposal reasons, instead they
were given by their parents. Our results also indicate that families
with higher income mention fashion more often than families with
average income, and families with low income mentioned it least.
The largest differences between women’s and men’s
disposal reasons are found in the group size and t, which was
mentioned in 22% of cases by women, as opposed to 10% by the
men interviewed. Otherwise the distribution between gender and
the other disposal reason groups is very similar.
As expected, children’s clothing was most often given
away because children had outgrown the clothing. Otherwise
the distribution of disposal reasons was similar to that of adults’
clothing. Changes in garments were the second most frequent
reason, whereas each of the other groups made up less than 10%
of cases.
Examples of interaction between the different categories
were observed. For example, garments could be disposed of due
to situational reasons, e.g., that the user has too many similar
products. At the same time, there needs to be some intrinsic product
related properties that prompt the disposal of a particular product
that makes it less desirable to keep than other similar products,
e.g., that it starts to look worn. In addition, the personality of the
user is important; a hoarder could for example decide to keep
the garment despite lack of storage space, while a person who is
interested in environmental matters would be more likely to give
it to someone else for reuse.
In the following section we will rst give two examples
of clothing registrations that show the type of rich data that can
be acquired through use of wardrobe methods, and how different
aspects have affected clothing lifespans and the amount of clothing
that is used. Examples include a picture of the garment, excerpts
from the interview transcripts, information on how the garment
is registered, a diagram of the lifespan, and a brief analysis of
improvement potential and design implications. Based on these
examples, design recommendations are given.
Example 1: Emma’s Bathrobe with Long
Life-cycle Despite of Many Shortcomings
Here 30-years old Emma explains how she has used her bathrobe
(Figure 2), and why she now wants to dispose of it:
This is my old bathrobe. I have had it since I was maybe 14 or
something like that. And I’ve never been very satised with it,
because it is not very comfortable. It’s a bit stiff and like that....
And it’s a little too short on the sleeves. And it’s not particularly
warm (laughs). So the only thing it does is cover up. But that’s
not the type of garment you want to use for wandering around the
apartment. So therefore I wanted a new bathrobe for Christmas.
Things take their time. I’ve used it a lot but..., Then I had to wear
long johns under it if I was going to wear it, so.... And before I got
the new one I used to use Erik’s when I was alone. (Comes with the
new bathrobe.) I wouldn’t have chosen this colour myself. So my
mom has chosen this colour for me. But it is very lovely and warm.
I had probably given the old one to charity. It is clean and does
not have any holes or tears or anything like that. It is not exactly
something I think they would earn much money on, and it might
not be what they need most either, but I... I do not give damaged
clothing to charity, but they can make the decision themselves
whether they need it or not. I used it until last Christmas.
The garment was registered as a white medium-sized
bathrobe of 100% cotton. According to care instructions, it can be
washed with similar colours at 60°C. The analysis of the condition
of the garment showed that the material looked rather worn and
had some discolorations. Colour change was evaluated to grade
4 on a scale from 1 to 5, where grade 5 is best (no changes)
according to ISO standard 105-A02 (1993). The changes may be
caused by washing with non-white clothing. The bathrobe has also
quite visible yellow stains, especially around the neck area. It had
some loose threads and in some areas the terry loop threads had
disappeared. The hanging loop had unravelled. The garment had
no noticeable shrinking, pilling, or repairs. Overall changes and
wear were evaluated to grade 3, which means noticeable changes
but still usable. However, it is uncertain whether the charity
organisation would have accepted it for reuse, as it did have
staining and showed clear signs of wear. The garment lifespan
given in Figure 3 indicates the major stages of use of the garment.
During this time, the bathrobe had not been used as much as it
could have, as it was not warm enough on its own, and Emma
sometimes preferred to use her boyfriend’s bathrobe instead.
Figure 2. Emma’s bathrobe. 100 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
Sixteen years use period is over ten years longer than the
average lifespan of garments in this study. It is not known whether
Emma had bought the garment herself, or if she received it as a
present. It is more common to give this kind of garments such as
nightwear as a present than many other types of garments that have
more specic t requirements. It might be that she would have
chosen a different bathrobe herself, with longer sleeves and softer
material, or that she had not noticed these shortcomings during the
clothing acquisition if she bought it herself. It is uncertain if these
properties could have been improved during production, as they
are related to the individual user’s preferences. Properties related
to increasing the durability could have been improved at the
production stage, but Emma did not consider them as reasons for
disposal, although the stiffness may be related to material wear.
This example shows the importance that the contents of wardrobe
have for clothing use and disposal. Emma kept on using the
bathrobe in spite of its deciencies, as she had no good alternative
garment in her own wardrobe.
Example 2: Lena’s T-shirt:
Low Quality and Bought on Sale
Thirty-nine years old Lena explains how she acquired her t-shirt
(Figure 4), and why it never got to be used:
OK, this one I have not used at all, this t-shirt. I bought it on sale
at H&M, but this is like loose, so it does not look good on me. And
even though I haven’t used it, maybe once at home, it has some
pills on it. So they have appeared when it has been stored in the
wardrobe, in a drawer. So it got all these…. Because it hasn’t been
used. And even though it’s loose, the material sucks into you, it’s so
thin, so it doesn’t look nice when it shows all the stomach “rolls”.
This is the same age as the previous ones, two years.
The garment was registered as a knitted, 100% viscose,
navy blue t-shirt that is size medium and made in India. According
to the care label, it can be washed at 40°C. The condition was
evaluated to be almost like new, with the largest noticeable change
being some pilling. The area with the most pilling was evaluated
according to EN ISO standard 12945-2 (2000). The result was
grade 3-4 on a scale from 1 to 5, where grade 5 is best (no pilling,
Figure 5). The t-shirt had no visible holes, broken seams, colour
changes, shrinkage or repairs, which means that there is a good
chance that it could go to reuse.
Lena had either never worn the t-shirt, or at most, once
at home. Still, it waited for two years in the drawer before she
decided to give it to charity (Figure 6). In this case, improvements
in production and acquisition could have enabled and prolonged
the use period of this garment. In production, the pilling properties
should have been tested, as products that receive grade 3-4 after
only one use are really poor quality and should not have been
produced. Producer’s quality management should have spotted
this problem. During acquisition, Lena should have noticed
already in the purchase situation that the combination of shape
and thin material is not something she prefers to use, and refrained
from buying the garment even if it was cheap. It is uncertain
Figure 3. Lifespan and intended future use for Emma’s bathrobe.
Figure 4. Lena’s t-shirt. Figure 5. Pilling on Lena’s t-shirt. Figure 6. Lifespan and intended future use for Lena’s t-shirt. 101 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
whether she tried it on before buying it. This was one of several
examples of garments in this study that were purchased because
of low price, and then did not get used. Low pricing drives
unnecessary overconsumption of clothing.
Design Strategies
The overview of disposal reasons and the two examples of
clothing have shown the benets of the wardrobe method for
acquiring rich, detailed data. However, they also demonstrate that
the effect of design is limited. Even poorly suited products can be
used for a long time, such as Emma’s bathrobe, but that is not an
excuse for producing poor quality clothing, such as Lena’s t-shirt
with pilling. In the following sections design solutions to specic
disposal reasons and other problem areas within use are discussed.
Size and Fit Issues
One very important disposal reason was size and t issues (30%).
These were the dominant reasons for disposal of children’s clothing
and the second most important reason for women’s clothing.
The data suggest that children often wear clothing for only one
season before they outgrow it. Petersen (2010) has proposed
design solutions for adjustable clothing for growing children.
She discovered that the garment length is more often the problem
than the garment width, and she therefore suggested solutions for
having adjustable sleeves and trousers through adjustable pleats,
zipper openings, and extendable cuffs. However, we also saw that
it was very common to give away children’s clothing to reuse
within circles of acquaintances. This requires that the condition of
the clothing is suitable for reuse, and often garments with visible
stains or some other changes were discarded instead of delivered
to reuse or recycling.
Despite previous studies that acknowledge clothing t
as a reason for the early discarding of clothing, the magnitude
of the problem has neither been acknowledged nor have any
solutions been tried in large-scale clothing production. Sizes and
t are more signicant problems with women’s clothing than with
men’s clothing. The great design challenge of women’s clothing
is the adaptation to the body. Few ready-to-wear items t well and
close to the body while also being exible enough for changes
in user’s weight and body shape. Designers and pattern makers
could address this issue in greater detail in order to increase the
use period and lifespan of clothing, and to avoid the unnecessary
production of clothing that does not get sold due to size and t
problems. One strategy to overcome this problem is to increase
the user involvement in design by trying sample patterns on
differently sized and shaped bodies, instead of basing the grading
on small model sizes, which is the current practice. This could not
only contribute to better-tting clothing for users of different sizes
and non-standard gure types, but it could also lead to general
improvement in comfort and exibility for all consumers. For
example, only 47% of the American women t the medium hip
category, which is dened as hips being two inches greater than
the bust (Cooklin, 1990).
For the users to recognise clothing that will t their
bodies, the size labelling should be improved so that the code
could be trusted. Today great variations exist both within the
same coding systems, and even more so between the different
systems (Chun-Yoon & Jasper, 1996; Faust, Carrier, & Baptist,
2006; Ujevic, Szirovicza, & Karabegovic, 2005). In addition,
the label could be expanded to include more information, such
as length measurements and suitable body gure type. This has
been suggested in European standardisation work, but has so far
not been implemented (SaiGlobal, 2015). It has been shown that
women using larger sizes found it more difcult to nd a size
standard they could adhere to (Laitala, Klepp, & Hauge, 2011;
Otieno, Harrow, & Lea-Greenwood, 2005). But more importantly,
most ready-to-wear clothing cannot be individually tted, except
maybe in leg lengths. This is, however, changing as designers are
nding ways to custom-t even what is in fact ready-to-wear.
One of the student’s designs in this project called “Make a
change” presented the classic black dress, which was made using
details learned from traditional folk costumes, such as the bunad
in Norway, which includes sufcient seam allowance and could
therefore be amended as the gure of the user changes, or the
garment is inherited by new users, Figure 7 (Nordberg, Mattsson,
Nowak, & Erdes, 2012). Additional ways of improving the t
could be to use elastic materials, but the combination of different
bre types such as cotton and elastane makes the recycling
process more complicated. Fit can also be improved by using
specic tailoring methods when making the patterns, such as
diagonal cutting in woven fabrics to increase the exibility, or
through the use of exible solutions that t to several body sizes,
such as wrap dresses.
Figure 7. Classic black dress that can be amended (Nordberg
et al., 2012). Photo: Jan Berg, The Swedish School of Textiles. 102 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
Another way of thinking about clothing is not to have it
ready sewn to specic garments, but to use pieces of fabrics that
can be worn differently. This is also a traditional way of using
clothes in some parts of the world, for example the sari in India,
but was also an inspiration in one of the students’ designs called
“Square” (Figure 8). These design students used old bed sheets
from hotels with added luxury nish to create one-size clothing
that can be worn in various ways (Larsson, Nilsson, Furderer, &
Lange, 2012).
Currently, most of these solutions are only tried out in
smaller niche markets, but many do have potential to be used in
mass production within the current economic paradigm. They
mainly demand additional work in the design phase, as well as
a minor increase in material consumption and possibly also time
consumption in the sewing stage, for example if seam allowance
is increased and sewn in several stages instead of only using one
overlock stitch, or if patterns are cut diagonally.
In addition to improving the t of clothing, design at the
service and systems level could be used; especially the acquisition
situation. This should be improved so that customers can easily
know whether clothing will t, either through improved labelling,
good access to tting rooms (even for customers with physical
disabilities), and by using new solutions such as body scanning
and computer aided design. Some studies indicate that clothing
t can be improved through the use of these new technologies
(Ashdown & Dunne, 2006; Istook, 2002; Meunier, 2000). Price
is of course an important property, as consumers will consider
it easier to buy cheap clothing even if it would not t perfectly.
Buying clothing online has increased in the past years. This means
that a larger selection of sizes and ts is available, but it also
presents the challenge of not being able to try on before purchase,
although most of these stores have good return policies. However,
in order to see the effect of the changes on the service and systems
level, more research on the topic is needed.
Clothing Care
Many of the changes in garments were related to laundry related
problems such as stains, odour, shrinkage, and colour changes.
This shows that the care phase is important for continued use of
the garments. As the care phase also has environmental impacts
due to energy and water consumption (Bain et al., 2009), design
strategies that aim at reducing the need of extensive care are
preferable. It is possible to use clothing as well as systems design
to reduce the environmental impact related to the use period. In her
PhD project, Rigby (2011) has researched which types of clothing
items are seldom washed, and designed a clothing line based on
that information. She identied different themes that affect the
washing behaviour, including material choice, use area and t.
For example woollen materials, home wear and loose- tting
clothing were washed more seldom than other types of garments.
As odour is one of the important reasons for laundering, material
selection is an important way to reduce this need, for example
wool can be aired to remove odours and to freshen it up. Also the
design of loose t and airier arm-pits that reduce sweat stains, or
the use of inlays that could be removed and washed would reduce
the need for laundering.
Stains on clothing were one of the most important disposal
reasons, especially for children’s clothing. Butler (2011) used this
as a starting point in one of the design tasks, where she developed
different methods of embroidering around stains, as well as using
natural dyestuffs to create gures that were inspired by weeds.
Another way of thinking about this is to design clothing so that
stains could be hidden within the patterns, or to use surface
treatments that prevent soil from sticking, although in this case
the safety of such products would need to be assessed to evaluate
the complete environmental impacts.
Clothing care is also connected to lifespan of clothing. For
example, some garments in the study did not get used because
they would have required ironing before use, and that was
considered to be too demanding for some of the owners that chose
to give away the clothing instead. Non-iron labelled shirts can be
found in many stores, but the products that require ironing are not
labelled, and in some cases it is difcult to predict how they will
turn out in use.
Technical Quality, Durability and Function
The largest disposal reason category was changes in garments
(40%). It is possible to reduce these changes through several
measures in production and design, such as selection of suitable
materials for the intended use and stricter quality control. Most of
these properties can be easily tested in a textile laboratory, and large
textile companies do have their own quality manuals. However,
examples such as Lena’s t-shirt show that either the requirements
are too low, or that they are not tested and followed up.
Figure 8. Square (Larsson et al., 2012). Photo: Daniel Larsson,
The Swedish School of Textiles. 103 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
Based on the examination of clothing, it is also possible
to suggest strengthening areas that are more prone to stress, and
show signs of wear and holes. On trousers this will typically be at
lower legs (if too long), between the thighs, and around pockets
and knees, but these abrasion points varied some based on the
body types of the user, as well as the use situations (for example
if pockets were used a lot or not). On clothing with lining the
lining often showed more signs of wear than the main material,
and especially the seams were often broken. On shirts most signs
could be seen in collar, cuffs and elbows, while in socks the most
common place for holes was the heels, but also sometimes the
toe area.
The investigation of clothes showed that approximately
40% had pilling or fuzzing to some degree. Only a small
proportion of these were mentioned by the owners as disposal
reasons. When pilling or fuzzing was given as disposal reason,
the level was evaluated to be on average grade 2 on a scale from 1
to 5, which is very noticeable pilling (ISO, 2015).
The analysis also shows how closely the social and
material reasons for disposal are connected. When something is
worn out is not only an objective matter of degrees that can be
measured in a laboratory, but also a socially dependent matter.
Some users accept a more worn look than others, and accepted it
easier on some materials and garment types than others, such as
jeans compared to suit trousers. Similarly, stains, pilling and other
changes are evaluated differently by different informants and are
based on the style of clothing and the location on the clothing.
Such assessments of the material change vary over time and
are thus bound to the social and cultural evaluation of clothing,
including current fashion.
Functional shortcomings (5%) are often directly related to
production and quality control, as well as acquisition situation.
If rainwear fails to be waterproof, it is difcult to know for the
user beforehand, as these properties are usually not given in the
garments (apart from in some items of sports clothing). Some
functional shortcomings can be recognised if the garment is tried
on before purchase, while others may require longer use to be
noticed (for example too cold garments, such as Emma’s bathrobe).
Emotional Value and Acquisition
The third largest disposal category was taste related unsuitability
(11%). The acquisition method was crucial here; items that were
inherited or received as gifts were more often discarded because
of this, as the user did not have that much control of what was
given to him/her. In general, it could be recommended to avoid
giving clothing as presents, unless the giver is sure to know the
taste, size, and needs of the receiver. Otherwise these products do
not provide enjoyment in use.
Increasing the consumer product attachment is one
potential way to prolong the clothing lifespans. The degree
of attachment is connected to memories and use enjoyment
(Schifferstein & Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, 2008). Favourite items go
through several stages of attachment during their lifecycle, where
the items owned for short time are connected to satisfaction in use,
but as they are owned for longer period, the level of attachment
increases, while the use frequency often decreases. If a product
is used longer, it increases the possibility for it being connected
to memories of persons, places and events. Favourite clothing
items that are owned for more than 22 years are mainly stored as
mementos (Niinimäki & Armstrong, 2013). Therefore, in order
to increase the sustainability of consumption patterns, designers
should try to evoke the enjoyment through creating products that
are both useful and enjoyable. Niinimäki and Koskinen (2011)
studied consumers’ long-term product attachments to garments
and showed that these attachments are created at multiple levels,
including personal and emotional values, but also memories and
associations, as well as construction of self. Even though many
of these aspects are outside the power of designer, designers can
enable these attachments to emerge through using specic design
styles, aesthetic and quality related attributes, as well as improved
Several of the design students’ works aimed at increasing
the emotional value and connection of clothing to the user through
different techniques. For example, Juin (2012) aimed at linking
the designer, producer and customer through a label “made in and
by, worn by...” (webpage). Næstby (2012) researched the clothing
consumption of eccentric people and used the alternative thinking
and different views on society as an inspiration in her work to
create clothes in a life perspective where there are relations
between the textiles and the user.
Fashion or style changes were not given as a major disposal reason
and constituted only about 4% of the total. In general, fashion
changes are often strongly connected to clothing, but the fashion
life cycles change faster and in more visible ways in some other
product areas, such as currently the case of mobile phones, although
in combination with technological developments. Within clothing
research fashion is usually given a much higher importance for
clothing discard than our research indicates (Bianchi & Birtwistle,
2012; Chun, 1987; Collett et al., 2013). However, fashion did
affect specic garment types such as trousers and jackets more
than others, but was never mentioned as the disposal reason for
consumable items such as socks or stockings. Disposal due to
fashion was quite user specic and depended on how interested
the user is in fashion and what kind of requirements there are for
clothing at work and for other social occasions. Clothing disposed
of due to fashion was often given to charity, thus enabling a longer
lifespan through reuse. In the interviews, a wish for something
new was given as a reason to acquire new clothing, but seldom
mentioned as a disposal reason.
In design the logic of fashion vs. durability, sometimes
referred to as fast vs. slow fashion, could be challenged more
(Niinimäki, 2009). It is often assumed that these two concepts are
in opposition, but maybe they can co-exist if some measures are
taken. For example, fashion clothing with short lifespans could
possibly be designed to be potential “good” waste that is easy
to recycle or compost, and not even necessarily made of textile 104 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts
bres. On the other hand, classic and quality clothing could be
designed in such a way that it could be updated either by those
who created it or by the users to enable long lifespans. One of
the design school’s tasks aimed at producing clothing of high
quality and durability of leftover pieces, where focus was on style
rather than fashion (Steen, 2012), thus aiming to prolong physical
durability and postpone fashion-related disposal (Figure 9).
Situational Reasons and Storage
Situational disposal reasons (7%) were often not related directly to
the garment, but more to the other factors surrounding it or the use
situations. These garments were disposed of because the owners
had too many similar garments or had changed their user needs,
for example because of retirement. These aspects are difcult to
relate directly to design, besides ensuring that the garments are
suitable for versatile use situations. Owning too many garments
decreases the amount each item gets used, and contributes to
overcrowded wardrobes and lack of storage space. This is also
related to the number of occasions one clothing item can be worn,
and it may be possible to use to use design and styling to make
few items go a long way. Then a few basic items could become the
basis for numerous combinations.
In addition, sometimes the storage of clothing affects their
life-time, how often we launder them and how much we use
them. Interviews of the 16 households showed that much of the
clothing that was only used for a short time and not considered to
be soiled enough to need laundering yet were laundered anyway
when the families wanted to clear up the pile of half used items
on the chair, oor or some other temporary storage location. This
led to unnecessary washing, as most of the informants did not
want to put worn but not yet dirty clothing back into the wardrobe
together with clean clothes. This suggests that storage solutions
for these items could help in reducing the unnecessary laundering,
for example if these items could be stored in well ventilated
wardrobes where they were hanged neatly to avoid creases.
Some informants stated they had so many items of clothing
that they were not always sure what they owned. Only a small
portion of the wardrobe was in actual use. In these cases storage
solutions that could make it easier to nd the clothing that is placed
at the back or bottom of the wardrobe would help. Circulation of
these items could make users more aware of what they own.
In the Case delux design task the students suggested that if
each item got an individual case, it would make each item seem
precious (Bendzovski, Brorsson, Ringström, & Andersson, 2012;
see Figure 10). Regardless of whether this idea is good or not
from an environmental point of view, it still points to an important
area of disposal that could be explored further. A situation with
clothes that nobody cares about and that owners hardly realise
they own and why, is not optimal, and focusing on attaching value
to things that are already owned could help.
The lifespan of garments is affected by many different aspects.
It is possible to counteract and delay clothing disposal through
improved design to some degree, but understanding user behaviour
that stems from norms, values, habits and contexts is crucial. Four
essential design aspects emerge for expanding clothing lifespans.
The rst two are related to product design, the third to service
design and the fourth to systems design:
1. The technical quality including material choice and
seams that promote durability. Examination of used
clothing showed areas that need special attention. Even
the potential for reuse could often be improved through
increased quality of clothing.
2. The design of clothing form and shape, which is crucial
for the use satisfaction including the t to the body,
versatility of use and appearance.
3. Services such as altering the t, mending, styling, stain
decorations, body scanning, as well as education in
sewing and altering.
4. Design of communication systems between the users and
the clothing designers and producers, including labelling
of size, t, social and environmental aspects, durability
and feedback from users.
Figure 9. Textile leftovers (Steen, 2012).
Figure 10. Case delux, because each item is precious
(Bendzovski et al., 2012). Photo: Jan Berg, The Swedish School
of Textiles. 105 International Journal of Design Vol. 9 No. 2 2015
K. Laitala, C. Boks, and I. G. Klepp
At the moment, a lot work remains to be done on all these
areas and for different stakeholders within the textile value chain.
Changing focus of fashion design from the aesthetic side of
fashion shown in photos and on catwalk models to the practical
side of consumers’ use of clothing, where quality, t and lifespan
are important, could encourage the development to move in a
more sustainable direction. By utilising the information received
from users and their disposed clothing, we have obtained new,
detailed knowledge from clothing use and lifespans, as well
as the design aspects that affect them. The data has shown that
especially clothing t and durability are more signicant disposal
reasons than previously thought, as fashion has traditionally been
emphasised more. Designing clothing to meet these challenges
is more tangible than trying to counteract fashion change. These
insights are acquired by combining two types of data, and in that
way this article has added to our knowledge on how to study these
issues, in addition to the topic of how to improve the sustainability
of clothing. This research method could be transferred to other
areas where information of users and their interaction with
products could aid in improving the design.
When it comes to consumer behaviour, we see that
addressing clothing acquisition is important, and therefore this
phase should be studied further. With this we do not solely mean
research on whether consumers buy clothing that is produced in
a sustainable manner, but more importantly on what could be
done to reduce the total number of acquired items of clothing,
especially the ones that do not get used at all. This article has
pointed out some possible improvement areas within service
and systems design, but for a more detailed analysis, different
research methods including all the involved stakeholders may be
more appropriate.
We are particularly grateful for the assistance given by Madeline
Buck for her contribution in clothing registrations, and Tone
Skårdal Tobiasson and the anonymous reviewers for valuable
comments. We want also to thank Norwegian Research Council
and Orkla ASA for nancial support on the project “From textile
waste to material resources in a grave to cradle perspective”.
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... Iles and Martin (2013) call for a complete rethink in the industry, whereby the business model must become fundamentally sustainable. Laitala et al. (2013) see the consumer as the driving force for a necessary change, and Barnes and Lea-Greenwood (2006) rather focus on the retail sector, which has to meet consumers' demands 1 3 25 Page 2 of 14 for more sustainability. However, Steenis et al. (2017) see a problem in the fact that consumers are not sufficiently informed about environmentally friendly alternatives, such as bioplastics in textiles and packaging. ...
... Finally, product recycling remains a sustainable alternative, regardless of whether the plastic is petrochemical or biobased. In this context, Laitala et al. (2013) call for clothing to be consciously designed for greater recyclability. Dissanayake and Sinha (2015) even see an increase in the value of the product, but fear a higher complexity of the supply chain because a take-back system has to be implemented. ...
Full-text available
A consumer study measured price acceptance for bioplastic-based clothing and packaging in comparison with goods from the food and technology industries. It was found that a sustainable resource origin was much less appreciated in apparel packaging made of bioplastics, but appeared to be just as important in clothing as environmentally friendly disposal through recycling or composting. The willingness to pay more for biopolymers increased with the level of experience, more so for products than for packaging. Environmental concerns are also a driver, but less pronounced. In contrast to food and technics products, the gender of respondents was likewise associated. Also, the apparel and technics industries are the most similar and can take a cooperative approach in the sector transition towards bioplastics. The focus on goods rather than packaging can lead to higher price acceptance, and campaigns should address more to women and try to increase experience with new bioplastics textiles.
... To deal with these issues, studies have mainly adopted a user-centered approach [23][24][25][26] and resulted in general principles such as: designing of "timeless styles", manufacturing using "high quality fabrics" [23] and the involvement of the consumers to add functional and emotional value [24,26]. Considering that design precedes production, Morseletto et al. [27] emphasized the need to set targets for different types of designs. ...
... To deal with these issues, studies have mainly adopted a user-centered approach [23][24][25][26] and resulted in general principles such as: designing of "timeless styles", manufacturing using "high quality fabrics" [23] and the involvement of the consumers to add functional and emotional value [24,26]. Considering that design precedes production, Morseletto et al. [27] emphasized the need to set targets for different types of designs. ...
Full-text available
Design for longevity is known as an eco-design opportunity and could help to reduce the environmental footprint of energy-free items. However, extending the lifespan of products is not always desirable and the focus should be on achieving an optimal lifespan. Operationally, recommendations for design for longevity usually refer to durability, repairability, upgradability or emotional attachment. The use of high-quality and robust material is frequently stated, although it is not obvious what high-quality material is. Based on a quality by design approach, this study aims to propose a methodology to design for optimal longevity with a consumer-oriented approach. To do so, it includes data collection of product quality and manufacturing processes and then embeds consumers’ knowledge. These are combined into data analysis to help to highlight relationships and the most appropriate quality contributors. This methodology relies on three-steps: first, a single quality score which includes consumers’ knowledge; secondly, a multi-scale reverse-engineering process; and finally a data analysis using principal component analysis. The originality of such a proposal is that it enables the consumers’ knowledge to be considered in the identification of appropriated quality contributors. The proposed methodology is implemented in the fashion sector as it is said to be the second most polluting one. Moreover, given the huge variety of materials and production processes available in textiles, the selection of the most suitable recommendations to support a longer lifespan is very complex. The presented case study involves 29 T-shirts and reveals the mechanical-related strengths to be the main quality contributors.
... A further focal point of circular product design is to design for recycling or recyclability. Design for recyclability is also actively discussed in academic circles in terms of closing the loop across various materials, particularly within the packaging industry (Eriksen and Astrup, 2019), electronics industry (Atlason et al., 2017;Schaik and Reuter, 2010), textile and clothing industry (Laitala et al., 2015), and automotive industry (Ferrao and Amaral, 2006). ...
Critical literature review coupled with conceptual analysis provides a holistic framework for measuring a product's circularity performance based on its integrated contribution to the operationalization of various configurations of circular economy (CE) strategies. The following main results were obtained. First, we outline the "Сlosing-Slowing and Future-Past" ("CSFP") quadrant model ("CSFP" quadrant model) of CE-related product attributes and the circular product categories derived as findings of our previous study in the form of modifications to develop a product-level circularity metric. Second, we propose fifteen product circularity profiles with singular and configurative CE strategy-related contributions building on the "СSFP" model and circular product categories. Third, we quantify the 6Rs (reuse, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing, repurposing, recycling) for the strategy-related contributions derived from the "CSFP" quadrant model to propose a product circularity data profile coupled with a metrical scale for measuring product circularity performance and visualizing quantified circular contributions. To trial, showcase and validate the relevance of the developed model and associated visualization tool, we conduct two case studies comparing the circularity performances of smartphones and packaging bags, respectively. Companies can use the proposed framework as a maturity scale to enhance the circularity performance of a product. This work contributes to a more accurate measurement of product circularity performance and a sharper understanding of its integrated contribution to circular strategies.
... Eliminating environmental impacts is a top priority in integrating into design through various breakthroughs the latest in fulfilling lifestyles and creating a good approach with consumers by prioritizing sustainable ethics [17]. Thus, the focus is that by referring to a fashion curriculum that focuses on the concentration of sustainability, it will increase students' knowledge, awareness, attitudes and involvement in sustainability behavior and strive to be able to integrate sustainability into design [18,19]. ...
... The sewing process of various materials in the form of fabrics or knitted fabrics is used in many industries, including fashion (clothes) [1][2][3], medical (protective clothing, bedding) [4,5], tourism and sports (tents and overalls) [6][7][8], military (uniforms) [9], furniture (upholstery) [10], automotive (airbags, seat belts) [11,12], and others. The process is carried out with the use of various sewing machines, including lockstitch machines. ...
Full-text available
The study aims to determine the wear intensity of selected milling chuck assembly surfaces covered with a protective DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating, used on the production line for elements of selected lockstitch machines, and to analyze the stress distributions in the object fixed with such a chuck for the characteristic load systems of this object during its processing. A model of the workpiece was developed using the finite element method. The boundary conditions, including the load and the method of clamping the workpiece, resulted from the parameters of the milling process and the geometric configuration of the milling chuck. Stress distributions in the workpiece for specific milling parameters and for various configurations of the milling chuck holding the workpiece are included in the article. The model experimental studies of wear were conducted in the contact zone between two surfaces covered with DLC: one on the element of the milling chuck pressing the workpiece and the other on the eccentric cams of this holder. The obtained wear values and shapes for the worn surfaces are also shown. The wear intensities for the steel plunger fins modelling swivel arm of the holder were by an order higher than those of corresponding steel shaft shoulders modelling eccentric cam of the holder. The linear wear intensities for these mating components may be expressed in terms of a function of average contact pressure and sliding speed in a corresponding contact zone. The indentation of eccentric cam into mating surface of the swivel arm of the holder increased nonlinearly with the enhancement of number of cycles of the eccentric cam.
... Sa aspekta dizajna se, pored izbora kvalitetnih materijala, određenim poboljšanjima kao što je "bezvremenski" ili klasičan dizajn i izbor klasičnih boja, može postići produženje aktivnog upotrebnog veka odevnog predmeta. Na taj način se vremenski odlaže trenutak odbacivanja odevnog predmeta i indirektno se utiče na uštedu prirodnih resursa jer se smanjuje količina odevnih predmeta koji se u svakom trenutku nalaze u upotrebi [37]. ...
Full-text available
In this paper the relationship between the current global crisis of environmental protection, the modern vision of sustainability in fashion and the creative process of realization of clothing items in the fashion industry is investigated from the aspect of fashion design. The fashion industry is expected to change the way garments are produced and designed, the way it communicates with consumers, and the way garments are handled at the end of a product's lifespan. In addition to all the usual aspects of creativity, a fashion designer nowadays and especially in the future is expected, to have an additional sort of creativity that should contribute to sustainable development by seeking and developing new creative-experimental design solutions. Different strategies are available to a designer for achieving this goal. In the process of creating a product that has aesthetic and functional values on the market and at the same time the least possible environmental impact on the planet a designer is a key factor of the fashion industry.
Each stage of the fashion clothing lifecycle exerts multitudinous negative impacts on the planet. To date, research and policy interventions toward sustainable clothing consumption have largely concentrated on the initial and final life-stages of clothing production, and garment disposal. However, such efforts, even alongside industry technological advances, have failed to balance ever-expanding fashion consumption demand. More recently, alongside wider sustainability debates on sufficiency and consumption corridors, the active use phase of clothing lifecycle is emerging as a vital piece of the sustainability puzzle. An in-depth exploration of users’ real-life everyday interactions with clothing can facilitate a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of wearer garment interactions and use practices with implications for sustainable consumption. This paper presents the findings of an empirical, qualitative research study on the active use phase of clothing consumption in Ireland drawing on a complex intergenerational dataset gathered using in-depth problem-based interviews and wardrobe studies. Findings reveal that participants were largely unaware of both the positive impacts of prolonging wear and the adverse impact of frequent washing on clothing longevity and sustainability. A range of other barriers and enablers to sustainable clothing consumption also emerged, such as the impact of social media on repeat garment wear, the widespread disregard of garment care labels and the considerable acceptability of second-hand clothing wear. In providing such a snapshot into actual everyday clothing wear and care practices, we argue that it is possible to unlock insights into the various ways sustainable maximum use of clothing can be supported and we present implications for future sustainable policy development. We advocate that existing good practice in anti-consumption and sustainable maximum use must be recognised, understood, and promoted to become increasingly more widely culturally and socially acceptable and therefore, impactful in supporting sustainability transitions.
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With strong consensus around the need for holistic, systemic change to the dominant fashion paradigm across the Global North, this article aims to generate practical strategies for better engaging and supporting fashion consumers as one key stakeholder group. It critiques the prevailing discourse of ethical fashion consumption—narrowly focused on fast fashion consumption—as both unjust and considerably limiting the scope of broader consumer awareness and action. Wardrobe research facilitates rich empirical evidence of consumers’ ordinary clothing practices and can support more fair and helpful representations of fashion consumers and consumption. Proposing wardrobe research as a tool to create a more engaging and supportive discourse, the article considers how evidence from wardrobe research might enter circulation and extends to consider everyday wearers engaging in and sharing wardrobe research in ‘amateur’ forms. The article examines large public ‘garment storytelling’ projects as an example and proposes that such accessible and appealing wardrobe research–related tools could be further used and developed.
Full-text available
The objective of this paper is to increase a better understanding that how business models evolve to include more environmentally friendly solutions and sustainability in the apparel industry. This study has been reviewed by focusing on what forms a more sustainable model for the apparel industry can be generated from a firm level, the purpose of this paper is to show and explore difficulties and opportunities for a sustainable business model development in the apparel industry The study demonstrates that adopting a business model that incorporates more sustainability which has both benefits and challenges.
As awareness grows of the detrimental environmental impacts of the fashion industry, an increasing number of consumers are indicating a willingness to consume more sustainably. Part of sustainable clothing consumption includes extending clothing life through repair of worn or damaged garments. Younger consumers are an important demographic who consume and dispose of the majority of fashion garments. This study examined the influence of environmental awareness, frugality, style longevity and quality consciousness on garment repair by young consumers. A survey was conducted using established scales. Hypotheses were tested using a structural equation model. Environmental awareness, frugality and quality consciousness directly influenced garment repair. However, style longevity did not directly influence repair. Style longevity may indirectly influence repair through quality consciousness, as consumers seeking long-lasting quality clothing are more likely to engage in repair. This study contributes to the emerging literature that seeks to understand the consumers’ behaviours that prolong clothing life.
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This paper explores the potential for co-design to link sustainable consumption and production in the fashion industry. We review relevant research and perspectives and propose a co-design platform and an ideation toolkit in which users are encouraged to explore sustainability as a way of thinking at the early stages of the fashion design development process. We explain the rationale behind the ideation toolkit, its structure and demonstrate how to apply the toolkit to fashion design through a case study. Finally, we discuss both opportunities and challenges of co-designing the fashion system and its implementation in sustainable fashion and textile design education.
Full-text available
Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys brings together for the first time information about lifecycle sustainability impacts of fashion and textiles, practical alternatives, design concepts and social innovation. It challenges existing ideas about the scope and potential of sustainability issues in fashion and textiles, and sets out a more pluralistic, engaging and forward-looking picture, drawing on ideas of systems thinking, human needs, local products, slow fashion and participatory design, as well as knowledge of materials. The book not only defines the field, it also challenges it, and uses design ideas to help shape more sustainable products and promote social change. Arranged in two sections, the first four chapters represent key stages of the lifecycle: material cultivation/extraction, production, use and disposal. The remaining four chapters explore design approaches for altering the scale and nature of consumption, including service design, localism, speed and user involvement. While each of these chapters is complete in and of itself, their real value comes from what they represent together: innovative ways of thinking about textiles and garments based on sustainability values and an interconnected approach to design.
Do we need a new car or a new refrigerator every ten years? What happens to our PC which is exchanged for a new model every three years? Why do our shoes last only a year or so, while those of our great grandfather served for a genera­ tion? Are businesses deliberately marketing products in a way which encourages sub-optimal use and induces consumers to buy new products? More and more consumers respond ''yes'' objecting to the business practices which reduce the life span of a product or pay no attention to efficiency in con­ sumption. The growing concem with sub-optimal use of consumer durables arises as a response to the volume of waste, as wen as to the growing conviction that over-consumption is encouraged by marketing techniques and approaches that favor lesser durability and sub-optimal use. There are signs that those things will have to change. Firstly, client orientation - a condition sine qua non of marketing success in the saturated markets of rich countries - is gaining popularity. Consumers are better informed and more influential and "intelligent consumption" is on the rise. Buyers are becoming more and more hostile towards marketing manipulation, inducing them to consume faster, more and at higher prices. The public increas­ ingly resists messages in advertisements (preventive resistance) which are pre­ dominantly persuasive (rather than educational or informative) and conceived to stimulate demand for the "new", the superficial and the fashionable.
Little research has focused on the specific factors that contribute to the short lifecycle of fast fashion, as well as consumer feelings about the limited lifespan of fast fashion. The present research addresses this gap in the existing research. Thirteen female undergraduate students who are consumers of fast fashion and majoring in design and/or merchandising management have been interviewed. The first objective is to understand the factors that prompt consumers to stop wearing fast fashion apparel. These factors include communicative failure of the garments, including quality issues, fit issues and meaning conflict, as well as boredom. The second objective is to understand how these factors change the feelings of consumers about such items. The findings are explained within the context of the symbolic interaction theory. The third objective is to learn how consumers feel about the limited lifespan of fast fashion apparel. These feelings range from neutral to negative with regards to monetary investment, and positive to negative in terms of social and environmental implications. Based on the findings, a model is developed to describe why consumers purchase fast fashion, stop wearing fast fashion, their perceptions of the social implications, and their coping strategies and justification for fast fashion.
This book examines the importance of accurate garment sizing, and discusses the basic principles of sizing technology and pattern grading for women's outerwear. After a historical review and a survey of anthropometrical research, the basic grading applications for different garments are discussed, along with applications to styled garments and computerized grading technology.
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To investigate the role of body shape information on clothing size selection, a sample of 143 males were measured and sized using a computerized digital-image based measurement system. Clothing sizes were initially determined by the system using traditional criteria for the long sleeve shirt, jacket and trousers of a military dress uniform. The best-fitting size was determined by trial and error based on subjective feedback and expert judgement, provided by clothing and sizing technicians. Discriminant function analysis was used to determine sizing rules for each garment, based on different sets of anthropometric input variables. Comparisons were made between the prediction performances of discriminant functions derived from traditional variables and those of functions derived from 3D landmark coordinates. The results indicate that the use of three-dimensional landmark coordinates, as input to a discriminant function analysis, is superior to the use of circumference measurements in predicting clothing sizes. The use of these landmarks is thought to improve the classification of cases by allowing a better characterization of body shape.