Fashion Activism through Participatory Design

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Conference: 10th European Academy of Design Conference - Crafting the Future, At Gothenburg
Cite this publication
This study investigates the activism in the field of clothing design and fashion through selected findings from a case study exploring the possibilities to activate consumers in the field of fashion. The main research question: 'Does participatory design process and consumer's own activity open opportunities to behavioural change?' will be elaborated. Does the 'do-it-yourself' aspect and own achievement change consumers attitude towards fashion and clothing? Is it possible to create person-product attachment through 'do-it-yourself' process? An experimental participatory fashion workshop which was held in Helsinki during the summer of 2012 will build the base for this case study. The workshop participants were working with the halfway design approach. We are starting from the question of how to express and fulfil consumer needs for personal representation and identification, the goal of the workshop was to raise awareness, motivate and enable a change in consumer behaviour towards a skilful making and understanding of the products. Personal interviews and questionnaires during this workshop build the source for exploring the main question, whether participation within the design process can change the consumer behaviour. Furthermore, a follow up questionnaire will evaluate the users' appreciation of the created product, questioning whether the personal engagement and identification with the product will result in a closer emotional person-product attachment and thus supports a longer lifespan of the product. The paper concludes with a discussion on the workshop results and the opportunities to encourage sustainable fashion consumption through fashion activism. 10th European Academy of Design Conference-Crafting the Future 1 | P a g e
Fashion Activism through
Participatory Design
Anja-Lisa Hirscher, Kirsi Niinimäki
Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Design Department, Helsinki,
This study investigates the activism in the field of clothing design and fashion through
selected findings from a case study exploring the possibilities to activate consumers in the
field of fashion. The main research question: 'Does participatory design process and
consumer’s own activity open opportunities to behavioural change?' will be elaborated. Does
the ‘do-it-yourself’ aspect and own achievement change consumers attitude towards fashion
and clothing? Is it possible to create person-product attachment through ‘do-it-yourself
An experimental participatory fashion workshop which was held in Helsinki during the
summer of 2012 will build the base for this case study. The workshop participants were
working with the half-way design approach. We are starting from the question of how to
express and fulfil consumer needs for personal representation and identification, the goal of
the workshop was to raise awareness, motivate and enable a change in consumer behaviour
towards a skilful making and understanding of the products. Personal interviews and
questionnaires during this workshop build the source for exploring the main question, whether
participation within the design process can change the consumer behaviour. Furthermore, a
follow up questionnaire will evaluate the users’ appreciation of the created product,
questioning whether the personal engagement and identification with the product will result in
a closer emotional person-product attachment and thus supports a longer lifespan of the
The paper concludes with a discussion on the workshop results and the opportunities to
encourage sustainable fashion consumption through fashion activism.
10th European Academy of Design Conference - Crafting the Future 1 | Page
KEYWORDS: Fashion activism, Participatory design, Sustainable
consumption, Person-product attachment
In the field of fashion and clothing, the idea of longer-lasting products is challenging, as
planned and aesthetic obsolescence, encouraged through fast changing fashion cycles, is
chased forward by the business in a scary matter (Burns, 2010). Between 30 to 50 trend-
driven fashion seasons are put through by the fast-fashion business, resulting in very high
resource depletion (Siegle, 2012). This business-strategy requires low prices per item, which
is provoking a rather poor product quality; some pieces might not even survive the first
laundry. Consumers then purchase several similar items that have very little personal value to
them. This results in many tons of landfill waste every year. (Fletcher & Grose, 2012)
Within this case study, we will explore what creates valuable and meaningful piece for a
consumer. Do half-way products offer the potential to create value and a person-product
bond? Through an experimental research, that offers Half-way clothing to be customised
within the setting of a participatory workshop, we will be evaluating the opportunities for
fashion activism, participatory design strategies, as well as the possibility to create
sentimental product value and personal attachment for the user.
If we compare Half-way clothing with user driven product-customisation or redesign, we can
assume that through the way they are designed, they will enable even less skilled users to get
involved in the making process. Thus, personal experiences, memory and emotions will be
captured within the garment. The workshop directs toward a positive product outcome,
because advices are provided by the presence of skilled designers and participants. Half-way
products are about enabling the opportunity to “shape and influence the nature of the narrative
experience by the very nature of interaction that occurs between two parties...” (Chapman,
2005, p.128). This will let the user become an active influential factor in the products story
and not just a recipient of the designers given meaning.
Most of the research accomplished, has been analysing the person-product attachment within
already owned products and the life-cycle of classic pieces. In the field of fashion and
clothing very little research was done on half-way garments and the opportunities to create a
valuable person-product attachment with the do-it-yourself approach. Kate Fletcher and
Mathilda Tham have carried out research on the person-product relationship with clothing. By
user-diaries they accumulated information over a long period of time about the use phases of
clothing. (Fletcher & Tham, 2004) Later research about the use phase and ethical purchasing
decisions of young citizens, mainly female, living in Finland was conducted by Kirsi
Niinimäki (2010). In the Netherlands, Ruth Mugge completed a survey in 2007 and included
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it in her 2010 doctoral dissertation about product-attachment and collected data from Dutch
students, whether personalisations of bicycles, would facilitate an emotional bonding. An
exploratory study by Wendy Moody and others has been analysing the relationships between
the try on clothing, personal preference, personality, mood influence and emotion to get a
better understanding of the psychological profile of the fashion consumers. Within their
quantitative research study, they explored through their female pro-bands the influence of
mood and personality on the choice of clothing. (Moody & Kinderman & Sinha, 2010)
All of these projects are yet to include participatory workshops or Half-way clothing to
provide an easy first involvement of the user. This thesis driven research will investigate
whether the personal involvement help to facilitate a closer person-product attachment and
raise awareness about the consumers own purchasing behaviour. With this, we contribute to
the research done in the field of product value and the impact of participatory design in
clothing and fashion.
Design Activism
If we look ahead in sustainable design, this implies that we have to discover the new ideas to
support sustainable-system and business strategies. This will redefine the designer’s role.
Designers, who challenge the current practices with design thinking to improve the
environment and society, are referred to Design Activists. Design Activism was defined by
one of its pioneers, Alastair Fuad-Luke: “Design activism is 'design thinking, imagination and
practice applied knowingly unknowingly to create a counter-narrative aimed at generating and
balancing positive social, institutional, environmental and/or economic change' ” (Fuad-Luke,
2009, 27).
Within the family of Design Activism several design movement were born, Slow Design, Co-
Design, Metadesign, Universal Design, Critical Design, Participatory Design and several
others. Alastair Fuad-Luke writes in his book 'Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a
Sustainable World', that a Design Activist is a “non-aligned social broker and catalyst; a
facilitator; an author; a creator; a co-author; and a happener (someone who makes things
happen)” (Fuad-Luke, 2009, under 'Preface' xxi). Those Designers become facilitators and
enablers, who are working for an active exchange with the final user of the products. User-
involvement is important to support sustainable production systems. By creating a tighter
relation between product–producer and end-user the production cycles will slow down. Local
production and highly valued product-person relationship offer key opportunities to slower
consumption cycle. (Cooper, 2005) Slow Fashion, inspired by the Slow food movement of
Carlo Petrini, claims that “One way to initiate slow fashion is to develop personal style”
(Gwilt & Rissanen, 2011, p.153). Finding an independent personal style freeing the user from
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the fast pace fashion cycles, is part of the foundation towards slowing down the fashion
industry. “Slow fashion requires a changed infrastructure and a reduced throughput of goods.”
(Fletcher & Grose, 2012, p.128) Slow fashion is closer to local resources, small-scale
production and traditional techniques. The ideology promotes the uniqueness through
traditional manufacture and defends mass-production. Supporting local business will nurture
the idea of belonging to a place, through which identity and emotions will be bonded to the
garment. Every item is then 'writing' its own story along the production process. This will
create a new kind of relationship between product, maker and user. (Fletcher & Grose, 2012)
Fashion Activism
Fashion Activism is in the same way a political activity and participatory approach to
empower the consumer to be independent from the fashion industry. The expression Fashion-
Hacking is the idea of hacking something existing by freeing or modifying it from its original
shape, giving it a new meaning (Fletcher & Grose, 2012). Fashion-Hacking for instance, has
been practiced by Martin Margiela, Otto von Busch and Giana Pilar González. Margiela
offered a customisable dress pattern via download (Margiela, 2004). Otto von Busch with his
workshops and sewing cook-books shows examples on how to redefine fashion and offer the
consumer new choices by enabling them with skills and knowledge. This creates the
opportunity for the consumer to be more independent from what is dictated by the fashion
industry. (von Busch, 2007) Similar to Giana Pilar González, who is reinterpreting the fashion
codes of brands like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, with her project Hacking-Couture. In her
workshops, she provides the participants with materials and identifiable patterns from various
brands that can be hacked, opened up, therefor democratised for the public. (Modabot, 2007)
Design in its active or activist form, is expressed by motivating and enabling the user with a
better product understanding. Activism through making together, socialising and sharing
knowledge on a design founded base, seems to become a future trend. This may allow a future
shift in the fashion industry. How can we as Designers support the users to become active
makers? We need to discover key enablers to get them involved. Easily reachable entry level
and reducing the fear of mistakes is assumed to be a key factor. Garments that are planned for
co-designing, allow easy customisation so they can be changed over time, and as its best, they
reveal their life-story by altering their beauty. For example, Half-way items, which are
intentionally unfinished – leave a space for the enduser to customise and finalise to make it
their own. Through the Half-way design approach, the consumer will be invited to participate
and customise the product or clothing to their own needs and styles. The designer creates a
piece in such a way that offers the opportunity to make changes within the original design.
(Fuad-Luke, 2009) The consumer becomes an active participant, in contrast to ready-to-wear
garments, which prohibit user involvement and limits them to be a passive recipient. In a
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research paper on emotional bonding through product personalisation Mugge points out, that
toolkits which are made by companies, offer a “satisfactory balance between the products
self-expressive value and the complexity of the personalisation process” (Mugge et al. 2005,
p. 474). Major manufacturers like Adidas and Nokia with their mass-customisation strategies
won’t be able to offer, compared to Half-way items, as much freedom in participation and
creativity. (Niinimäki 2010; Mugge & Schoormans & Schifferstein, 2009)
Consumer, Product and it’s Value
In this context we need to differentiate the consumers need for fashion and clothing. Fashion
is a tool for self-expression, individuality and personal style. Kate Fletcher states that
“Fashion at its creative best is one of the most powerful and direct expressions of personal
aspiration, individuality and belonging” (Fletcher & Grose 2012, p. 138). Clothing full fills a
need where its function is to provide us with warmth and protection. With fashion we do not
only satisfy our needs against the elements, we also express our style and project the image by
which we want the society to perceive us. For this reasons fashion can work as a synergetic
satisfier, which was defined by Manfred Max-Neef. “Synergetic Satisfiers are those that by
the way they satisfy a given need, stimulate and contribute to the simultaneous satisfaction of
other needs” (Max-Neef, 1991, p.33). As its best, fashion design is able to satisfy personal and
social needs (Fletcher & Grose, 2012).
Half-way products allow the chance to be a synergetic satisfier, by leaving space for personal
involvement. They encourage mental and physical engagement with the product and enable
personal style customisation. They can satisfy the need for individuality, self-expression,
creative expression, participation and offer the opportunity to develop new skills. These will
support the personal development of the owner, allowing a closer interaction thus creating a
tighter and more valuable bond with the piece. (Fletcher & Grose, 2012) By finding and
applying someones personal style to a garment, it will increase the meaning and value beyond
the seasonal fashion moment. They embodied a person’s way to accomplish the piece. These
garments with a stronger bond support the idea of a longer-lasting product to person
relationship. (Fletcher & Grose, 2012) This stronger product relationship will increase its
value and in the best case get the user to take better care of it. The items may be redesigned
and time will be invested to reinvent them. Ruth Mugge and other authors discovered similar
results related to emotional bonding with personalised products (Mugge et al. 2009). Slowing
the consumption cycle, the product replacement will be postponed and the input of new
resources can be decreased (Cooper, 2005).
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Purpose of the study
Creating emotional relationships between product and user, has to be considered by the
Designers already during the design process. Designers have to reserve the space for
emotional bonding and memory with the products. Especially, creating emotional bonding
through memories is a challenge for the designers, as beyond the purchasing act, they do not
have much influence how people interact with their products (Fletcher & Grose, 2012).
Creating value and meaningfulness to the product owner, is a key task for sustainable design.
For this reasons, we want to explore if participatory design process and consumer’s own
activity allows behavioural change.
In a case study about customising city bikes, R.Mugge demonstrates that consumer
participation and interaction can create a stronger person-product attachment. The study
shows that if consumer`s personal input intertwines the memory with the product, this can
create a deeper emotional connection. This should stimulate a higher value and emotionally
stronger person- product attachment. The products become irreplaceable for the owner.
(Mugge & Schoormans & Schifferstein, 2005) Therefore, we will explore with an
experimental workshop wether it is possible to create person-product attachment through 'do-
it-yourself' process?
This product attachment would imply that the participants of the workshop will value their
items more, as they relate it with their own effort during the making process and the positive
feeling when the result is achieved. Does the consumer's own activities open opportunities to
behavioural changes? Does the ‘do-it-yourself’ aspect and personal achievement change
consumers attitude towards fashion and clothing?
To create meaningful person-product relationship designers need to understand what do
consumers expect and need from fashion and clothing. In a products life-cycle, the designers
can and cannot influence certain stages of the consumer behaviour. Prior to the purchasing
act, we can question what created the need to constantly consume more, and how to replace it.
(Textiles Environment Design, 2012) For reducing the desire for new products, consumer’s
values and attitudes need to be understood. Based on this knowledge, person-product
attachment can be encouraged. (Cooper, 2005) How and at what point consumers attitudes
and values can be tackled? How to design valuable products for another person? Those
questions require a deeper understanding of the divers and personal reasons for consumer
purchase, use and disposal behaviour. Through the literature review we came across several
theories, classifying the consumer's behaviour. For example in 'Motivating Sustainable
Consumption', Tim Jackson is summarising several theories and models. Among them, the
Theory of Planned Behaviour, and The Theory of Reasoned Action, by Ajzen and Fishbein,
which state that other peoples attitude will influence the individuals behaviour. However,
those models nearly leave out the area of moral, emotion and habit, which strongly influence
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consumer’s behaviour. This is of great importance when considering that habit can change
behaviour before an attitude change has occurred. (Jackson, 2005) On these grounds, fashion
in its role as a cultural and social medium, can be a good agent to transform consumer
behaviour. If consumers start to reconsider one aspect of their lifestyle, they are more likely to
become aware about other sectors too.
How to design something of value?
How many products can we really value and attach to? Tim Cooper speaks in his paper
'Slower Consumption' about the uncertain number of products consumers can create a closer
affection. During the 'Eternally Yours Congress' they lied out the comparison to human
relationships -stating that human beings are only able to create a deep emotional bonding to a
certain amount of other human beings. (Cooper, 2005) Can we really compare human to
human relationship with human to product? In the current throwaway culture, it is hard to
make people care for their objects, and so prohibit the fast replacement through an update.
The behaviour towards products depends on one’s personality, and capability to start a
progress of valuing what one owns. Though it is difficult to draw a comparison line between a
person’s behaviour with human and product relationships.
Emotions play a key role in this discussion. An exploratory study on emotions and mood
when trying on clothing was conducted by Wendy Moody and others in 2010. She claims that
clothing attributes can both influence positive and negative emotions, especially during the
trying on and wearing phase (Moody et al. 2010). These emotions will build the base for a
successful and longer-lasting person-product relationship. Enabling the people with making-
skills to adjust and built a relationship to the products we have, was already discussed by Ezio
Manzini. In his working paper from 2006, he is discussing the concept of gaining well-being
by consuming less. In his argumentation a social learning process has to occur, which includes
a system shift from a product based well-being towards enabling solutions to satisfy our
needs. (Manzini, 2006) We need to create value towards the things we already own and gain
skills to evolve and change the things so they will alter with us.
Within this case-study we intend to compare if consumers will value self-made or
personalised products more than purchased items. One goal is the consumers creation of a
piece, on which we follow-up the person-product relationship. This may help to distinguish
design-opportunities to create pieces that will become valueabel. Value created through
emotions, especially positive experiences in general, can enrich a person’s life and well-being
(Mugge et al. 2009). As most important, emotional bonding and attachment can best be
created in the use- or making phase of a product (Mugge et al. 2009). On that account, the
workshop should encourage the participants to get involved in the co-design process and
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create their own piece of clothing. A positive atmosphere within the workshop should be
ensured. The atmosphere and emotion during the making-process will be beneficial to create a
positive and memorable experience. The owner connects this experience to the product, and
the piece will function as a storybook, and thus have a meaning beyond pure functionality.
(Fletcher & Grose, 2012)
At this point we tie those arguments to the idea of the Half-way product. Based on the
literature review we hypothesise that active co-design of the user will facilitate a longer and
more meaningful person-product attachment, which will in the best case result in a longer
product lifespan. We will research in a small scale setting; whether creative user-participation
will stimulate a stronger emotional bonding and a more valued relationship to the product.
And we assume that this participation may change the consumer behaviour towards a more
caring person-product relationship.
The data consists of interviews, questionnaires and own observations during the participatory
clothing design workshop at a recycling fare in Helsinki, in May 2012. The workshop named
Make{able}, focused mainly on female participants in the age group of 25 to 35. From all the
participants at the workshop, nine pro-bands in the mentioned target group filled out the
prepared questionnaires. This case-study can only show an exemplary outcome. The results
will be evaluated as a qualitative study.
Product and Questionnaire
For the participants several Half-way clothing pieces were provided. More precisely, tunics
(Figure 1-3) made from recycled materials – were prepared to offer different stages of
production. The garments were designed based on a Matrix (Figure 4) which was measuring
the user involvement, from fully designed by the designer towards the level of skills needed.
This Matrix was used in two ways, first for the designer; to elaborate the different options
how to design a Half-way garment. Secondly, the Matrix was used in the workshop, for the
participants to evaluate their skills, and to decide which level of difficulty they would be able
to accomplish (Figure 5). The tunics where marked with the corresponding number in the
matrix. (Figure 6) Thereby, success and improvement of the user for further projects can be
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The pieces offered an easy entry strep, even for sewing beginners. Over that, a tunic is a
flexible-fit garment, which will forgive small mistakes or a change in size, which makes it
also suitable for multiple fit and clothes sharing. During the workshops, designers were at side
to be asked for ideas or help with the practicalities of sewing.
After the workshop, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and a value{able} label
(Figure 7) which was sewn into the garment. The label provides place for the maker and the
time used to finalise the piece. The four-part questionnaire included these sections: general
experience-level, their perception of the fashion industry and their relationship towards their
clothing, to evaluate their current understanding of the system. In addition, two sections about
their former experience during the workshop, and working with the Half-way garment.
Finally, they had to provide an expected value for their self-assembled tunic. This question
will be compared to a follow-up survey. The questionnaire had free form and multiple choice
answer allowing suggestions among various items.
For the hypothesis verification, the follow-up was sent by e-mail 2 months later to the
participants. Seven out of nine participants responded to the follow-up questionnaire. The
follow-up included ten questions, to collect information on the perceived value and emotional
attachment toward the half-way garment in comparison to a purchased product. Some of the
questions examined the way participants felt after the workshop, to evaluate their enjoyment
of the making process and if they linked their positive feeling toward the achieved piece. Of
great interest were the experienced emotions about gaining new skills. As well as if they have
felt any restrictions or discouraging factors. Finally, the participants were asked if they felt
their consumption habits had changed by their involvement in the making of the garment.
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Figure 1. Ready Tunic after the workshop. Figure 2: Making together during the workshop.
Figure 3. Workshop space at the Recycling Fare in Helsinki May 2012.
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Figure 4. Matrix to de#ne level of involvement.
Figure 5. Matrix at the workshop. Figure 6. Half-way Tunic with Number according
to the Matrix.
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Figure 7. Signing the value{able} label.
The previous knowledge and the perception towards fashion and clothing varied a lot among
the participants. There were two very skilled regular sewers who started from scratch,
reworking old garments to a new tunic using the provided tools and patterns for ideation.
Though, the majority, seven people, were fare visitors, who had sewn the last time in primary
school. The participation group was divers, from very fashion aware consumers who enjoy
shopping weekly, to participants who already purchase rarely, and if, than mostly second-hand
clothing. As expected, the consumers who were less concerned on the current fashion trends,
and stated that they would shop less than twice a month, seemed to value their products more.
Through conversations with the people the issue was risen that the majority was interested in
making things for themselves, but had the feeling of not being able to start working, creating
and designing. This leads to the assumption that the interest of making is already rising, but
the majority has already lost the skills and energy to start. With the concept of Half-way
clothing and products, designers have the chance to ease this critical entry step. Quoting one
of the participants: “Now I dare to start, sewing patterns look so difficult.” Accordingly, the
concept of the half-way products was very much appreciated by all the participants. All nine
participants agreed that they appreciated the fact that it was half-ready as it made it easier to
accomplish something within a shorter time, but still have the chance to make it according to
one’s own preferences. Participant: “It was easier than I thought, good instructions made it
really fun!” The design and sewing steps of the Tunic were prepared to be very easy, even for
the beginners. It was a very critical point to consider the opportunity for participants to work
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independently, and not frustrate them with too difficult tasks, or too much designer influence.
Even though, it was important to offer different challenges for the variety of participants.
One of the main goals of the workshop was to create a positive atmosphere and feeling of
happiness and satisfaction of the making process. Thereby those positive emotions can be
captured as memory within the garments. Nine out of nine participants agreed to gain a
feeling of happiness and satisfaction during the making process or after seeing their results. It
made them proud to be able to achieve something wearable by themselves. Also, everybody
stated in the follow-up questionnaire that they wore the piece either a few times or regularly.
This positive feedback can be seen as a first positive indicator towards reaching one of the
workshop purposes. Especially the fill out labels at the end, got a great response, as they
captured the makers effort that was put into the garment. In this setting, all was produced
locally in Helsinki, which was clarified in the small fill-out labels which were attached in the
garments. Person-product attachment lives and benefits mostly from a strong link created to a
memorable moment shared with that piece. For this reason, the chance to fill in the name of
the maker as well as the time it took them to accomplish the piece, will hopefully keep the
memory awake as long as possible.
The intention was to study whether making result in a closer person-product attachment, and
if it changes the personal value of the item? This question can of course be best and most
accurately answered within a longer term study. This research has so far collected the data of
nine workshop participants and can therefore only be seen as estimation towards future
However, after the workshop all nine participants had a 'high' or 'very high' expected value
towards the made garment. The mentioned reasons were mostly that they accomplished the
piece themselves and through that gave it a unique touch. Even though, the participants had a
very divers perception towards the fashion industry and its influence on them, all seemed to
enjoy creating something unique, which enters a memory on the making process. Over that,
nearly everyone mentioned to have one or more favourite pieces in their wardrobe which
makes them feel especially pretty and self-confident or it is a really comfortable piece. In
average, most people answered that they attach to this garment, as it reminds on a place or a
person. Hence, if this idea of a 'story' can be linked to a garment, the making aspect of the
user will have an impact as well. One of the participants stated: “The cloth (Tunic) has more
value in my eyes, because I was also making it. It has a story now.”
The results of the first follow-up questionnaire were in general positive. Even though, the
expected value level of 'very high' got mostly re-evaluated to be 'high'. In general it caught
attention that people who valued their clothes high in general, tend to value the self-
assembled item in a high position too.
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The feedback about the learning and making process was very positive, even after two
months’ time, the majority of participants were eager to use their skills for other sewing
projects. Most participants agreed that they would be interested in joining another workshop,
as it helps to find motivation in this sounding. Over that the good atmosphere of making
together was mentioned several times. In general, the workshop setting seems to offer
opportunities which otherwise restrict the single user to start sewing and creation by
themselves. Sewing machines, patterns, material and advice can all be found in one space. For
this reason co-sewing spaces like Nadelwald in Berlin ( or the
SweatShop Paris ( offer a great opportunity for beginners or
occasional sewers.
Creating emotional bonding towards an item needs time and use of the product. Based on the
literature review, we can assume that a close person-product attachment evolves over a longer
period of time, and can therefore not be fully measured within this case-study. The same
applies to precise evaluation of a behavioural change among the participants. Even though,
this study allows approximate estimation about the success and possibilities of the Half-way
clothing. Over that the number of participants was very small, which let us only estimate the
possibilities for future research. This future research could investigate a larger number of
participants over a longer period of time. As well as following up their further approaches to
use the newly gained skills.
This study expresses that there are possibilities for designers to help the consumer create an
emotional and valuable bond with their clothing. We proved that designing with an aim to
value creation can lead to products for which the owner has a stronger emotional attachment.
The product will remind them of a story and the production work. On the long term, the
evolving relationship towards the garment cannot be surveyed within this study, but it can be
estimated by the participants themselves. As stated above, the value towards the self-made
garments differed regarding the person`s perception towards fashion and their existing
wardrobe. How the owner interacts with their clothes and what they symbolise to them is
highly personal. As a result, the understanding of value depends on the personality as much as
it depends on attitude and behaviour. Is it possible to change behaviour through created value,
or does the attitude need to change first? For a sustainable behavioural change, the importance
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lies in understanding and awareness. Both designers and consumers are addressed. Whether
we can plan and design for value is still debatable, as it depends on many personal and
psychological factors. In this respect, we can see the option of challenging designers to define
and test through trial and error the opportunities that develop throughout a product-lifecycle.
Growing product value should become main criteria for design success. It should be a goal
and in the designer`s responsibility to evaluate the product`s meaning to their owners.
If products represent one`s personality, then they can achieve a level of special value, as they
are part of the owner`s self-expression. Alternatives to the ready-to-wear garments offer
possibilities to change attitude towards fashion and clothing by offering the user the
possibility to define their personal style. Relating to the answers of the workshop participants,
the majority responded that they started to think more carefully about purchasing new items,
as well as starting to redesign old garments. A future dimension could be, for example, Half-
way products in a sewing kit. The Half-way sewing-kit would provide the consumer with a
product that needs consumer interaction before the first use. There could be different stages of
difficulty, depending on the consumer's prior skills. However, every piece can be adjusted to
measure and personal style.
In general, it can be expected that the appreciation towards clothing can be enhanced through
user-involvement in the making process. This assumption was also reflected within the
follow-up research. The case-study showed that 'making' can be a key-factor to create higher
value and attachment towards clothing. Half-way products offer the chance for self-
expression, as well as provide an easy base to start, which may prohibit production failure,
especially within the setting of a participatory workshop. The gained skills and understanding
of the product will help to take good care and redesign the product if desired.
We can summarise, that for supporting an open and sustainable design approach, Half-way
products, as well as participatory design workshops offer an interesting opportunity for further
research. Half-way products cannot become a new way of mass-produced fast fashion, but
they can function as tools, used also in participatory workshops, to encourage the user
towards a sustainable behaviour. In the best case scenario, the products can attain a higher
level of value in the owner`s wardrobe, and help them develop an independent and personal
style – a starting point towards behavioural change.
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“Throwaway Society”', Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol. 9, no. 1-2, pp. 51-67
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behaviour and behavioural change', Centre for Environmental Strategy, Surey
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All images are copyright by the authors.
10th European Academy of Design Conference - Crafting the Future 17 | Page
10th European Academy of Design Conference - Crafting the Future 18 | Page
  • ... One of the challenges circumnavigated in this research was an underlying need for dressmaking skills. In an earlier study Hirscher and Niinimäki [2] worked with 'pre-made' tunics offered to participants under the concept of 'half-made' to be customised by the individual. More recently Martin [3] addressed the same skills gap via the use of simplistic geometric shapes to create garments. ...
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  • ... Implemented PSS business models cover a wide range of examples. Some companies provide repair, redesign or make-it-yourself services to prolong the garments' lifetime, while others offer customized clothes, halfway products and kit-based clothes with detachable parts [25,[27][28][29][30][31]. Furthermore, fashion firms have more and more started to incorporate full life cycle approaches into their business strategies by extending their responsibility beyond the point of sale and take back sold cloths at the end of their usage [26,32]. ...
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  • ... In this model, a product is begun by the designer and finished by the user, during which the consumer is able to apply their own creativity, preferences, narratives and even memories to the product design, acquiring a deeper knowledge and attachment to it (Papanek, 1995). Anja-Lisa Hirscher is currently piloting this concept through workshops in Finland, experimenting with different product concepts created for different user skill levels (Hirscher and Niinimäki, 2013). These examples provide some indication of how the industry is experimenting with alternatives and the different ways in which PSS might be conceptualized for clothing. ...
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