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DESIGNING SUCCESS: DESCRIBING A COLLABORATIVE CLOTHING DESIGN PROCESS BETWEEN APPRENTICE DESIGNERS AND EXPERT DESIGN ENTREPRENEURS

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OPSOMMING Die Suid-Afrikaanse kledingbedryf is onder geweldige ekonomiese druk, veral ten opsigte van vervaardiging, wat ook kledingontwerp insluit. Daar is bevind dat 50% van werknemers in hierdie bedryf in 2013 afgelê is weens die feit dat kledingmaatskappye nie met goedkoop kledinginvoere in die mark kon meeding nie. Entrepeneurskap in hierdie bedryf word aangemoedig om oplossings te bied vir werkloosheid. Gevolglik is daar 'n behoefte aan platforms wat kledingontwerpers kan ondersteun wat hul eie ondernemings wil stig. Een sodanige inisiatief wat spesifiek vir kledingontwerpers in Gauteng geïmplementeer is, is deur 'n gevestigde modehuis geloods. Hierdie platform het ten doel om leerling-kledingontwerpers wat hul eie ondernemings wil begin, by te staan met tegniese opleiding en ondersteuning. Terwyl die leerling-ontwerpers se vaardighede in hierdie proses ontwikkel en verbeter word, word daar ook realistiese verwagtings oor die bedryf bewerkstellig. Die studie handel oor 'n spesifieke ontwerpproses wat toegepas is tydens 'n opleidingsprogram vir leerling-ontwerpers by die gevestigde modehuis. Die bepaalde ontwerpproses wat in hierdie studie beskryf word, is gebruik om 'n kledingreeks saam te stel wat eers op 'n internasionale modeskou ten toon gestel is en daarna na 'n spesialiteitswinkel in Gauteng gestuur is om aan 'n spesifieke teikenmark verkoop te word. Die navorsingsontwerp was 'n gevallestudie en die navorsingsmetodes was kwalitatief van aard. Die navorsingsmetodes het waarnemings van die ontwerpproses en semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude met deelnemers ingesluit. Die deelnemers het nege leerling-en drie spesialisontwerpers ingesluit. Samewerking tussen twee leerlingontwerpers en 'n spesialisontwerper het kreatiwiteit van 'n span, in plaas van individue, tydens 'n ontwerpproses opgelewer. Die bevindinge dui daarop dat die span se kreatiwiteit voordele inhou vir alle betrokke partye. Die bevindinge ten opsigte van kreatiwiteit dui daarop dat spesialisontwerpers die vaardigheid en aanpasbaarheid, wat twee dimensies van kreatiwiteit is, van die leerlingontwerpers gestimuleer het. Verder is daar bevind dat die leerlingontwerpers met nuwe, oorspronklike idees vorendag gekom het wat die spesialis-ontwerpers inspireer het. Die sukses van die ontwerpte reeks ten opsigte van die beeld van die handelsnaam en die feit dat dit aan die behoeftes en voorkeure van 'n bepaalde teikenmark voldoen het, dui ook daarop dat die kreatiewe omgewing 'n positiewe bydrae tot die uitkomste gemaak het. Die kreatiewe omgewing het nie net bewerkstellig dat nuwe tegnieke en idees toegepas is op die kledingreeks nie, maar daar is ook twee faktore geïdentifiseer wat belangrik is vanuit 'n besigheidsperspektief:  Realistiese verwagtinge oor wat kleding-ontwerp vir 'n bepaalde teikenmark en bemarkingsdoeleindes behels  Kreatiwiteit vanuit 'n probleemoplossings-perspektief Realistiese verwagtinge oor die bedryf, die ontwerpproses en kreatiwiteit is van uiterste belang vir die bevordering van entrepreneurskap. Die outeurs van hierdie artikel beveel aan dat die kolletiewe ontwerpproses, wat ontwerpers met verskillende vaardigheidsvlakke insluit, nie net gebruik moet word om kledingstukke te skep nie, maar ook as 'n proses om 'n veilige, kreatiewe omgewing daar te stel vir leerlingontwerpers wat ondernemings wil begin. 'n Veilige, kreatiewe omgewing behels dat leerlingontwerpers toegelaat word om foute te maak en ondersteun word om nuwe idees uit te toets, en sodoende aangemoedig word om hul entrepreneursdrome te verwesenlik.
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ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs
50
DESIGNING SUCCESS: DESCRIBING A COLLABORATIVE CLOTHING DESIGN
PROCESS BETWEEN APPRENTICE DESIGNERS AND EXPERT DESIGN
ENTREPRENEURS
Thea J Tselepis*, Anne Mastamet-Mason & Alex J Antonites
OPSOMMING
Die Suid-Afrikaanse kledingbedryf is onder
geweldige ekonomiese druk, veral ten opsigte
van vervaardiging, wat ook kledingontwerp
insluit. Daar is bevind dat 50% van werknemers
in hierdie bedryf in 2013 afgelê is weens die feit
dat kledingmaatskappye nie met goedkoop
kledinginvoere in die mark kon meeding nie.
Entrepeneurskap in hierdie bedryf word
aangemoedig om oplossings te bied vir
werkloosheid. Gevolglik is daar ’n behoefte aan
platforms wat kledingontwerpers kan
ondersteun wat hul eie ondernemings wil stig.
Een sodanige inisiatief wat spesifiek vir
kledingontwerpers in Gauteng geïmplementeer
is, is deur ’n gevestigde modehuis geloods.
Hierdie platform het ten doel om leerling-
kledingontwerpers wat hul eie ondernemings wil
begin, by te staan met tegniese opleiding en
ondersteuning. Terwyl die leerling-ontwerpers
se vaardighede in hierdie proses ontwikkel en
verbeter word, word daar ook realistiese
verwagtings oor die bedryf bewerkstellig.
Die studie handel oor ’n spesifieke
ontwerpproses wat toegepas is tydens ’n
opleidingsprogram vir leerling-ontwerpers by die
gevestigde modehuis. Die bepaalde
ontwerpproses wat in hierdie studie beskryf
word, is gebruik om ’n kledingreeks saam te stel
wat eers op ’n internasionale modeskou ten
toon gestel is en daarna na ’n spesialiteitswinkel
in Gauteng gestuur is om aan ’n spesifieke
teikenmark verkoop te word.
Die navorsingsontwerp was ’n gevallestudie en
die navorsingsmetodes was kwalitatief van
aard. Die navorsingsmetodes het waarnemings
van die ontwerpproses en semi-gestruktureerde
onderhoude met deelnemers ingesluit. Die
deelnemers het nege leerling- en drie
spesialisontwerpers ingesluit.
Samewerking tussen twee leerlingontwerpers
en ’n spesialisontwerper het kreatiwiteit van ‘n
span, in plaas van individue, tydens ‘n
ontwerpproses opgelewer. Die bevindinge dui
daarop dat die span se kreatiwiteit voordele
inhou vir alle betrokke partye. Die bevindinge
ten opsigte van kreatiwiteit dui daarop dat
spesialisontwerpers die vaardigheid en
aanpasbaarheid, wat twee dimensies van
kreatiwiteit is, van die leerlingontwerpers
gestimuleer het. Verder is daar bevind dat die
leerlingontwerpers met nuwe, oorspronklike
idees vorendag gekom het wat die spesialis-
ontwerpers inspireer het. Die sukses van die
ontwerpte reeks ten opsigte van die beeld van
die handelsnaam en die feit dat dit aan die
behoeftes en voorkeure van ’n bepaalde
teikenmark voldoen het, dui ook daarop dat die
kreatiewe omgewing ’n positiewe bydrae tot die
uitkomste gemaak het.
Die kreatiewe omgewing het nie net
bewerkstellig dat nuwe tegnieke en idees
toegepas is op die kledingreeks nie, maar daar
is ook twee faktore geïdentifiseer wat belangrik
is vanuit ’n besigheidsperspektief:
Realistiese verwagtinge oor wat kleding-
ontwerp vir ’n bepaalde teikenmark en
bemarkingsdoeleindes behels
Kreatiwiteit vanuit ’n probleemoplossings-
perspektief
Realistiese verwagtinge oor die bedryf, die
ontwerpproses en kreatiwiteit is van uiterste
belang vir die bevordering van
entrepreneurskap.
Die outeurs van hierdie artikel beveel aan dat
die kolletiewe ontwerpproses, wat ontwerpers
met verskillende vaardigheidsvlakke insluit, nie
net gebruik moet word om kledingstukke te
skep nie, maar ook as ’n proses om ’n veilige,
kreatiewe omgewing daar te stel vir
leerlingontwerpers wat ondernemings wil begin.
’n Veilige, kreatiewe omgewing behels dat
leerlingontwerpers toegelaat word om foute te
maak en ondersteun word om nuwe idees uit te
toets, en sodoende aangemoedig word om hul
entrepreneursdrome te verwesenlik.
Dr TJ Tselepis*
Department of Fashion Design
University of Johannesburg
Tel: +27 (0)83 226 5808
Fax: +27 (0)11 1610
E mail: theat@uj.ac.za
*Corresponding author
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Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs 51
INTRODUCTION
With the high unemployment rate in South Africa
and specifically the deterioration of the local
clothing and textile industry (Nattrass &
Seekings, 2014), government has prioritized
small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs)
as a key driver of job creation (Urban & Naidoo,
2012). Consequently, the livelihood of clothing
design and manufacturing SMMEs has become
increasingly important for the socio-economic
development of the country (Nattrass, 2014).
The governmental strategy pertaining to the
clothing and textile industry suggest a need for
entrepreneurial/small business platforms as well
as processes and support mechanisms to
induce start-up rates.
Unfortunately, the number of SMME failures in
South Africa varies between 50% and 95%
within the first five years (Willemse, 2010).
Entrepreneurial incubation hubs are often
introduced to develop the necessary skills for
entrepreneurial ventures, but also to support
start-up small business ventures to survive in
the long run (Ebbers, 2013). One such initiative
is an incubation hub that implements a
collaborative model in a well-established
clothing design SMME. This incubation hub’s
collaborative model supports inexperienced
designers to design and produce garments on
the well-established design platform of expert
design entrepreneurs, with the assistance of the
latter’s mentorship. The specific incubation hub
presented in this paper is situated in Gauteng.
This paper describes a collaborative clothing
design process applied at this incubation hub to
support and develop apprentice clothing
designers who aspire to launch their own
entrepreneurial ventures.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Design as a process to achieve set
objectives
A design process, as opposed to an artistic
process, is a strategic planning process that has
specific objectives that typically revolve around
end-user or consumer needs (Bai et al, 2009;
Boztepe, 2007; Miller et al, 2005). The generic
design process of Aspelund (2010:i) has been
applied to clothing design and includes the
following phases: (1) Inspiration, (2)
Identification of the problem, (3)
Conceptualisation, (4) Exploration, (5) Definition/
modelling, (6) Communication. Design
processes that resemble Apelund’s (2010:i)
process and that have been applied to clothing
design are those of LaBat and Sokolowski
(1999), Regan et al (1998), and Lamb and Kallal
(1992). Although some of these processes have
more phases than others, the preproduction
phases of all these clothing design processes
correspond. Table 1 equates the design
processes with a description of the generic
actions proposed by Au et al (2004) that take
place during the design phases of the different
design processes.
From Table 1 it is evident that all the provided
design processes require analysis, synthesis
and evaluation skills prior to the implementation
phase. Analysis mainly involves analysing a
design problem. A design problem can be
defined by the design parameters which
involves the design requirements and what the
design should not include or be (Aspelund,
2010:10). Typical parameters evident from
Table 1 for fashion design processes involves
analysis of trends or finding inspiration by
analysing themes or fashion trends, user/
consumer needs, design requirements and
possible constraints during the design process.
From Table 1 it is also evident that synthesis as
a design action, relates to the designer’s ability
to combine ideas that relate to raw materials,
concept designs and alternative solutions to the
design problem. Evaluation pertains to the
refinement of ideas in relation to the possible
solutions’ potential to solve the design problem
at hand. Implementation involves making the
suitable design concept real by communicating
a final design concept and producing the
concept accordingly. The communication as
illustrated in Table 1 suggests that there is more
than one party involved in a design process.
Prof A Mastamet-Mason
Department of Fashion Design
Tshwane University of Technology
Tel: +27 (0)71 427 3708
E mail: masona@tut.ac.za
Prof AJ Antonites
Department of Business Management
University of Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0)12 420 3119
E mail: alex1@up.ac.za
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
All the design processes presented in Table 1
can be viewed as user-centred as the design
problem revolves around an end-user or
consumer’s needs. Lamb and Kallal (1992), in
particular, emphasise a user-centred design
process that focuses on the multidimensional
needs of the customer or user, which designers
should take into consideration in order to create
value.
A user-centred design approach is typically
associated with design processes that are
implemented for commercial use (LaBat &
Sokolowski, 1999; Regan et al, 1998). A
commercial design purpose therefore, revolves
around the needs and wants of the consumer
who purchases the designed product so that the
purchased product satisfies the consumer
needs. Nevertheless, one can argue that it takes
experience to identify and interpret user or
customer needs in design, and this might
present a challenge for apprentice design
entrepreneurs who often do not have the
support systems that allow for errors during the
clothing design process. For this reason,
collaboration with more experienced designers
might be beneficial.
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs
52
(Tselepis et al, 2013:261)
Common design
action
(Au et al., 2004)
Engineering design pro-
cess applied to apparel
design (Regan et al., 1998)
Apparel design process
of Lamb & Kallal, 1992
Universal design pro-
cess of Aspelund
(2010:i)
Pre-production
planning
Analysis 1 Inspiration
(motivation for the prob-
lem, trends analysis)
1 Problem recognition
(a) Problem statement
(b) Creation of ideas
(c) Solution generation
1 Identification of prob-
lem
(functional, expressive and
aesthetic dimensions of
client needs)
2 Identification of the
design problem
(end-user needs and con-
straints;
specific requirements)
2 Problem definition
(a) Objectives
(b) Resources
(c) Design boundaries
(d) Sub-problem
Synthesis 3 Exploration of problem
(a) Information search
(b) Assumptions
(c) Design strategy
(d) Market assessment
(e) Objectives
(f) Cost
2 Preliminary ideas
(creativity: technical
sketching, brainstorming,
research, survey question-
and-answer sessions)
3 Conceptualisation
(brainstorming, presenting
analogies, questioning,
sketching)
4 Search for alternatives
(a) Experience
(b) Answers
(c) Requirements
(d) Design proposal
3 Design refinement 4 Exploration of ideas
(that might solve the prob-
lem)
5 Evaluation and decisions
(a) Outcomes
(b) Feasibility
(c) Evaluation
6 Specification of solution
(a) Analysis
4 Prototype development 5 Definition/ modelling
Evaluate 7 Communicate solution
(a) Verbal
(b) Visual
(c) Approval
5 Evaluation
(functional, expressive and
aesthetic needs of apparel
play a role
6 Communication
Production Implement 6 Implementation
TABLE 1: COMPARISON BETWEEN DIFFERENT DESIGN PROCESSES APPLIED TO AP-
PAREL DESIGN
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The benefits of collaborating with expert
designers in a creative environment
Collaboration is a way to overcome design
challenges or enhance the skill level of those
involved (Kangas et al, 2013; Wiltschnig et al,
2013). Collaboration between designers from
other design disciplines has also been
introduced to clothing design, resulting in cross-
over trends (Lidwell et al, 2010:16; Bai et al,
2009). Moreover, collaboration between
designers with similar backgrounds in the same
discipline has been prominent in the field of
information technology (Avison & Fitzgerald,
2008: 479). However, literature relating to the
clothing design process is lacking, especially in
describing the advantages of collaboration with
expert designers during the clothing design
process to support and enhance the skills of
apprentice designers who aspire to pursue their
own entrepreneurial ventures in the clothing
industry. The advantages of collaboration during
a design process are linked to collective
creativity within a creative environment that
emerges as a result of the collaboration.
Collective creativity in the collaborative
design process
Creativity is defined as a multifaceted integrative
concept that emanates from conceptual
reasoning. It is an emotional process and is
linked directly or indirectly to the characteristics
of one’s formal and informal education, social-
cultural situation (including family) and historical
experiences (Wu et al, 2013). According to Mohr
(in Wu et al, 2013), the comprehensiveness of
the concept of creativity is manifested in a
phased process of reasoning and behavioural
changes. One can derive from this
comprehensive definition that creativity is
strongly linked to critical thinking and problem-
solving processes in which collaborative group
members can participate to draw from a
collective creativity.
Shiu et al (2011) confirm that collective creativity
mainly manifests during creative problem-
solving. Lindberg et al (2010) suggest that
designers adopt descriptive analytical design
thinking when approaching complex design
problems. This approach begins with an
empirical exploration of the design problem by
observing and describing what other
experienced designers do. It is followed by
exploring many alternative ideas of how to solve
the problem, which is facilitated by frequent
conversations with other designers and end-
users (such as the consumer). Multiple iterations
provide the link between the problem and a
suitable solution that accesses diverse fields of
knowledge. Lindberg et al (2010) state that
experienced designers create an environment
that encourage collective creativity. This
approach can be linked to, or result in innovative
solutions to design problems. Although some
links between collective creativity and collective
thinking have been made (Shin et al, 2012) the
exact process of collective creativity to solve
complex problems remains unidentified.
Collective creativity is a phenomenon that has
been linked to ideation and is beneficial in terms
of fluency, flexibility and novelty (Tadmor et al,
2012). Fluency, flexibility and novelty are
dimensions of creativity that relate to ideation in
particular (Kraft, 2005). Fluency is someone’s
ability to generate multiple possible answers to a
problem in a limited time (Silvia, 2008). This
implies that a high level of fluency enables the
person to come up with several meaningful
solutions in a short time frame. Flexibility is an
adaptability to change instructions or the ability
to make a spontaneous mind shift to solve a
problem, whereas novelty points to originality or
rarity of an idea (Sarkar & Chakrabarti, 2011).
Expert designers have the skill to yield fluency
and flexibility because, according to Dorst and
Reymen (2004:136), expert designers (as in
“better” and experienced) have the skill to
recognise a design problem fast and respond to
it intuitively. Expert designers intuitively apply
solutions to design problems by drawing from
the experience gained with similar previous
problems (Daly et al, 2012). This implies that the
expert designer has an ability to see patterns or
similarities between a current problem and other
problems he/she has solved previously. The
experience triggers several approaches to the
problem that have been implemented before.
However, one can speculate about the role of
experience when different approaches (other
than the tried and tested approaches) to solving
familiar problems are required to enhance the
novelty of ideas. The literature is not clear on
how original and unusual expert designers’
ideas always are.
Conversely, it has been established that
apprentice designers are still developing their
creative problem-solving skills. They require
direction and clear instructions with regard to
design (Wong & Siu, 2012). Nevertheless,
apprentice designers also need opportunities to
learn and experiment with creative ideas
(Csikszentmihalyi, 2014:101).
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs 53
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
Creativity can be viewed as a skill that is
important during design processes, but also in
entrepreneurial thinking. Kuratko (2013:153)
confirms that creativity is one of the skills that
distinguishes a small business owner from a
true entrepreneur who establishes a business
that shows continuous growth. Therefore, the
argument is made that apprentice designers
who aspire to be entrepreneurs should develop
creative skills not only to be better designers,
but also to be better entrepreneurs.
RESEARCH OBJECTIVE
The research objective presented in this paper
is to explore and describe a collaborative design
process that engages apprentice clothing design
entrepreneurs and expert design entrepreneurs
at an incubation hub in Gauteng.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Research design
The researcher was interested in understanding
events, actions and processes in their context.
Yin (2008: 18) points out that a case study is an
empirical enquiry that can be implemented to
investigate a contemporary phenomenon in
great detail within a real-life context. For this
reason a case study research design was
suitable for this study.
The specific case was selected because it
experienced continuous business growth for five
consecutive years and launched a small
business incubation hub for aspiring clothing
design entrepreneurs. Two of the experienced
designers were owners of the incubation hub
and also owned an apparel design small
business. The two experienced designer-owners
were regarded as well-established fashion
entrepreneurs who has an understanding of the
local markets. These two experienced designers
produced high-end custom-made garments as
well as ready-to-wear ranges. All the ready-to-
wear ranges designed by the experienced
designers are available in four speciality stores
in Gauteng. The ready-to-wear ranges were
manged by a third experienced designer who
was a fulltime employee in the design business
and assisted with training in the incubation hub.
The incubation hub shared the premises of the
manufacturing facilities of the experienced
designers’ design business. The incubation
programme was managed by training staff who
coordinated experiential learning experiences
with the experienced designers. The incubation
hub implemented a collaborative design model
which involved mentorship during different
phases of the apparel design process.
The case was prominent in the local media
because of the role it played in job creation
through a mentorship programme for aspiring
clothing design entrepreneurs. Nine apprentice
designers were involved in the study in this
case, six of whom had no formal training from
academic institutions and were taught pattern
design and draping by the three experienced
designers at the incubation hub to earn an
income while undergoing training over a two-
year period. The other three apprentice
designers had completed a three-year diploma
at a technical university and entered into a six-
month experiential learning programme offered
by the incubation hub.
Data gathering and methods
All the participants in this study gave written
consent to take part in the research study. Each
participant was consulted before the data was
reported for publication purposes. Anonymity
was agreed upon and the interview schedule
used for data collection was approved by an
ethics committee affiliated with the incubation
hub. The participants were also informed that
they could withdraw from the study at any point,
should they be uncomfortable with the
researcher or any aspect of the research
process applied during data gathering.
Qualitative methods were used in the research
study. Semi-structured interviews were held and
the interviews varied in length from 30 minutes
to two hours. Interviews with participants were
repeated until data saturation was reached. A
total of eight interviews were conducted,
involving two apprentice designers and their
mentor at a time. The interviews allowed all
participants to reflect on their experience during
and after the design process of a dress. Other
questions that required individual apprentice
designers’ opinions were asked only after the
mentor or other apprentices had left the
interview session. The aim of this was to
specifically elaborate on, or explain observations
that the researcher documented during the
design process. Audio recordings of the
interviews were made with the permission of the
participants. All interviews were transcribed by
the researcher, and participants were asked to
validate the interviews by reading through the
transcriptions.
The researcher also observed the design
process. Progress, interactions and techniques
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs
54
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
were documented. Data was gathered over a
period of one month on weekdays between 8:00
and 21:00. Field notes were made throughout
the data gathering period and the researcher’s
own reflections were recorded every evening.
Data analysis
The researcher’s strategy to analyse data
incorporated the guidelines on case study data
analysis of Leedy and Ormrod (2005:135), as
well as the qualitative data analysis framework
of Miles and Huberman (1994:17). All the data
from interview transcriptions and field notes on
the observations was analysed line by line
according to the categories to which it
corresponded. Preliminary design phases
identified from existing literature were used as
initial categories. New tentative categories that
emerged from the data were created for data
that did not fit into an existing category. All the
data sources were repeatedly read to make
sense of the patterns and themes that emerged,
as advised by Merriam (2009:175). Categories,
subcategories and units of meaning were
created as they emerged from the data. As they
were confirmed with existing literature, the
case’s findings were re-interpreted and validated
by two experts (peer reviews), and categories
were refined and revised.
Data was initially categorised according to the
design phases of Aspelund (2010:i), because
they overlapped with other design processes
applied to clothing design. Nevertheless, the
particular case seemed to apply an iterative
process. The distinction between preproduction
planning and the actual production became
vague and these phases were seen as
inseparable. For this reason, the generic
descriptors for design phases namely analysis,
synthesis, evaluation and implementation were
used to report the findings. In this regard it is
also important to note that evaluation and
implementation was not separate phases in the
findings, as the apprentice designers were
allowed to experiment and evaluate the designs
with their mentors while implementing.
The findings on the design process were
analysed according to the generic design
actions in order to identify strategies that
supported dimensions of creativity, as pointed
out in the literature review, which include
fluency, flexibility and novelty.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
Analysis phase
As illustrated in the literature review, the
analysis phase of the design process involves
analysing the design problem with the relevant
design parameters, analysis of user/consumer
needs which can also become requirements and
the design parameters. In this study, a range of
twenty dresses we required to firstly be
showcased during an international fashion
week, and to secondly be supplied to a local
speciality store that caters for a specific niche
target market. The experienced design
entrepreneurs invited the apprentice designers
to collaborate on nine of the twenty required
dresses. The analysis phase in of this particular
design process revolved around the specific
requirements and purpose of the range. These
requirements could therefore be viewed as the
parameters of the design process.
Analysis of design parameters The design
parameters were analysed by the all three of the
experienced designers and discussed with the
apprentice designers. The parameters were:
1) Apprentice designers needed to collaborate in
designing the garments that represented the
particular fashion brand image which is
eccentric and exclusive.
2) Garments were to be designed for a size ten
to suit a specific target market’s needs.
3) The latest fashion trends had to be
incorporated into a tailored garment to adhere
to the quality standards of the fashion house.
4) All garments had to be created within a
budget for the entire range.
5) Apprentice designers were requested to
collaborate on a central theme for the entire
range.
The role of the expert and apprentice
designers during the analysis phase The
expert designers came up with a coherent
theme during a first meeting. Two of the expert
designers decided to focus on South Africa’s
natural elements to get maximum exposure for
South Africa during the international fashion
week. In addition, the range had to adhere to the
aesthetic preferences and needs of a local
speciality store’s target market. The third expert
designer supported this decision. The overall
design inspiration was therefore directed by the
experienced designers. The following statement
by an expert designer gave insight into the
reasoning for this direction, as opposed to
negotiating the inspiration with the apprentice
designers:
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ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
Inspiration is something personal, so we ask
the youngsters [for] their opinion and inputs only
when we are happy with what we have chosen.”
The experienced designers requested that nine
of the concept designs be developed by the nine
apprentices. They seemed to think that
mentorship on half of the range provided
enough opportunity for apprentice designers to
be creative and illustrate their abilities. One
experienced designer’s statement in an
interview reflects this:
“We have to give these young designers a way
to show what they are made of. An opportunity
like this can make a designer.”
Two apprentice designers were grouped with an
experienced designer to extrapolate coherent
design ideas derived from the inspiration, the
target market needs and message the fashion
house brand communicates. Some of the
apprentice designers expressed dissatisfaction
during an interview conducted after the meeting
with their mentors where the inspiration was
announced to direct the themes:
“I was shocked to realise that I can’t just do what
I envisioned! Up to now all our projects gave us
that scope. It felt like they are limiting my
creative spirit.”
Synthesis
Sketching In this design phase, sketching
is a typical way to conceptualise designs. The
experienced designers explained that a basic
preliminary sketch should be made and not
refined until the actual garment has been
completed. The experienced designers
explained this reasoning to the researcher:
“The sketch is sometimes not the dress. It [ideas
and the product] grows. It is a waste of time to
spend two hours on a sketch that will change at
the end of the day. Ninety percent of the time we
get another fabric [in the fabric store]; then the
entire picture changes.”
This statement indicated that the experienced
designers encouraged flexibility. They seemed
to want the apprentice designers to keep an
open mind about what the garments could
become. Nevertheless, another apprentice
designer’s comment to the researcher and other
apprentice designers illustrates that the expert
designers’ advice on open-mindedness was not
perceived as flexibility:
“It is hard not to do what you want…”
Fabric selection Concept ideas were
inseparable from fabric selection. The selection
of fabric became a prominent aspect of
discussion among the experienced designers
and apprentice designers. A selection was made
from large pieces of “left-over” fabric and one
roll of basic Dutchess satin that was set aside
for the entire range. The designated pile of
fabric for the range grew over the following two
weeks from small pieces of fabric left over from
client projects. Fabric selection and ideas on the
silhouettes or detail on dresses were discussed
simultaneously in the open-plan studio on a
daily basis for at least two hours at a time.
The use of off-cuts made an impression on
some of the apprentice designers, who seemed
to have developed an understanding of budget
constraints. This is confirmed in the following
statement made by an apprentice designer
during an interview:
“…we will use this [holding up a piece of 1 m x
1 m fabric] sparingly and our group shares with
those two [pointing to two other apprentice
designers], cause this is really expensive. I think
it’s like R4000 per meter. I am even nervous to
cut this, so I will ask [expert designer’s name] to
help me.”
This comment illustrated that the particular
apprentice designer respected the skill of her
mentor and saw him as someone who could
assist her to overcome anxiety, but it also points
to a sensitivity for cost, which relates to
business thinking.
Pattern design This design phase also
required that the patterns had to be manipulated
using a standard size ten block pattern.
Apprentice designers were briefed not to include
any style lines other than the princess lines for
detail, even if there were probably going to be
diagonal lines on the final garments. The
following statement by one of the expert
designers confirmed this strategy:
The thing is we can always just create an
illusion of a line here [pointing to a rough sketch]
because if we have to put this on the pattern,
the youngsters [referring to apprentice
designers] will get confused when we start
cutting and we will also lose production time. We
can create the very same thing by just creating
the look and we would have covered that seam
line with lace in any case, so why bother?”
The statement indicates that the strategy was
implemented to reduce production time, but also
to align a complex design task to the level of the
apprentice designers, so that fluency was
facilitated. This strategy was positively
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
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56
FIGURE 1: A CANVAS
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
implemented a non-linear design process with
regard to the role of creativity. Creativity usually
plays a more important role during the ideation
phases of design. In this case, the actual
collective creativity came to the fore during the
evaluation and implementation phase.
Furthermore, evaluation and implementation
were not two separate phases. The
observations and verbatim comments on this
phase are presented accordingly.
Canvas stage Nine “ canvases (generic A-
line dresses without detail that were sewn
together by three experienced seamstresses)
were displayed on dress forms in an open-plan
studio. Two apprentice designers, under the
leadership of one experienced designer, worked
on one dress at a time, but a total of two
dresses were completed by each team except
for the ninth apprentice designer who started on
the ninth dress on her own. She was joined by a
member of another team when that team had
completed their first dress. Nine of the garments
were therefore completed by the apprentice
design teams. The observations reported in this
phase mainly reflect the first nine dresses that
were completed by teams constituting two
apprentice designers. Creative sewing and
problem solving skills were applied by
apprentice designers and the experienced
designers served as a sound board for
apprentice designers’ thinking and application in
transforming the canvas.
Figure 1 shows a line sketch of a typical canvas
From Figure 1 it is evident that only a basic A-
line dress with a simple neckline is designed
without any detail or extra layers of fabric.
Princess lines are the only style lines evident.
Transforming the canvas Draping
techniques were mostly used in this design
phase to add layers of flowing fabric to the
canvases. Fabric layers were sewn onto the
canvas by hand using four threads. Creative
ways were used to conceal hand stiches on the
garments, mostly with handmade flowers or cut-
out lace, re-engineered with other pieces of off-
cut lace, to create an unconventional look. Other
techniques involved crunching tulle and adding
lace or asymmetrical detail to canvases. The
canvases were viewed as potential art pieces
that had to be created for a specific niche
market. Broad ideas sketched in the first phase
were adjusted as the actual garment took
shape. Figure 2 shows a completed garment as
it evolved from the canvas stage.
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
ers and expert design entrepreneurs 57
perceived by one of apprentice designers, who
shared the following after hearing that she does
not have to draw a complex pattern:
“Yup … loving this cause I want to get to the
‘lekker’ stuff, you know, where I get to play. Not
draft and test patterns and cut pieces that will
change a million times to get the right fit.”
Evaluation and implementation
It is important to note that the particular case
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
Figure 2 illustrates one of the transformed
garments with added layers to change the initial
canvas’ silhouette. Lace was used to cover the
princess lines and detail was added to create an
asymmetrical neckline. A diagonal style line that
seems to separate the top and skirt part is
simulated on the canvas with lace detail.
The role of the expert designers during the
transformation of canvases The expert
designers consistently reminded the apprentice
designers of the parameters of the design
process, especially the fact that it had to be
commercial and therefore, the budget had to be
considered. Moreover, emphasis was placed on
the fact that the fashion house brand always
offers garments that are “different” to what one
would expect. Apprentice designers’
expectations about garments and what it should
represent were managed accordingly. An
experienced designer explained this brand
image in an interview:
“The designs evolve as we go on. You’ll have
the fabric and then add something here, and we
add other stuff. It is done on the dress. It is
different than what we started with, but it’s
always an improvement … we like to do stuff
that is different, our clients want to wear
something fresh and less ordinary.”
From this statement, it is apparent that designs
needed to evolve into something better,
something different and new. These aspects
had to be visible from the target market’s point
of view. The following statement from an
apprentice designer confirms that novelty from
the consumer’s point of view was considered as
creative problem-solving during the evaluation
and implementation design phase:
“I can’t believe that I did it. I managed to find the
midway between creating something different
and what the customers will want.”
From these statements, it seemed that the
created garments were perceived as novel.
During every garment’s transformation session,
the apprentice designers, in particular,
experimented with the garments by draping
loose fabrics over the canvases. The
collaborative efforts of the teams included
experiments and sharing advice on detail,
texture and even silhouette [which in six dresses
changed dramatically from the original sewn
dress’s silhouette]. One experienced designer’s
comment on an approach taken by an
apprentice designer that did not produce the
silhouette she anticipated:
“I want you to look at that again, but don’t feel
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
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58
FIGURE 2: A TRANSFORMED GARMENT
ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
bad about how you did it. We all learned this
way. The important thing is that you see why I
do it this way [demonstrating].”
It seems from this statement that the specific
expert designer guiding this team encouraged
apprentices to learn from their mistakes or their
failures.
The apprentice designers were further coached
to literally step back from the creation from time
to time when a section on a dress was almost
complete. This is done to appraise the garment
from a distance. The experienced designers
referred to this technique as “zooming out” to
appreciate the “gestalt”. An apprentice designer
commented on the value of this technique:
“At first I could not understand what
[experienced designer’s name] means when he
says it works better if I look at how it all comes
together and then only plan where I want to go
[with detail added to the canvas]. I guess my
eye for this kind of thing improved because now
I can see what he means. I get lost in the detail
and it helps me to just stand back a bit and look
at the big picture … It helps me to plan my next
step …”
Another aspect that surfaced in this design
phase that seemed to be to the apprentice
designers’ benefit was the advice, tricks of the
trade and ideas that were shared between the
apprentice designers and experienced
designers. It appeared that the tricks of the trade
enabled apprentice designers to speed up the
process or create fluency, but at the same time
facilitated realistic expectations about the
strategic approaches that design requires, as
opposed to only applying an artistic process that
is more subjective. One of the apprentice
designers expressed her gratitude in this regard:
“He really showed me some tricks of the trade
I think this is probably the way industry
works.”
Another apprentice designer (who initially
expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that
apprentice designers were not allowed to
choose their own inspiration) had the following
conclusion when her garment was done:
“At first I was scared, but I feel OK now. He
showed me some ideas and guided me. It didn’t
feel like he designed for me, but he really made
me think about different routes to get the look I
want.”
The evidence from the discussion on this phase
indicates that apprentice designers were
encouraged to try new techniques and they
were supported when their techniques did not
deliver the desired results. The technical skills
were therefore developed, but at the same time
an awareness was fostered of the business
decisions that are interrelated with the design
process (such as brand image and costing).
Jaarsveld and Van Leeuwen (2005) confirm that
collaboration that yields collective creativity can
be beneficial, especially to apprentice or novel
designers.
Conversely, an experienced designer
illuminated the advantage of working with
apprentice designers from an experienced
designer’s point of view:
“I can’t say that I didn’t get a lot from this
experience. I learned from my group [apprentice
designers] to dream again and to try and reach
for the stars! I am excited to be part of their
crazy ideas and it also makes me want to try
new things again.”
The above statement illustrates that the
advantages of collaboration from the
experienced designer’s point of view seem to
relate to novelty in particular. The apprentice
designers seem to have brought ideas into the
process that were probably viewed as “crazy
because they did not imitate the experienced
designers’ conventional way of solving design
problems. Nevertheless, the ideas were blended
so well that the following statement of an
experienced designer confirms the success as a
result of collective creativity:
“It sometimes happens that we don’t even know
whose idea is actually implemented or who
came up with the idea first. It is as if we just
came up with it together.”
In this regard, Hargadon and Bechky (2006)
confirm that the ideas implemented during
collaborative design can be as a result of the
collective creativity, which “happens when social
interactions between individuals trigger new
interpretations and new discoveries of distant
analogies that the individuals involved, thinking
alone could not have generated.”
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The advantages of collaboration with other
designers during the design process include
creative processes and techniques that are
produced when complex problems are solved
(Jennings, 2011:113; Steiner, 2009). From a
design perspective, the findings of this study
suggest that the range developed was
successful in the sense that a combination of
Designing success: describing a collaborative clothing design process between apprentice design-
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ISSN 0378-5254 Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol 43, 2015
apprentice and expert skills on half of the range
seemed to have enhanced fluency, flexibility and
novelty during the design process. The final
range reflected the fashion house brand’s
eccentric flavour, and a coherent theme inspired
by the expert designers and created within a pre
-determined budget. In addition, the expert
designers also saw the value in having novel
ideas presented when they intuitively solve
problems, which seemed to have translated into
their designs. This implies that the advantages
of collaboration do not only pertain to the
apprentice designers, as the literature indicates,
but it could also benefit the expert designers,
especially with regard to novelty as a dimension
of creativity.
However, the important role of the creative
environment in stimulating creativity in this
particular case should be emphasised. The
designers collectively facilitated a creative
environment. The incubation hub seemed to
have served its purpose with regard to
developing creative design skills. As a result,
collective creativity was yielded in an
environment where designers were allowed to
experiment in a safe learning environment,
where failures are supported and the ability to
evaluate one’s own ideas or the applicability of
others’ ideas was developed.
The advantages of stimulating creativity as a
skill relate to the development of design thinking
(Brown, 2009:13), which is the ability to solve
open, complex problems. Martin (2009:57) says
that approaching problems from a design
thinking perspective can lead to a better and
more competitive business. The findings confirm
some basic strategies that relate to competitive
advantage with regard to costing, branding and
expectations about design for a specific target
market. Stimulating creativity during the design
process can also enhance entrepreneurial skills,
as creativity is associated with entrepreneurial
behaviour (Anderson et al, 2014). The authors
of this paper are therefore of the opinion that the
design process is not only a process for problem
-solving, but that the design process can also be
used as an agent to develop the creativity
required for successful designs and
entrepreneurial behaviour.
In conclusion, it is recommended that the
clothing design process is applied in a
collaborative way, involving designers with
different knowledge and skill levels, at
incubation hubs. The incubation hubs can
become creative environments that facilitate the
professional development of apprentice
designers. In this way, the design process can
become an agent that facilitates novelty for
experienced designers, but at the same time
enhances the probability of the success of
aspiring clothing designers who want to pursue
an entrepreneurial design dream.
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