Understanding Designers as the Leading Force in Sustainable Fashion, Mireu Park

It is evident that the current fashion industry needs systemic change to become an ethically and environmentally sustainable industry. In the pursuit of a sustainable fashion system, designers have been continuously regarded as key players throughout the sustainable fashion literature. However, understanding of the specific needs of designers to be able to facilitate the shift towards sustainable fashion remains inadequate. Therefore, this study investigates the barriers limiting the ability of designers to be actively involved in the change and determines the ways in which better conditions can be created for designers to be the vanguard of a movement towards a more sustainable fashion industry. Fifteen qualitative, in- depth, individual expert interviews were conducted with designers and educators with professional fashion design backgrounds. Thematic analysis and reflexive methodology were
used to analyze the data. Findings indicate that the conflict between their knowledge in designer’s role in sustainability and their actual responsibilities in the work environment is what limits them to better engage in solving the issue. Education and training in sustainable design practices are also lacking among designers. Misuse of the word “sustainability” of their organizations and limited involvement in sustainable strategies frequently limit the designers’ ability to lead the shift. While highlighting the need for systemic transformation of the industry, this study demonstrates the need from designers to take a leading role in driving sustainability in fashion, as well as enable that to happen.

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