Embedding sustainability at the core of fashion practice – developing the ReModelling Futures Method
The ReModelling Futures Method was developed as a key outcome for the ReModelling Fashion project, part of the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT), a five-year industry-led project, which focusses on delivering sustainable innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain.
The central aims of the work were to embed sustainability at the core of fashion practices in the design of products, services and business models. The success of this approach is measured in the capacity of the products and service concepts that come from it to demonstrate extended value including in acquisition and use practices.
One of the crucial propositions of the ReModelling Futures approach is that discussion about the key challenges and opportunities of sustainability, and responses to the climate crisis, should be implemented well before the concept development phase. Instead, the method uses the inspiration phase, often a mood board creation moment, as a lever for transformation. This new approach to fashion design for sustainability has been developed as a co-enquiry, not only between researchers from different fields, but also with small and large businesses and students.
The project team constituted of researchers from Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL and Centre for Industrial Sustainability, at the Institute for Manufacturing of the University of Cambridge. This collaboration brings together fashion design and business model design to enable a holistic perspective for transforming the industry. By combining approaches from both disciplines, the team can thoroughly examine the design process and its embodiment in commercial products and services.
At the core of the ReModelling Fashion project is the collaboration between academic researchers and businesses. The framework was developed iteratively with 3 key groups of participants: students at UAL and globally, three small-to-medium enterprise’s (SMEs), and a large retailer.
The first use of the scenario building approach was put in place with a group of postgraduate students at London College of Fashion, UAL. The creative interpretation of the themes and methods proposed in the draft versions of the ReModelling framework is one of their key contributions. These students are used to exploring new design challenges and responding through research and the production of fashion items.
The collaboration with SMEs, which was essential to the development of themes relevant to the industry, took place with three London-based businesses, each a pioneer in the field of sustainable fashion.
Phoebe English is a slow fashion label designing and producing from their London-based studio. The brand focuses on less extractive practices for fashion, reusing textile waste from other brands, and producing no waste in the production of both menswear and womenswear items.
“The value [of the Remodelling project] is immeasurable in our own education as a team in terms of a deeper and practical understanding of how to make our practice linked and in support of our natural systems and local communities.”
Phoebe English, Fashion Designer and Founder, Phoebe English
Petit Pli is a human-centred children clothing company, designing and selling garments that extend through seven sizes. The innovation rests in an origami-inspired textile, often also made from recycled materials.
“Petit Pli’s ReModelling project deliverables represent a significant step in changing Petit Pli’s own operational system.“
Arabella Turek, Chief Operating Officer, Petit Pli
Save Your Wardrobe is a tech start-up offering a digital wardrobe service. The app enables users to take photos and store information on all the items in their wardrobes to make the most of what they already own in an aim to reduce fashion consumption.
“Thinking about the thing we are launching as something that could have an impact on the government, on local communities, was changing the way we looked at our product. For a tech company that is trying to get their first contract, it really helped us take a step back.[…] The key words we use in our pitches come from those sessions.”
Mehdi Doghri, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Save Your Wardrobe
Working with ASOS in the next stages of the method development provided the grounds for testing and improving the methods in a large-scale fashion brand context with specific challenges and opportunities. Fourteen designers from across the business’s departments took part in a four-stage workshop to explore new ideas and apply them to innovative product service concepts. In this process, key lessons for the development of the methods for scenario building were learned and transferred to a new iteration of the method.
“Remodelling Futures gave us the opportunity to approach design in a completely different way. It enabled us to take designers out of their comfort zones and through a process that encourages their creativity and systems thinking. This type of tactic is crucial to finding new system-level solutions to the changing sustainability landscape in which we and all fashion businesses operate.”
Jo Mourant, Senior Sustainability Partner, ASOS
Using the aggregated insight from all the prior collaborative work, the ReModelling Fashion Framework was used with different groups of students in various formats, from two-week intensive electives to two-hour sessions. With these workshops, final adjustments were made to lead to the final ReModelling Futures Method.
The participants in these workshops were design students in various institutions in the UK and abroad such as the University of the Arts London, Falmouth University, Zurich University of the Arts, and the National Institute of Design (India). For the first time the method was used with participants outside the field of fashion with students on courses such as product design and management. The opportunity to work with participants from various fields demonstrated the validity of the approach, beyond fashion. Thus, the final method is presented as a multi-disciplinary approach rather than being restricted to fashion, causing the title change to ReModelling Futures.
The final version of the method, developed and tested with all these collaborators can now be discovered in our Remodelling Fashion project resources. The method is in the form of two worksheets and a guidebook, for individuals and teams to autonomously work through the steps of the activity and develop their own scenarios and product service system concepts.