Many sustainable design tools address only the concept development, or the production stages of fashion. While these approaches can offer visible improvements on the environmental impacts of goods and services, they often fail to address the root causes of unsustainability in the sector. It is widely acknowledged by businesses and research that while changes in material selection and manufacturing processes are necessary, they need to come hand in hand with long term strategies to redefine how businesses operate in a climate emergency.
“...current solutions and business models will not be sufficient to deliver on the current climate agenda. Fashion industry needs to embrace a deeper, more systemic change...”
United Nations Climate Change, 2018
The ReModelling Futures Method borrows approaches from foresight and future scenario planning, to embed them into the design process. This simultaneously highlights opportunities and challenges beyond the short term and recognises multiple perspectives in the development of future visions.
Designers use creative planning approaches when they start a new collection or project by bringing together images and themes in mood boards or trend forecasts. But these methods are usually tuned toward the development of original and desirable products, and often omit the imperatives of sustainability.
With the ReModelling Futures Method, designers and team leaders are taken through a series of steps to first develop visions for future worlds. Imagining the context for and in which they might design, before developing novel concept ideas for these contexts. Our research team have developed a method that supports reflections on the social, cultural, economic and environmental agendas of sustainability throughout.
This framework was developed with small and large businesses in the UK fashion sector and tested with students and professionals from multidisciplinary design backgrounds. It can be used by design teams ahead of a new product or service design, or with whole businesses as a way to develop a strategic vision for the future of the business or institution. As a participatory design process, the ReModelling Futures Method benefits from including multiple perspectives inside or outside an organisation.
The concepts developed with the different participants using the ReModelling Futures framework all demonstrated a deep rethinking of the values and needs of businesses and users in the future, but also presented actionable ideas for the present.
The worksheets and guidebook for participants to work independently on their future scenarios and product service systems concepts are available to download from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion website.