Phd thesis available online

This website documents the outcomes of my PhD thesis which is now available through the RMIT Library Research Repository. The thesis is titled, The Living Wardrobe: fashion design for an extended garment lifetime. The abstract reads as below:

This research explores garment design for extended use by re-evaluating its potential to enable practices of sustainability in fashion.  A review of existing literature and practices reveals that current industry approaches to sustainability continue to focus on improving the eco-efficiency of products and supply chains.  The main argument presented is that a fashion garment, regardless of its sustainable production and manufacture, is rendered unsustainable when purchased and discarded prior to the end of its useful life.  Leading researchers within the field have been calling for greater consideration of the use of garments in fashion design for sustainability strategies, advocating design for extended use, to mitigate the harmful environmental consequences of disposable fashion.  Life-cycle analysis has been a signature method within the area of sustainable design and has been critical in situating the environmental impacts of products during production, use and disposal.  While advancements have been made in the area of sustainable production, design for sustainability within the use phase of the garment life cycle remains under-explored.  This study therefore seeks to respond to the question: What if a fashion garment could enable its own longevity through design?

The researcher employs qualitative and quantitative research methods including a literature and practice review, survey of consumer practices, and practice-based investigations to inform the development of conceptual diagrams and to propose a framework for doing sustainable design that form the main outcomes of the thesis.  The review of literature and practice establishes the field of research as comprising fashion design practice and sustainable design methods and theory.  A survey of consumer clothing practices extends this review.  Practice as a method is used to advance the emerging findings of the review culminating in the development of innovative garment prototypes with the potential to script their own longevity.  Practice as a method has been used to generate new knowledge, not merely new artefacts.  The outcomes of the practice investigations encapsulate the major contributions of the thesis.  Methods of reflective practice and action research have enabled the development of a revised garment lifetime diagram and a values-based framework for practicing sustain-ability in fashion. The research findings culminate in a proposed conceptual framework of mutual responsibility that recasts the designer and wearer as custodians of the garment during its lifetime by positioning the garment at the nexus of a reciprocal relationship.  This positioning opens up new possibilities for fashion design for sustain-ability by drawing attention to the potential agency of the garment to enable responsible clothing practices of extended use.  The capacity to change current attitudes and practices for sustainable design is argued by changing the focus from adoption of toolbox strategies to one based on the principles of shared responsibility.