Repurposing Design Process

Part of the Sustainable Textiles: Production, Processing, Manufacturing & Chemistry book series (STPPMC)


The fashion industry has innumerable damaging impacts to the environment (Zaffalon, Text World 16:34, 2010). Presently, the vast majority of all textile-based products, including clothing and home good fashions, end up in landfills (Kozlowski et al. J Clean Prod 183:197-207, 2018). Consumers often purchase new clothing because the style is outdated rather than because of lack of functionality. In other words, what consumers discard can still be functional and valuable in another form. The current phenomenon of fast fashion and increased turnover of merchandise has led to an abundant quantity of functional production-level textile waste and secondhand clothing (Fletcher, Sustainable fashion and textiles design journeys. Earthscan, London, 2008). It has been suggested that the greatest opportunity for reclaimed fashion goods is to repurpose them into new products (Hawley, Recycling in textiles. Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge, 2006a; Hawley, Cloth Text Res J 24: 262, 2006b). Design efforts that employ reuse, repurposing, or upcycling techniques could assist in assigning renewed value from unwanted yet still functional, discarded clothing.

In this chapter, the term “repurposing” is used to describe the process that utilizes discarded textiles to create new fashion (textile-based) products. Textile “recycling,” described by Lewis et al. (Int J Fash Des Technol Educ 10:353-362, 2017), is the process of returning a textile product back into its original fiber form and is not covered in this chapter.

Repurposing researchers (Irick, Examination of the design process of repurposed apparel and accessories: An application of diffusion of innovations theory. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, 2013); (Irick & Eike, Teaching the repurposing mindset: The introduction of a repurposing project into an advanced apparel construction course. International Federation for Home Economics Conference. Sligo, 2017) have identified four levels of repurposing: (1) re-style to repurpose, (2) subtractive repurposing, (3) additive repurposing, and (4) intentional patternmaking to repurpose. This chapter provides analysis of the four repurposing levels through case study application to detail the creative design process employed by select designers for the purpose of repeatability and advancing research connected to repurposing. Case studies walk the reader through research and discovery, sampling of techniques, descriptions of full-scale design, and reflection to share learned experiences alongside detailed images of completed repurposed fashion designs. The chapter concludes with a cross-case analysis of all repurposed designs and suggests future directions to advance “repurposing” endeavors for industry and/or academic design scholars.


Repurposing Design process Textile waste diversion Sustainable design 


  1. Bailey T (1993) Organizational innovation in the apparel industry. Ind Relations A J Econ Soc 32:30–48Google Scholar
  2. Biecher E, Keaton PN, Pollman AW (1999) Casual dress at work. SAM Adv Manag J 64(17)Google Scholar
  3. Birtwistle G, Moore CM (2007) Fashion clothing – where does it all end up? Int J Retail Distrib Manag 35:210–216. Scholar
  4. Blackburn R (2009) Sustainable textiles: Lifecycle and environmental impact. Woodhead Publishing, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Breslin M, Buchanan R (2008) On the case study method of research and teaching in design. Des Issues 24:36–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown S (2010) Eco fashion. Laurence King Publishing Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Bye E (2010) A direction for clothing and textile design research. Cloth Text Res J 28:205–217. Scholar
  8. Carrico M, Kim V (2014) Expanding zero-waste design practices: a discussion paper. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 7(1):58–64. Scholar
  9. Cataldi C, Dickson M, & Grover C (2010) Slow Fashion. Tailoring a strategic industry approach towards sustainability. Slow fashion forward. Retrieved from
  10. Chanin N, Stukin S, Rausch R (2008) Alabama stitch book: Projects and stories celebrating hand-sewing, quilting, and embroidery for contemporary sustainable style. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Clark H (2005) Second hand fashion, culture and identity in Hong Kong. In: Palmer A, Clark H (eds) Old clothes, new looks: second hand fashion. UK, Oxford, pp 155–172Google Scholar
  12. Curwen LG, Park J, Sarkar AK (2013) Challenges and solutions of sustainable apparel product development: a case study of Eileen Fisher. Cloth Text Res J 31(1):32–47. Scholar
  13. Danovich T (2018) Despite a revamped focus on real-life skills, “home ec” classes fade away. In: NPR.
  14. Dunn J (2008) ReFashion reDunn. Massey University, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  15. Eike RJ, Myers B, Sturges D (2018) The impact of service-learning targeting apparel design majors: a qualitative analysis of learning growth. Fam Consum Sci Res J 46(3):267. Scholar
  16. EPA (2016) Advancing sustainable materials management: 2014 fact sheet. United States Environmental Prot. Agency, In. Scholar
  17. EPA (2019) Facts and figures about materials, waste, and recycling: textiles: material-specific data. United States Environmental Prot. Agency, In. Scholar
  18. Fletcher K (2008) Local and light. In: Sustainable fashion and textiles design journeys. Earthscan, London, pp 137–159Google Scholar
  19. Fletcher K (2016) Craft of use: post-growth fashion, 1st edn. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fletcher K, Grose L (2011) Fashion & sustainability: design for change. Laurence King Publishing Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Fratzke D (1976) Clothing values as related to clothing inactivity and discard. Iowa State University, Ames, IAGoogle Scholar
  22. Gam HJ, Cao H, Farr C, Heine L (2009) C2CAD: a sustainable apparel design and production model. Int J Cloth Sci Technol 21:166–179. Scholar
  23. Gordan JF, Hill C (2015) Sustainable fashion: past, present, and future. Bloomsbury Academic Publishing Plc, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Hawley JM (2006a) Textile recycling: a system perspective. In: Wang Y (ed) Recycling in textiles. Woodhead Publishing Limited in association with The Textile Institute, Cambridge, pp 7–24. Scholar
  25. Hawley JM (2006b) Digging for diamonds: a conceptual framework for understanding reclaimed textile products. Cloth Text Res J 24(3):262–275. Scholar
  26. Henninger CE, Alevizou PJ, Oates CJ (2016) What is sustainable fashion? J Fash Mark Manag 20:400–416. Scholar
  27. Irick E (2013) Examination of the design process of repurposed apparel and accessories: an application of diffusion of innovations theory. Oklahoma State University, StillwaterGoogle Scholar
  28. Irick E, Eike RJ (2017) Teaching the repurposing mindset: the introduction of a repurposing project into an advanced apparel construction course. In: International Federation for Home Economics Conference. Sligo, IrelandGoogle Scholar
  29. Irick E, Eike RJ (2019) Analysis of the availability of second-hand clothing as the raw materials for repurposing. In: Regent’s and International Textile & Apparel Association Joint Conference. LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Janigo KA, Wu J (2015) Collaborative redesign of used clothes as a sustainable fashion solution and potential business opportunity. Fash Pract 7:75–97. Scholar
  31. Janigo KA, Wu J, Delong M (2017) Redesigning fashion: an analysis and categorization of women’s clothing upcycling behavior. Fash Pract 9:256–281. Scholar
  32. Joung H-M, Park-Poaps H (2013) Factors motivating and influencing clothing disposal behaviours. Int J Consum Stud 37:105–111. Scholar
  33. Kim DH, Kim MS (2013) Perception, purchase behaviors of and the buying motives toward secondhand clothing products. Res J Costume Cult 21:324–337. Scholar
  34. Kozlowski A, Searcy C, Bardecki M (2018) The reDesign canvas: fashion design as a tool for sustainability. J Clean Prod 183:197–207. Scholar
  35. Lewis TL, Park H, Netravali AN, Trejo HX (2017) Closing the loop: a scalable zero-waste model for apparel reuse and recycling. Int J Fash Des Technol Educ 10:353–362. Scholar
  36. Ljungberg LY (2005) Responsible products: selecting design and materials. Des Manag Rev 16(64)Google Scholar
  37. McDonough W, Braungart M (2002) Cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things. North Point Press, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  38. McKinney EC, Bye E, Labat K (2012) Building patternmaking theory: a case study of published patternmaking practices for pants. Int J Fash Des Technol Educ 5:153–167. Scholar
  39. McQuillan H (2011) Zero-waste garment design: strategies and risk-taking for design practice. In: Gwilt A, Rissanen T (eds) Shaping sustainable fashion: changing the way we make and use clothes. Earthscan, London, pp 83–99Google Scholar
  40. Meyer J (2013) The role of values, beliefs and norms in female consumers’ clothing disposal behaviour. University of PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  41. Niinimäki K, Koskinen I (2011) I love this dress, it makes me feel beautiful! Empathic knowledge in sustainable design. Des J 14(2):165–186. Scholar
  42. Paras MK, Curteza A (2018) Revisiting upcycling phenomena: a concept in clothing industry. Res J Text Appar 22:46–58. Scholar
  43. Park H-H, Choo T-G (2012) Influence of consumer self-confidence and self-confidence in fashion coordination on attitude toward secondhand fashion goods and purchase intention of secondhand fashion goods. J Korean Soc Cloth Ind 14:544–553. Scholar
  44. Schramm W (1971) Notes on case studies of instructional media projects. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  45. Spring A (2019) Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? Buying less crap, GuardGoogle Scholar
  46. Sung K (2015) A review on upcycling: current body of literature, knowledge gaps and a way forward. Venice, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  47. Tullio-Pow S, Schaefer K, Rajanayagam K, Navarro H (2013) Community co-design: from magic squares to magic dresses. In: Pedagogy track # 70. International Textile and Apparel Association, New Orleans, pp 53–54Google Scholar
  48. Vennström K (2012) Sustainable fashion consumption: an interactive system between consumers and institutions. Centrum för modevetenskap, Stockholms universitetGoogle Scholar
  49. Winakor G (1969) The process of clothing consumption. J Home Econ 6:629–634Google Scholar
  50. Yin R (2009) Case study research: design and methods, 4th edn. Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  51. Young C, Jirousek C, & Ashdown S (2004) Undesigned: A study in sustainable design of apparel using post-consumer recycled clothing. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 22(1/2), 61–68.
  52. Zaffalon V (2010) Climate change, carbon mitigation and textiles. Text World 16:34–35Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.University of WyomingLaramieUSA

Personalised recommendations