Repurposing Design Process Chapter First Online: 07 April 2020
Part of the
Sustainable Textiles: Production, Processing, Manufacturing & Chemistry
book series (STPPMC) Abstract
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 Consumers often purchase new clothing because the style is outdated rather than because of lack of functionality.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.
Keywords Repurposing Design process Textile waste diversion Sustainable design
“No matter what you choose to buy, just use it – for a long time.”
Carlee Green-Goff, founder of repurposing company Elizabeth Green.
Appendix A Key Terms and Definitions
Design for disassembly: Design products with multiple components to be separated at the end of their useful life into appropriate components (McDonough and Braungart
Disposal: Occurs when the garment leaves the possession of an individual (Winakor
). Action of disposing or discarding of may involve trashing, donating, swapping, recycling, repurposing, and/or reselling. 1969
Downcycling: Refers to repurposing higher-value items such as clothing to a lower-value end use, such as car seat filling or cleaning rags (Birtwistle and Moore
Pre-consumer textile waste: Excess material produced during the production of yarn, fabric, and textile products (e.g., fabric scraps from cutting; also referred to as “offcuts”).
Post-consumer textile waste: Result of discarded textile products after consumers have purchased and used the item (e.g., used apparel and home textiles).
Reclaimed products: Any post-consumer product diverted from the solid waste stream (Hawley
Recycling of textiles: Process of returning a textile product back into its original fiber form (Lewis et al.
Remnants: Small, unused textiles, typically end of bolt fabric (yardage).
Repurposing: Act of re-creating an item for another use. May involve approaches or techniques connected to downcycling, upcycling, or re-design.
Redesign: Redesign may be considered as a form of upcycling, but value added varies by the extent of the product’s change, from adding minor details such as decorative trim, to changes in the garment’s silhouette, to complete transformation; tailored process to meet market needs (Janigo and Wu
Secondhand: Items of personal property that may be donated or sold to new owners. Typically, secondhand apparel is used/worn at least once but may also be items with tags still attached. Venues through which secondhand items may change hands include person to person, at charities, secondhand retailers, consignment shops, thrift stores, yard or garage sales, or online resale platforms.
Upcycling: Refers to repurposing lower-value items such as a neck scarf to construct a higher-value end use item, such as a wrap skirt or halter top (Janigo and Wu
: 77). 2015 Appendix B External Resources to Learn More about Repurposing A Designer’s Guide to Reconstruction with Wan & Wong Fashion A Review on Upcycling: Current Body of Literature, Knowledge Gaps and a Way Forward by Kyungeun Sung ( ) 2015 Study conducted by Yoon Kyung Lee and Marilyn DeLong (2018) Rebirth Product Development for Sustainable Apparel Design Practice in a Design Studio Class in Fashion Practice, 10:1, 34–52 Redress Design Award Reconstruction Tutorial Reconstruction Design Technique Guide
This PDF guide introduces different approaches to reconstruction design and includes brands, designers, project examples, and designer case studies.
Trash to Trend by Reet Aus Appendix C Research Methods Applied on Case Studies
In this chapter, the differences in repurposing design processes across the levels of repurposing are explained through case study analysis of each designer’s individual development process. The case study method of explanatory research aims to address the “how” and “why” throughout a designer’s decision-making process and provides a synthesized analysis of experiences across all cases. Implementation of the case study approach in research offers one way to gather and explain a seemingly intuitive process while forming a framework to evaluate current practices (Yin
). Design researchers have stated positive implications to employing case study methodology in design scholarship and research (Breslin and Buchanan 2009 ; Bye 2008 ; McKinney et al. 2010 ). 2012 Research Design
The research design (Table
) employed in this chapter follows the structure outlined by Yin (
) for explanatory case studies. Each case is the process carried out by the designer resulted in a completed apparel piece from repurposed textiles. The organization for the cases selected follows a multiple-case version of the classical single case study format where multiple cases (repurposing design processes) are presented and analyzed singly through narrative and then compared across the multiple cases for each repurposing level and then across all cases.
Authors addressed the following four problems when developing the research plan for this chapter: (1) what questions to study, (2) what data are relevant, (3) what data to collect, and (4) how to analyze the results (Yin
). This plan was structured to ensure the evidence gathered and analyzed addressed the initial purpose. The goal of this research is to expand knowledge in the domain of apparel repurposing and to “illuminate a process or set of processes: why they were taken, how they were implemented, and with what result” (Schramm 2009 ; Yin 1971 : 17). Each case walks the reader through the process employed by the designer 2009
The following points were established to guide case study development and direction for this chapter:
Purpose: To explain repurposing design processes executed through select cases at each of the repurposing levels and answer the following research questions:
What is the creative process employed by a designer when developing a repurposed garment?
How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare within each repurposing level?
How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare between the four repurposing levels?
How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare to the
repurposing process [outlined by Irick and Eike ]? 2017
Analysis of cases: Execute case study interview protocol (see Appendix C).
Description of process executed by the designer.
Questions posed to designer follow a gradual increase in complexity (Yin
Questions asked of the specific interviewee.
Questions asked of the individual case.
Questions asked of discovered patterns across multiple cases.
Questions asked of the entire study.
Normative questions about procedural recommendations and conclusions.
Detailed description of design/artifact.
Creation of case study database.
Connecting what is known from literature to process of each designer.
Criteria for interpreting findings:
Construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and reliability were all considered during the design of this case study research protocol. Table
outlines these criterion items and how each was addressed in this chapter. These items may be helpful to evaluate the quality of research design.
Research design criteria for repurposing case study
An operational set of measures (interview questions) were developed to match the purpose of this explanatory process and concepts embodied in this chapter (see Appendix C). In addition, a cross-case synthesis was conducted across the four repurposing levels to identify interesting processes, techniques, and considerations identified by the designers interviewed to draw conclusions that may impact future repurposing research, creative scholarship, model developments, or industry-level adoption. Comparison of case study report to the broader concept of repurposing (in apparel) is replicated within each level covered in this chapter. These findings can be generalized to the domain of sustainable apparel design, specifically repurposed apparel
Selection of Cases
Repurposing design process selection for feature in this chapter was performed by the authors. Featured repurposing design processes are works connected to educational courses or personal creative scholarship activities of the authors. Authors gathered and reviewed repurposing design processes and categorized into the four repurposing levels. Following the categorization, each repurposing design process was reviewed for techniques employed and materials used in their process in order to provide the reader with a variety of examples to reference for their own repurposing design exploration.
Data collection was performed through multiple sources which included designer interviews and repurposing design process analyses within each of the repurposing levels and between all levels. An operational set of measures (interview questions) were developed to match the purposes outlined in this chapter. Designers of repurposing design processes were contacted for interview invitation to gather details on their creative process and reflection of repurposing experience. Documentation of case study interview and development of a reference database were developed to assist in the organization and reference of materials during analysis.
Interpretation of Findings Research Question (1) What is the creative process employed by a designer when developing a repurposed garment? The creative process employed by the designer to develop a repurposed garment is described in detail in each case study. Each step in the Process for repurposing (Irick and Eike ) is systematically addressed, to build a complete understanding of each designer’s creative process. 2017 Research Question (2) How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare within each repurposing level? Within each level (at end of each section), the two cases were compared to the broader concept of repurposing (in apparel). This step was replicated within each level of repurposing covered in this chapter. Research Questions (3) How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare between repurposing levels and research question and (4) How do repurposing processes employed by designers compare to the repurposing process? Answers to these research questions were based on the cross-case synthesis all repurposing design processes across the four repurposing levels. Interviewees’ common and unique processes, techniques, and considerations for future repurposing works were analyzed within and between repurposing levels. Specific themes and future research suggestions emerged. Appendix D Case Study Interview Protocol 1.
Gather contact information from case (artifact) designer – schedule interview.
Level 1 questions:
Name of design.
Preferred name as designer to be referenced in chapter.
Date in which work was completed.
RPQ: Fiber content of repurposed materials used.
RPQ: Targeted audience for design (brand, retail price point, etc.)
RPQ: Estimated time spent (from start to finish) to complete.
Collect permission to use work(s) in book chapter [copyright form].
Ask targeted question pertaining to design process and considerations.
Level 2 questions:
Walk the reader through discovery from implementation research.
Description of full-scale design approaches.
Detailed images of completed textile-based products.
Reflection on personal design/case.
Provide suggestions for individual or industry employment of repurposing process.
RPQ: Suggestion for consumption and/or disposal of product (reference repurposing process: safe to dispose by consumer, design for disassembly, recycle back to designer for recycling or repurposing).
Analyze design using the repurposing process model.
Write report of each case study design.
RPQ repurposing process Question (connected to repurposing process phases). References
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