Research: Slow & Co-Design

SLOW DESIGN is a holistic approach to design that echoes many of the principles of sustainability. It is a branch of the Slow Movement, a philosophy focusing on slowing down the pace of life, so that we connect with things we are at risk of losing touch with. There are many different ideas and approaches to Slow Design, so I have looked at a framework of principles created by a nonprofit research platform, SlowLab, that promotes Slow Design thinking, learning and practice. To summarise, they believe that the process of Slow Design; reveals, expands and evolves the potential of everyday experiences, materials and processes that may have been forgotten. It induces contemplation and reflective consumption, encouraging participation in the design process and engaging people through collaboration, sharing and transparency[1]SlowLab. (undated) [Online] Available from: http://www.slowlab.net/slow_design.html [Accessed 15 Dec 2014]..

Todays fast paced lifestyle encourages excessive consumption with a more is better attitude, but ‘psychologists are concerned that this degree of choice and level of consumption is not good for us'[2]Langdown, A. (2014) ‘Slow fashion as an alternative to mass production: A fashion practitioner’s journey’. Social Business, 4 (1): 33., and ‘there is increasing evidence that a disposable income to spend on clothes does not make us happier'[3]Textiles Futures Research Centre (2014) Ted8. [Vimeo] Available from: http://vimeo.com/107728210 [Accessed 7 Dec 2014].. ‘A slow or more sustainable approach focuses greater attention on valuing and knowing the object, and demands design that generates significant experiences, which are not transformed into empty images for rapid consumption'[4]Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 440.. This not only benefits the environment, but it also addresses human well-being and satisfaction. The system has become so large that there is a lack of connection between user, maker and designer. It’s unsurprising ‘that the notion of investing deeper meaning into our garments begins to resonate'[5]Brien, P. (2013) ‘Warming fashion’s deathly pallor’. In: Brand, J. and Teunissen, J. eds. A fashion odyssey: progress in fashion and sustainability. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press: 59.. ‘A strong and meaningful consumer-to-product relationship is needed in order to change consumer behaviour to one of greater durability'[6]Corstanje, C. (2013) ‘Sustainable design as a powerful force to change’. In: Brand, J. and Teunissen, J. eds. A fashion odyssey: progress in fashion and sustainability. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press: 277..

CO-DESIGN allows users to become part of the design and production process, by encouraging people to interact, participate and creatively solve problems. Involving consumers enables them to have exactly what they want, rather than selecting from a multitude of products that don’t quite fit their needs or wants. ‘Consumers will like the product because they had choices in building it’s design and fabrication. Their enjoyment in the process should increase the product’s meaning to them'[7]Loker, S. (2008) ‘A technology-enabled sustainable fashion system: fashion’s future’. In: Hethorn, J. and Ulasewicz, C. eds. Sustainable fashion – why now?: a conversation about issues, practices, and possibilities. New York: Fairchild books: 108., generating a sense of attachment and ultimately increased product longevity. Co-design and on-demand production could contribute to a more sustainable and satisfying future. ‘There is waste in the unsold inventory at every level of our system because production does not match consumption in volume or in personal preference’ [8]Loker, S. (2008) ‘A technology-enabled sustainable fashion system: fashion’s future’. In: Hethorn, J. and Ulasewicz, C. eds. Sustainable fashion – why now?: a conversation about issues, practices, and possibilities. New York: Fairchild books: 100..

‘Buyers have become disenchanted with the form of consumption where everybody buys the same thing.
Too often, they feel disconnected from the things they own …
Ultimately, it’s about being part of a new form of customised buying through dialogue and participation’
[9]Behar, Y. (2011) ‘Foreword’. In: Blossom, E. Material change: design thinking and the social entrepreneurship movement. New York: Metropolis Books: 6.

CUSTOMISATION & EMERGENT TECHNOLOGY provides the opportunity for users to be designers, allowing people to emotionally connect with items that are made for them, rather than mass manufactured. ‘Digital equipment like laser cutters and 3D printers will effect both industry and commerce, transforming the way that we design'[10]Langdown, A. (2014) ‘Slow fashion as an alternative to mass production: A fashion practitioner’s journey’. Social Business, 4 (1): 35..  3D printing can ‘help to meet customers’ growing demands for personalised products'[11]Kaltenbrunner, H. (2014) ‘How 3D printing is set to shake up manufacturing supply chains’. The Guardian [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/25/how-3d-printing-is-set-to-shake-up-manufacturing-supply-chains [Accessed 7 Dec 2014]. and is already being used for many things, such as personalised medical devices, including scoliosis braces, dental restorations and beautiful bracings for amputees[12]Reichental, A. (2014) What’s next in 3D printing? [online video] TED: Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_reichental_what_s_next_in_3d_printing [Accessed 5 Dec 2014].. With 3D printing ‘complexity is free, the printer doesn’t care if it makes the most rudimentary shape or the most complex shape, and that is completely turning design and manufacturing on its head as we know it'[13]Reichental, A. (2014) What’s next in 3D printing? [online video] TED: Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_reichental_what_s_next_in_3d_printing [Accessed 5 Dec 2014]..

WONDERLUK[14]Wonderluk (2014) [Online] Available from: http://wonderluk.com/ [Accessed 21 Dec 2014]. is a jewellery brand that produces high fashion designs via 3D printing. Nothing gets made unless it’s ordered, removing the risk of over production and wastage, but still being able to respond quickly to supply goods. They also offer a bespoke service where they collaborate with their customers to design exactly what is desired.

Wonderluk 3D printed jewellery

Wonderluk 3D printed ring. Photo from: Wonderluk (2014) Tubes ring [Online] Available from: http://wonderluk.com/products/tubes-3d-printed-ring [Accessed 21 Dec 2014].

KNYTTAN[15]Knyttan. (2014) Knyttan: about [Online] Available from: https://knyttan.com/about/ [Accessed 20 Dec 2014]. is a custom knitwear brand that has used the concept of co-design to connect people with the garments they buy. They have also tackled the problem that many independent knitwear designers face, of not being able to meet the high minimums demanded by suppliers. They have done this by developing a business model that simplifies the production process and brings the factory, designer and user together. Knitwear designer, Kirsty Emery, working alongside a couple of engineers, has hacked an industrial knitting machine in order to allow customisation of their designs. The customer can play with the pattern through digital manipulation, before ordering and then watching it being knit in the shop. This concept ‘connects designers to people to make clothes that last’[16]Knyttan. (2014) Knyttan: about [Online] Available from: https://knyttan.com/about/ [Accessed 20 Dec 2014].. Ben Alun-Jones, one of the engineers says, ‘it’s like a 3D printer for clothes and gives each consumer a strong, individual connection with their garment. It’s the opposite of fast fashion. It means something to someone who created it’[17]Day, E. (2014) ‘Knock-out knitwear without a stitch of work’, The Observer, [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/10/technically-nobody-world-christmas-sweater-like-this [Accessed 20 Dec 2014]..

Knyttan factory and shop in Somerset House

Knyttan factory & shop in Somerset House. Photo from: Knyttan (2014) Knyttan: factory [Online] Available from: https://knyttan.com/factory/ [Accessed 20 Dec 2014].

Knyttan knitted blanket scarf

Knyttan knitted blanket scarf. Photo from: Knyttan (2014) Knyttan: products blanket scarves [Online] Available from: https://knyttan.com/product/blanket-scarf/ [Accessed 20 Dec 2014].

USER MAKER is when the consumer also becomes the maker. Hand knitting, crochet and macramé lend themselves to this form of production, as they can be done at home by anyone with very little equipment needed. ‘Knitting provides the potential not only for transparent production, but for design to become de-professionalised, and for designer, producer, and user to be one and the same person’[18]Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 435.. Over the past decade there has been a revival in knitting as a hobby[19]Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 434.. The activity of knitting is considered therapeutic with benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety levels, improved dexterity and memory skills, and the chance to unleash your creativity[20]Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014].. ‘We will see beauty and greatness in garments that value process, participation and social integration, in pieces that advance relationships between people and the environment. The activity of friends knitting together is beautiful’[21]Fletcher, K. (2008) Sustainable fashion and textiles: design journeys. London: Earthscan: 125..

WOOL AND THE GANG[22]Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014]. is a do-it-yourself fashion knitwear company that has ‘pulled off the feat of making knitting cool’[23]Blanchard, T. (2014) ‘Wool and the Gang: the social knitwork’, Telegraph, [Online] Available from: http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/TMG11099152/Wool-and-the-gang-the-social-knitwork.html [Accessed 18 Dec 2014].. Their designs are sold as knit patterns with yarn, or can be purchased ready-knit for those with more money than time. They aim to bring ‘back knitting as a viable means of production for generations to come’[24]Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014]..

Wool and the Gang

Wool and the Gang. Photo from: Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014].

I would like to encourage people to partake in craft activities, by designing homeware products that can be purchased in the form of a kit. For example, a lampshade might be made up of several pieces of laser cut wood, joined together with crochet wool. The wood could have a variety of different engraved patterns to choose from, and the wool available in different colours. The user maker could select the components and then crochet it together, interpreting the design how they like. It could be an activity done alone or with friends, either way it promotes personal satisfaction and well-being, by slowing down the process of consumption through participation in craft.

References   [ + ]

1. SlowLab. (undated) [Online] Available from: http://www.slowlab.net/slow_design.html [Accessed 15 Dec 2014].
2. Langdown, A. (2014) ‘Slow fashion as an alternative to mass production: A fashion practitioner’s journey’. Social Business, 4 (1): 33.
3. Textiles Futures Research Centre (2014) Ted8. [Vimeo] Available from: http://vimeo.com/107728210 [Accessed 7 Dec 2014].
4. Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 440.
5. Brien, P. (2013) ‘Warming fashion’s deathly pallor’. In: Brand, J. and Teunissen, J. eds. A fashion odyssey: progress in fashion and sustainability. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press: 59.
6. Corstanje, C. (2013) ‘Sustainable design as a powerful force to change’. In: Brand, J. and Teunissen, J. eds. A fashion odyssey: progress in fashion and sustainability. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press: 277.
7. Loker, S. (2008) ‘A technology-enabled sustainable fashion system: fashion’s future’. In: Hethorn, J. and Ulasewicz, C. eds. Sustainable fashion – why now?: a conversation about issues, practices, and possibilities. New York: Fairchild books: 108.
8. Loker, S. (2008) ‘A technology-enabled sustainable fashion system: fashion’s future’. In: Hethorn, J. and Ulasewicz, C. eds. Sustainable fashion – why now?: a conversation about issues, practices, and possibilities. New York: Fairchild books: 100.
9. Behar, Y. (2011) ‘Foreword’. In: Blossom, E. Material change: design thinking and the social entrepreneurship movement. New York: Metropolis Books: 6
10. Langdown, A. (2014) ‘Slow fashion as an alternative to mass production: A fashion practitioner’s journey’. Social Business, 4 (1): 35.
11. Kaltenbrunner, H. (2014) ‘How 3D printing is set to shake up manufacturing supply chains’. The Guardian [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/25/how-3d-printing-is-set-to-shake-up-manufacturing-supply-chains [Accessed 7 Dec 2014].
12, 13. Reichental, A. (2014) What’s next in 3D printing? [online video] TED: Available from: http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_reichental_what_s_next_in_3d_printing [Accessed 5 Dec 2014].
14. Wonderluk (2014) [Online] Available from: http://wonderluk.com/ [Accessed 21 Dec 2014].
15, 16. Knyttan. (2014) Knyttan: about [Online] Available from: https://knyttan.com/about/ [Accessed 20 Dec 2014].
17. Day, E. (2014) ‘Knock-out knitwear without a stitch of work’, The Observer, [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/10/technically-nobody-world-christmas-sweater-like-this [Accessed 20 Dec 2014].
18. Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 435.
19. Clark, H. (2008) ‘Slow fashion – an Oxymoron – or a Promise for the Future?’. Fashion Theory: the journal of dress, body and culture, 12 (4): 434.
20. Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014].
21. Fletcher, K. (2008) Sustainable fashion and textiles: design journeys. London: Earthscan: 125.
22, 24. Wool and the Gang (2014) Wool and the Gang: Our Story [Online] Available from: https://www.woolandthegang.com/our-story [Accessed 15 Nov 2014].
23. Blanchard, T. (2014) ‘Wool and the Gang: the social knitwork’, Telegraph, [Online] Available from: http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/TMG11099152/Wool-and-the-gang-the-social-knitwork.html [Accessed 18 Dec 2014].

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