Episode 66: How good design has always been a part of sustainability
- The Range Review
- What is a good design?
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello and welcome to episode 66 of the Fashion Unearthed Podcast. For those of you who are in my fortnightly newsletter, you would've seen that I recently launched a new service and if you aren't on that list and want to be head to belindahumphrey.com. It's called a Range Review, and it's a common checkpoint within designing and developing, and it's where you get to talk about your ideas for the collection, the fabrication, the styling, and get feedback from the team before signing off the product and either going to sampling or starting bulk production. And over the years, I've been lucky to work with some wonderful and experienced people who I trusted to give me constructive feedback and an alternative view if I was stuck in that messy middle part where you've just got fabric and printouts and ideas everywhere, or if you've just got a niggling feeling something was off and I felt like I was too close to it and getting stuck.
It was a person with who I felt safe discussing random and often unformed ideas, someone who had listened non-judgmentally with the same goal of making the range better, and these people are hard to find. It's essentially a chance to have that for yourself too. It's a one-on-one with me where you can talk through your range, your ideas, colours, prints, and all the bits and pieces, and get constructive feedback. Whether you're in that messy middle and you're trying to pull it all together into a final product or final collection, or you are nearing the end. You're thinking you might have been too close to it and worried you've missed something, it's a chance to stop and get fresh eyes in it before you start sampling. You can also book one in even if you have the first round of samples for the collection and want some feedback there on what you want to proceed with to bulk or what might need to change before you go ahead with ordering.
Now, it doesn't have to be polished or professional or these amazing fashion illustrations. It can be rough hand sketches, reference images, and fabric swatches, and we can just talk everything through. If you feel like you've been working in a bit of a bubble and need an experienced outsider's perspective, you can kindly give constructive feedback. Email me at email@example.com to book a time.
Onto today's topic, it's come about because my eldest son has been asking a lot about things getting old, specifically that when things get old, we need to get a new one, to which I've had some interesting conversations and explained that some things are still perfectly good even though they're old and some things even get better with age. For example, sometimes people get better with age, cheeses, the wood on the chest of drawers, and lots of things.
He really gets me thinking with all of his questions. But it has led to conversations about design, function, quality, and how they play such a big role in whether things get better with age and still retain some sort of value. And the design aspect in particular is often underrated and sometimes goes unnoticed until obviously, it's bad.
What is good design? Sometimes this is spoken about as being subjective, and yes, I think taste does come into it, but there are some key points that often come up. Lots of people will reference Dieter Rams principles, and today I just want to talk about three of these that I think are the most relevant to fashion, and design and share similarities with the design process and show how good design leads to a more sustainable product.
The first one is good design is aesthetic. If something is not beautiful to you, you aren't going to look after it or become attached to it. It's also likely that there's something missing aesthetically that could make it less beautiful to other people too. For example, if the proportions are a little bit off or the scale's not quite right, or maybe there are too many focal points happening, and like I said, taste does come into it and you can absolutely fall out of love with something that's in your wardrobe. But I think it's important to acknowledge the role of marketing, and in particular, fast fashion marketing because their obsession with newness always renders the product that came before it not desirable or it's unfashionable. There's nothing wrong with its functioning of it, but the obsolescence comes from new trends, and I think because of the amount and speed of those marketing messages, it's hard for the customer to not get swept up in that. But, and this is my own opinion when something is beautiful to you, you don't care when it gets old. You know it's getting more beautiful to you, and you do have that emotional and sentimental connection to it, and you can see the power of good design in the rise of the resell market. If you go on the Real Real or smaller vintage resellers, you're looking at products that could be, you know, 50, a hundred years old, but they're still beautiful and will be beautiful to someone.
The second point is that good design makes a product useful, which is such an important one. If it's not useful or if it's not fit for purpose as they say, it'll just get thrown out such a waste of resources and everyone's time along the line right down to the customer. And there's an Australian retailer that I refuse to buy from because things either don't fit properly. Mainly I'm talking about kids' clothes that don't wash properly, or just basic things like after one wash, the lid of a container doesn't fit anymore. The fit of a garment or the technical execution of a product comes in here too. The work needs to be put in to make sure something fits properly. Don't burden the customer with the guilt of having to now dispose of a product that didn't live up to the promise.
The third point is that good design is long-lasting, and this one links back in, in my mind to quality, but I want to add that it should be long-lasting but designed for repair and what happens at the product's end of life. Also, repairability is good, but you don't want to be doing it not that long after you've bought it, and you just can't design something long-lasting because look at all the plastic things that are long-lasting. It needs to be designed for longevity through either repairability or recyclability. For me, yes, it's high-quality materials and the ability to repair them, but also designed for the end of life.
They were the three main ones that I felt were applicable to the fashion design space and really articulated what good design looks like and shows how sustainability can be built into those good design decisions. It wasn't that long ago prior to the domination of plastics and disposable products that when you wanted an outfit, pair of shoes, or bed linen, there was a level of good design and quality was built in because there wasn't a seemingly cheaper alternative fueled by the fossil fuel industry. Things had to last and be aesthetically pleasing and do what it promised they would do.
A reminder, if you are interested in booking a range review session, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you have something else you want to get in touch about, you can email me about that as well. I always love hearing from listeners, and you can find the show notes and any links on the website, belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.