The fashion industry is notorious for its global sustainability challenges. Designers have a significant role in the sustainability impact of the products they design over their lifecycles. Creating a diverse understanding of the sustainability opportunities and challenges in the fashion industry is one of the key learning objectives of Smart and Sustainable Design degree fashion studies. Working with real work-related projects with real challenges in the field of sustainable fashion design and product development provides a hands-on learning experience for fashion design students.
Second-year Smart and Sustainable fashion design students had the opportunity to collaborate with a Finnish sustainable fashion brand Silverjungle. The project was integrated into a module with a focus on industrial manufacturing in the design industry. Silverjungle’s project assignment was to create sustainable, long-lifecycle garments out of customer overstock and cutting waste material. Silverjungle designs are created with the principle of minimizing the use of natural resources and textile waste created. A real sustainability challenge for students to meet in the project. Students worked on teams and had to learn to balance Silverjungle brand image and values, creative goals, customer needs and manufacturing realities in their product design and development project.
Embarking on the product development process for Silverjungle project
The design teams were tasked to design a collection of three outfits for Silverjungle. Students had to understand Silverjungle’s existing target group, brand values and sustainability principles of the production. Materials of the collection were limited to Silverjungle’s overstock of organic and recycled cotton jersey and french terry materials. The design challenge was to find innovative ways to add value to materials used with environmentally sustainable structural decisions and surface designs. Students had to make additional research on the brand, target group and sustainability to gain a deeper understanding of the brand philosophy and to be able to create fresh insights for the design process.
Students created mood boards and initial product ideas and presented them to the brand representative. The client chose 3–5 garments from each group to be prototyped and developed into samples. Product development for fashion is iterative. Prior to reaching a final sample garment that can be put to production several rounds of pattern development, prototyping, testing and fitting were made. Students had to solve technical manufacturing challenges in the products while keeping the design and brand values in mind. Students had to also create professional technical product specification packages and structural information on their designs for the final production in a factory. Teams also designed all over prints for their collections and used the digital textile printer Mimaki in HAMK’s design studios to create fabric samples. The outcome of the project was mini collections ready for production.
Students developed innovative and timeless, sustainable styles that fit well with the Silverjungle brand. The project continued with internships at Silverjungle to follow-up the production and visual marketing of the products.
Motivation, innovation and hands-on experiences from the industry
Working with a real product development challenge from the industry was very motivating for the students and deepened their understanding of the designer’s role and responsibilities in the fashion industry. Collaboration, reaching compromises and achieving a final product with sustainability attributes, design and commercial values of the client brand was a professional journey for the students involved. Silverjungle was happy to have a fresh perspective for their brand and see the new ideas the future designers came up with that could fit their customers’ needs in the future.
Anna Huoviala, Head of Degree Programme in Design
Niinamaria Arkonsuo, Lecturer in design