A Mixed-Method Study of Design Practices and Designers’ Roles in Sustainable-Minded Clothing Companies

Essi Karell, Kirsi Niinimäki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


The way in which the current fashion industry operates needs to fundamentally change. In this endeavour, designers are considered central figures throughout the sustainable fashion literature. However, too little is known about clothing designers’ practical contributions to sustainability. Therefore, this study investigates how sustainability is integrated into design practices in sustainable-minded clothing companies and determines the role of clothing designers in this respect. A mixed-method study was conducted based on a sequential exploratory strategy. The data were collected in two stages: a preliminary phase based on five expert interviews and a survey phase, which involved 31 clothing designers from around Europe. The data analysis was also divided into two phases: thematic analysis of the interviews and content analysis of the survey. The findings indicate that the sustainable design practices within these companies predominantly focus on material choices and aspects that support product longevity. Yet, there is little empirical evidence to support claims regarding garments’ true longevity. Knowledge regarding materials, recycling and best practices is also lacking among clothing designers. Lack of knowledge and company strategies frequently dictate and restrict the design work. This further highlights the fact that designers’ opportunities to influence environmental and social change are more limited than earlier literature suggests.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4680
Number of pages25
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • sustainability
  • sustainable design
  • sustainable fashion
  • clothing design
  • fashion design
  • design practice
  • mixed-method


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