The speculative business models that follow highlight potential avenues to reach a more sustainable
future for the garment industry, as described in Section 6: How Might We Bridge Between Paradigms?
Inspired by the regenerative growth caused by the seemingly destructive force of wildfire, this speculative business model envisions a venture where the fabric remnants of one season’s collection act as the foundation (and metaphorical “spark”) for regenerative designs, simultaneously reducing waste and creating meaningful work in the process. In this model, a “sister” organization to the original producer of the remnants would be created to make use of the fabric, up-cycling it into smaller items like accessories, homewares, or even public art.
Remarkable organizations like Fine Cell Work in the UK support the rehabilitation and care of inmates at prisons by offering them training in, and remuneration for the production of fine needlepoint cushions and quilts. his model’s smaller sister venture could likewise make use of the remnant fabric (ostensibly a free resource) by partnering with inmates as a way to provide them with meaningful training, financial support for their family members, and productive activities to fill the many hours of idle time that characterize prison life. Inmates could be shown intricate techniques like hand weaving, quilting, etc. by local artisans, and create pieces from the recycled remnants based on patterns designed by the sister company, or even visiting artists. All proceeds of the sale of the produced pieces could go toward a fund that supports inmates upon their release from prison.
Rationale: By making use of an untapped resource for community-based activities, waste is given new life as a meaningful catalyst for learning, creative release and rehabilitation.
In the field of architecture, a careful attention to boundaries and context often results in the best, most beautiful and beloved designs. Architects who take cues from the physical constraints of a site to inform their design innovations (rather than designing in a metaphorical vacuum) tend to find inspiration from its edges, producing work better able to withstand the tests of time. This scenario imagines a business model where designers, regardless of their background or training, are encouraged to take inspiration from what Jackson calls the “bounded capabilities” of our finite planet (Jackson, 2011, p. 45) to collaboratively produce garments for an annual set of limited release collections available for purchase.
Instead of designing based on data, trend forecasts and artificially invented seasons, each collection could challenge designers to submit beautiful designs that address a specific theme or issue, i.e., making a ensemble perfect for stargazing, creating clothing never meant to be washed, designing a collection for introverts, etc. Instead of asking designers, “what will sell?” this proposition asks them to consider, “What’s possible within these boundaries?”
This model could also broaden the boundaries of what “fashion” means by allowing designers to also submit ideas for experiences, services, etc. Buyers could similarly have multiple options for how to “own” pieces from the collection. For example, they might buy the ready-made garment, purchase a pattern and instructions for self-construction, or even a high-quality print of the designer’s sketch of the garment.
Rationale: Crowdsourcing designs for a themed collection gives unknown designers the chance to gain a wider audience for their work, while reducing the significant costs associated with running a full-service design studio. By choosing themes that embrace purpose-driven concepts, it also invites designers to spend time contemplating the story and memories that could be created through their work.
Sewing and construction techniques used by the “petites-mains” of haute couture houses, though delicate and time-consuming, are fairly simple to master (Schaefer, 2011, p. 2). This scenario imagines an online open-knowledge platform where people can purchase “kits” for creating haute couture-style embroidered clothing, but also contribute their own ideas for designs that can be shared freely with other community members.
Varying levels of constructions would be made available, in a range of complexities and time commitments. For example, the oferings could include:
The “open design” patterns in particular have the potential to support bottom-up led innovations, experimentations and trends free from the pressures of consumption and profit, where new forms of “beauty” (jolie-laide or otherwise) could emerge. Like the ‘stitch-n-bitch’ knitting circles that already exist, the model could also facilitate user-led clubs and “laboratories” where individuals can ask for help, share their progress and even experimental techniques, perhaps in tandem with the many local “makerspaces” being established in cities and communities.
Rationale: Rather than producing fully completed garments, he Self-Assembly gives significantly more of the decision-making power over to the people who will be crafting and wearing the clothing. It also views clothing and design as a work in progress rather than something that must never be modified - living instead of stagnant. By completing the time-consuming work themselves, individuals are able to create garments they normally might not be able to afford, but also to give additional life to beloved but worn pieces or experiment on clothing that has never felt quite right (in both cases, saving garments from disposal).
It also has the potential to build a community of fashion enthusiasts who are just as concerned with the process of creation as the final products themselves – lengthening and enhancing the experience of fashion for those who partake in it, and fostering a spirit of innovation and experimentation. More pragmatically, research has revealed that people are willing to pay more for products they have had a hand in making - dubbed the “IKEA effect” (Norton, et al., 2012) - lending credence to the model’s financial viability.