Sunday, October 29, 2006

Practice-led and practice-based research

This research is about fashion design practice, and part of the research will be conducted through practice, but I am not convinced 'practice-led' or 'practice-based' sufficiently describe the project. How I came to the research problem isn't entirely practice-led, either; things that I'd seen and read in books played an equally significant role.

The 'themes' for next year's Nordic Design Research Conference are Inquiries about Design, Inquiries for Design and Inquiries by Design. I think the first and the last reflect what I'm attempting, but the middle fits as well: I do hope that eventually other practitioners will somehow benefit from the research.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My research and this blog

My PhD looks into a way of making clothes that doesn't waste any fabric exclusive of the garment. Put it another way: if you make a zero-fabric-waste shirt that takes 150cm of fabric, every skerrick of that 150cm length of fabric is in the finished shirt. Currently clothing production is somewhat inefficient (in my opinion), in that roughly 15% (Cooklin 1997, see below) of the fabric used ends as waste at the cutting out stage. The following texts give estimates for this wastage:

Abernathy, F. H., J. T. Dunlop, et al. (1999). A stitch in time. Lean retailing and the transformation of manufacturing - Lessons from the apparel and textile industries. New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press. The authors estimate the amount of waste to be around 10 percent for pants and jeans, but higher for blouses, jackets and underwear.

Cooklin, G. (1997). Garment technology for fashion designers. Oxford, Blackwell Science. As stated above, Cooklin estimates the wastage at 15% of total fabric used.

Feyerabend, R. (2004) Textiles Briefing Paper accessed 24/10/2006. The amount of waste varies between 10 and 20% of total fabric used.

Garment style (number and shapes of pattern pieces), the number of sizes in one marker (usually you can save fabric if you, for example, cut the Mediums and Larges together in one rather than two separate markers, but this is only possible if you are cutting the same number of Mediums and Larges) and the skills of the marker maker are some of the factors determining the amount of waste. Marker, by the way, is the cutting layout of a garment, containing all the pieces of a garment to be cut. It is the marker maker's responsiblity to try to fit all the garment pieces as tightly as possible; the motivation is economic, as a saving of, say 5cm of fabric per garment, translates into quite a big financial saving if you are making 500 units of that particular garment.

Now, if we wanted to eliminate this waste (and at a later date I'll write more on why I think we should at least reduce the aboove figures), the problem with the current practice is that the marker maker is limited by what has been designed by the fashion designer and patternmade by the patternmaker. I want to make clear that I am NOT researching a way of designing garments that use less fabric (put it bluntly, those garments would be shorts and crop tops), but rather, I'm looking at how fashion design and patternmaking are able to eliminate fabric waste: how to make clothes without wasting fabric.

This blog will hopefully serve a dual purpose: as a repository of my thoughts, and others', on the research as it advances, and as the written and visual record of the experiments that I will conduct. I am currently developing the design briefs for the experiments, drawing from literature on this kind of fashion-making. I know it's a little clunky to have the two separate blogs, but I'll try to cross-link the two regularly, and each has a link to the other in the sidebar.