Going Round in Circles: the teaching of and the potential new roles of fashion designers in organizations transitioning to a circular economy

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Thomas Østergaard


, VIA University College, Design, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Denmark,

mail: thos@via.dk

Maria-Cristiana Dan


: Malmö University, Urban Studies, Design, Sweden, mail:

studio@cristinadan.com Title:

Going Round in Circles: the teaching of and the potential new roles of fashion designers in organizations transitioning to a circular economy

Keywords;Circular Fashion Design, Educations for Sustainable Development, Design Education, Circular Economy; Fashion Designer.


The Lifestyle and Fashion Industry’s linear system of take-make-use dispose creates large negative socio-environmental impacts and economic value losses. In the EU a new program for implementing a circular approach to the Lifestyle and Fashion Industry dealing with the challenges of the massive textile-production has been launched and national and international legislation is expected to be reality over the coming 5-10 years. In order to tackle global sustainability

challenges and ensure long-term viability, the industry is facing a need for circular and closed-loop approaches. The circular design approaches require the development and use of both personal as well as sustainable and systemic-competencies as the implode a new level of complexity in the design- and production process’.

But, according to new research most designers still have a very narrow focus on traditional linear design-skills when they finish their studies. This calls for a revision of the design-curricula in order to meet the future demands of the designers’ competencies. So, the what and how the future designers are taught becomes essential. This paper explores two levels of interest in the transition from a linear to a circular Lifestyle industry.

This article investigates if fashion designers actually can aid the transition towards a circular economy (CE) in the fashion industry (in Denmark?). For this purpose, 15 interviews with ten fashion designers working in medium and large international fashion companies and five key informants were conducted. The results are summarized in a model (ORFDCE model) and suggest that designers can take up three central roles in the transition process, if provided that they expand their sustainability-related knowledge and are supported by four central systemic organizational changes.

Through a series of interviews with students, managers and educators the article also relates how

the students are taught sustainability and circular design at VIA Design, and how the educators

perceive the future challenges and possibilities of re-structuring the curricula in order to meet the

circular production requirements.


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