Recording in the Fashion Design Process

McGilp, Helen Laura (2023). Recording in the Fashion Design Process. PhD thesis The Open University.



Although fashion is everywhere in our day-to-day lives, the process of fashion design itself remains mysterious. Few academic studies have been carried out into fashion design processes in industry from the perspective of the designer, who also appears to record little of their own practice. The benefits of recording in design processes are well supported by the literature in other design disciplines, such as architecture or engineering. However, little is known about recording and non-recording practices in the fashion industry. This thesis addresses the gap through the overall research question: What roles do recording and non-recording practices play in the fashion design process, from the perspective of designer? An in-depth analysis was undertaken of 5 case study fashion designers who, over their careers, worked with 47 fashion brands, primarily situated within a Western context, operating transnationally. To anchor the analysis of recording, the cases were combined with an extended analysis of the literature to reveal the different roles of fashion designers. A generic fashion design process model is presented as an organising structure. Thematic analysis was used to determine 91 interconnected record archetypes. Patterns of recording practice were drawn out around themes of purpose, form, function, retention and retrieval. Comparative analysis undertaken through the lens of literature from other fields analysed patterns of non-recording. Offering a detailed glimpse into the—often hidden—world of fashion design, the thesis uncovered a rich spectrum of recording practices encompassing a large number of partial and informal records. In the absence of external requirements for recording, the primary formal records are highly detailed product specifications. It is shown, however, that fashion designers manage their design processes with surprisingly few records, making opportunistic use of fragmentary records and occasionally operating in the absence of records.

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