Uncovering Fashion Design Method Practise - The influence of Body, Time and Collection



The theme of the study is fashion design method practice in a professional context. The topic under investigation is thus the design methods that fashion designers apply when they conduct fashion design. The study focuses on designers’ own experiences with regard to fashion design method practice, through data production on descriptions and actions obtained from practice itself. The study is placed in a Nordic context in that the case participants included all have a Scandinavian origin and/or work in a company situated geographically in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The study identifies four purposes of fashion design methodological knowledge:
- It can support reflection on and understanding of the practice
- It can enhance influence on and autonomy within practice
- It can support desired changes within practice
- It can sustain commercial success within practice

Thereby the study aims for an understanding of what fashion designers do when they work from a design methods perspective. Hence the focus is not in particular the fashion design process or fashion design creativity, but on the methods that fashion designers apply within their design practice.
Furthermore, the study aims for an understanding of how fashion designers work within their method practice with regard to the temporal influence from working within seasonal cycles, the structural influence from working with collections and the bodily influence from working both on and by the body.

The purpose of the study is to develop new fashion design methodological knowledge that can be applied in the context of fashion design education and thereby strengthen method practice awareness, reflection and discourse internally, within the designers own practice in the fashion design field, and an external method practice articulation and communication towards colleagues, collaborators, stakeholders and partners from other disciplines.

The study is an empirical qualitative case study conducted by using phenomenography - i.e. by obtaining experiences and understandings of a particular phenomenon in order to identify emerging categories as well as their relation - as an overall methodological approach. The data consists of 5 in depth semi-structured designer interviews, 30 hours of video data recorded on in- situ studio practise from 3 of the interviewed designers, and 28 on ground observations of same. Apart from phenomenographic analysis, the study applies metaphors as an analytic strategy in order to explore a number of broader themes emerging from the data. Furthermore the study adopts the concept of the design method card i.e. the process of making method cards constitutes an element within the overall analysis of data. The tentative outcome i.e. the produced cards provides material for future testing and implementation within education.

The thesis consists of 11 chapters. Following the Introduction Chapter 2 provides a literature review, which enables a positioning of the study within the current knowledge landscape. The review consists of a general overview of empirical fashion practice studies; an assessment of practice and research based literature on fashion design methods and methodologies; and a sampled review of existing method card compilations and toolkits. The review provides the theory applied in the discussion in order to evaluate and possibly substantiate tentative findings.

Chapter 3 presents the research methodology and thus clarifies the case-based nature and qualitative phenomenographic approach centring on iterative categorisation. Data is produced by semi-structured interviews, on-site observation and observation by video. The data analysis is conducted through phenomenographic categorisation within and a cross cases. Further cross case analysis and synthesis is conducted through the making of method cards. Emerging broader themes in the participant method practice are analysed through the use of metaphors.
Chapter 4 introduces the 5 cases i. e. the participant designers. Following each introduction the author provides a first person description of the experience of being in the field and the data production process leading to tentative insights regarding the merging of art, craft and business and emerging themes regarding body, time and collection
Chapter 5 clarifies the iterative phenomenographic analysis of interview and video data. Through within and cross case categorisation the analysis leads to the forming of tentative larger method categories. The process is explicated through an extensive number of examples.
Chapter 6 shows the cross case analysis and synthesis conducted through the making of method cards. The process leads to the identification and explication of the individual fashion design methods within the larger categories. The analysis is made transparent through extensive number of examples.
Chapter 7 seeks a deeper understanding of emerging broader themes within the overall data body pertaining to how the temporal dimension, bodily actions and the collection structure influences the method practice through a number of similarly emerging metaphors. On this ground a discussion and evaluation of the themes against existing theory is conducted.
Chapter 8 introduces the phenomenographic outcome space model build from analysis findings i.e. a visual model of how the emerging method categories relate. The result shows a non-linear circular model - here named The Onion model - due to its layered properties of an embodied core; a material based merging of art, craft and business; a structural collection framework; and a temporal framing. The Onion model is subsequently discussed against the 5C method knowledge model (Friis & Gelting, 2014).
Chapter 9 contains an evaluation of the research methodology. It comprises an internal evaluation related to phenomenographic research criteria and an external evaluation set up against a guideline proposal for the process of building theory from case-study research (Eisenhardt, 1989).
Chapter 10 concludes the study. The chapter thus offers conclusions to the research question and proposals for where the study contributes to the fashion design method practice knowledge field. Here in particular the emerging method practices pertaining to time, body and collection is suggested as a core contribution, as well as the outcome space model can provide new understandings of the involved non-linear and layered practice. Lastly the chapter suggests perspectives for further research based on viewing the research outcome of the study in light of acknowledged purposes for methodological knowledge.
Chapter 11 contains the method cards. The cards have been part of the research process and they are thus a necessary element in order to provide the reader insight into how knowledge has arisen. At the same time the cards can be seen as a research outcome – although not yet fully developed. On this ground the cards are placed within the thesis, and not in an appendix.

Effektiv start/slut dato01/09/201112/08/2015


  • design method, education, teaching
  • Design methodology
  • Fashion Design
  • Fashion Design Education
  • fashion Design Method Cards
  • Fashion Design Practice
  • Embodied Knowledge
  • Collection Structure