Future Fashion

it is time for a change

Current usage of our planet’s resources for the fashion demand is not realistic. A transformation of current system is needed into one that is circular based and requires less from our planet’s resources. A new system that is positive and where all action is designed to have minimum environmental impact.

The research

Our research focus is on Circular Economy, and how to enable today’s linear industry to transform into a circular sustainable industry. With a system perspective, we focus uniquely on the bigger picture and the interaction between the elements in the system. With an inter-disciplinary approach, the program attempts to understand and proceed on research on the most relevant areas within the system that needs to change.

The program is organized into four themes:

  1. How do we design for a circular economy? 
    We explore and evaluate the environmental potential of the design and user potential of short-life vs. long-life garments to find the most suitable choices for the transformation into a textile circular economy for different types of garments in order to develop recommendations, guidelines and tools for how to design for resource circularity.
  2. How do we stimulate a more circular supply chain
    We identify what necessary actions in textile and garment supply chains will enable circular economy and deliver guidelines for governance on how to transform to and sustain a circular textile supply chain.
  3. How can users contribute to a more sustainable fashion? 
    We make recommendations on how to encourage sustainable consumer behavior and to increase user engagement in sustainable consumption. Specifically recommendations for achieving an increased degree of services for extended life of garments, reuse, and second hand consumption will be included.
  4. How do we increase the textile recycling
    We develop knowledge on recycling methods and impact of post-consumer textiles to provide guidance on necessary steps to enable sustainable textile recycling.


Since 1996, TED has been developing and refining a set of sustainable design strategies for textile and fashion designers.

These strategies have emerged out of a need for a toolbox for designers to help them navigate the complexity of sustainability issues and to offer real ways for designing ‘better’. While the environmental impacts of our production and consumption system have become increasingly discussed and brought to the fore, and textile/fashion designers have begun to consider their responsibilities as creators of unsustainable products and systems, there have been few tools or frameworks for designers to be pro-active. We became frustrated by the lack of real action in light of these often depressing facts, and wanted to create some strategies for positive change.

These have now become The TEN and are continually changing and adapting.

1 – design to minimise waste

This strategy encourages designers to minimise the waste that is created in the textile industry, both pre and post consumer. It includes zero waste cutting and recycling but it also introduces the idea at the outset that we need to avoid producing stuff that doesnt work, that people dont want.“Of the total textile fibre produced, up to 65% is lost, post-consumer, to landfill, incineration or composting, which represents between 400,000 and 700,000 tonnes per annum in the UK. Of this, at least 50% is said to be recyclable” (Allwood, 2006)

Examples:• Slow design• Design for long-life and short-life applications• Zero waste cutting• Design with enhanced aesthetic value

2 – design for cyclability

This strategy explains how when you design for cyclability, the thought process is very different, but totally connected to, the practice of recycling textiles.Design for upcycling is about “not merely conserving the resources that went into the production of particular materials, but adding to the value embodied in them by the application of knowledge in the course of their recirculation” (Murray, 2002)

Examples:• Design for recycling / upcycling• Design for mono materiality• Design for disassembly for the closed-loop systems of the future• Think re-useable/non-invasive installation or renewal

3 – design to reduce chemical impacts

This strategy is about appropriate material selection and processes for any product to minimise environmental impacts.“One cupful of pesticides and fertilisers are used in the production of the average t-shirt” (Observer, 2005)

Examples:• Seek organically produced materials• Use mechanical technology to create non-chemical decorative surface pattern• Create effects to replace materials and processes known to be harmful

4 – design to reduce energy and water use

Energy consumption and water usage in the textile industry are extremely high and occur at each stage of the lifecycle of textiles – at the production stage, in the use phase (where consumers use and care for textiles and garments) and at the end stage (which covers either disposal and/or re use of the material.“ 60% of the total energy consumption in the lifecycle of a t-shirt occurs in the use phase. i.e washing, ironing, drying ” (Allwood et al, 2006)

Examples:In the production phase:• Exhaust printing and dyeing• Dry patterning systems• Air-dyeing• Distributed manufactureIn the use phase:• Design for no/low launder• ‘Short life’ textiles• Technical coatings to reduce washing• Innovative and informative labeling• Localisation• Natural energy systems

5 – design that explores clean/better technologies

Replacing systems of production with less energy consuming and smarter technologies to reduce environmental impacts.

Examples:• Bio-based materials and processes• 3-D printing• Laser• Water-jet• Sonic cutting• Sonic welding• Digital printing• ‘Re-surfacing’ of polyester• Novel dyeing techniques• Digital finishing• Tagging

6 – design that looks at models from nature & history

This strategy is about how much textile designers can find inspiration and information for future sustainable design from studying and reflecting upon nature as well as textiles, habits and societies of the past.“….the accumulated past is life’s best resource for innovation …reinventing beats inventing nearly every time.” Stewart Brand

Examples:• Shape-memory polymers to mimic natural movement• ‘Lotus effect’ nano-coatings• Velcro• Austerity repair• Make-do-and-mend• D.I.Y/ punk customization• Modern nomads• Historic dyeing/ printing techniques

7 – design for ethical production

This is about design that utilises and invests in traditional craft skills in the UK and abroad. It is about ethical production which supports and values workers rights, and the sourcing of fair trade materials. It questions what ethical production means, and how it differs for each scale of production and manufacture.“For making a $100 pair of trainers, the factory worker will receive just 50 cents” (www.cleanclothes.org)

Examples:• Sourcing fair trade materials• Engaging suppliers who abide by codes of conduct• Vertical supply chains• Consideration of local resources• Designers acting as facilitators of sustainable enterprise in communities

8 – design to reduce the need to consume

This strategy is about making stuff that lasts, stuff that we really want and want to keep and look after, and the design and production of textiles and products which adapt and change with age. This strategy is also about exploring alternative forms of design and consumption such as co-design and collaborative consumption.“Clothing sales have increased by 60% in the last ten years” (Oakdene Hollins, 2006)

Examples:• Emotionally durable design• Slow design• Consumer participation in co-design and collaborative consumption, crowd sourcing and social networks• Apps for bespoke information

9 – design to dematerialise and develop systems & services

This strategy introduces the concept of designing systems and services instead of, or to support, products, e.g. lease, share, repair.“Systems & services design illustrates how consumers needs can be met with services as opposed to tangible products, and at the same time provide economic and environmental benefits” (Manzini, E. 2001)

Examples:• Lease• Share• Repair• Experience design• User-centered methods to design services• Collaborative online/local communities• Transition-towns

10 – design activism

In this final strategy we encourage designers to leave behind the product and work creatively with the consumers and society at large. It is about designing events and communication strategies beyond product design to increase consumer and designer knowledge about the environmental and social impacts of fashion and textiles. Here, the textile designer becomes a ‘Social Innovator’. We reflect on how much has changed for textile designers, and how much potential for the future there is!“…new ways of thinking about how design can catalyse, nurture, enable and activate positive societal changes towards more sustainable ways of living and working….” (Fuad-Luke, A. 2009)

Examples:• Publications• Blogs• Open-source networks• Exhibitions• Conferences• Festivals• Social media• Manifestos

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Textile toolbox

An exhibition of Swedish fashion and textile design instructions from the future. Textile Toolbox is a web platform project developed by TED’s researchers at UAL within Mistra Future Fashion. The open website is a platform for designers and experts to engage with new design ideas.

Are you a textile or fashion designer? Have you heard about how unsustainable the industry is, but don’t know how to design lower impact products? Wherever you are in the world, whether you are an individual designer/maker selling directly to your customers, or a designer in a team or large department, this site is for you.

To date this site has been used to help build the discourse around TED’s ‘The TEN’ – a set of sustainable design strategies for innovative sustainability thinking and action. This platform functions as a research and public engagement tool where we explore The TEN as a driver new design thinking for the Swedish fashion industry.

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Future fashion manifesto 2015

Manifesto stating the programs vision for a sustainable fashion and textile industry.

In 2015 the Mistra Future Fashion program entered its second phase and kicked of by formulating it’s vision for the fashion and textile industry in a manifesto. The vision is based on the 4 years of research conducted within the program and summarizes research results and foresights new system within four key areas where the industry needs to progress:

  1. Go from one to multiple business models
  2. Invite and involve consumers
  3. Design more conscious
  4. Enable Recycling.

The manifesto was launched and made public with a big event in Stockholm September 2015.

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Green textile guide

Guide to eco-efficient textile materials and processes for consumers, designers, and supply chain/marketing managers.

The Green Textiles Guide is a result of Mistra Future Fashion attempts to move towards eco-efficient textile materials and processes.

The guide is a tool meant to support the fashion industry and the public sector. Within the project we wanted to fill a gap in the currently existing multitude of tools. Therefore an overview of the existing tools was made, identifying that different tools have different functions, such as inspiring, educating or measuring.

A couple of current gaps were identified as:

  • Quantitative footprint tools (qualitative measurements means that you cannot compare how large the impact is from e.g. pesticide use in agriculture compared to impact from waste water emissions at a dye house, or even compare production phase with the use phase)
  • Whole life cycle coverage  (Looking at just one part of the life cycle might lead to suboptimization)
  • Lack of important environmental parameters
  • Toxicity and land use are often not described together with climate change, water etc.
  • Seldom links between product level and societal level.
  • Lack of information in Swedish.

We have tried to fill some gaps within the program, and constructed this Green Textiles Guide where you can find relevant information depending on your role; consumer, designer or supply chain/marketing manager. The guide is structured so to appeal different parties, consumers, designers, and supply chain/marketing managers.

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LCA of Swedish fashion consumption

LCA of Swedish Fashion Consumption: Understanding the environmental impact of Swedish fashion consumption – The First Life-cycle-assessment on Swedish fashion consumption including an evaluation of chemical use.

With the objective to clarify what sustainable fashion means for the Swedish fashion industry, five key garments were examined using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and to give a representative picture of Swedish fashion consumption. LCA is a globally used and accepted method for assessing environmental impacts of a product’s life cycle from cradle to grave, including raw material extraction, material processing, product manufacture, distribution, use, disposal and recycling. The selected garments were: a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, a dress, a jacket and a hospital uniform. The environmental impact of “one average use” of each of these garments was assessed to permit the detailed study, such as the examination of the environmental significance of different life cycle phases. The environmental impact of the five garments was then scaled up to represent Swedish national clothing consumption for one year. This permitted the study of broader aspects, such as the relative importance of different garments and the potential of a range of interventions for impact reduction.

The potential to do the kind of environmental evaluation presented in this report is continuously improving, with the publication of new data on fibre, fabric and garment production and the improvement in life cycle impact assessment methods. Further work remains to be done on the refinement of data collection methods. For example, the growth of product category rules offers the promise of greater consistency between life cycle assessments, but such rules must properly encompass the garment lifespan if the assessments are to provide useful guidance.


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How to best influence consumers?

social marketing toolbox

How to best influence consumers? A social marketing toolbox has been developed targeting 16-18 years in school, including a WebQuest, a workshop based on online and offline elements. When dealing with attitude behavior gap social marketing approach has shown to be effective, in contrast to information-based campaigns. Via social marketing activities consumers can partake in creating awareness around sustainable consumption.

future fashion alternatives profileA webQuest  has been developed and tested in schools with the intention to raise awareness for the topic of textile recycling and provide alternative behavioral strategies to binning clothes. The researchers used knowledge gained from a survey on young consumers fashion behavior when designing the workshop. Consumers are ready to consumer fashion in a more sustainable manner, but perceive barriers in its availability, accessibility and affordability. In addition, in a cross-country comparison similar patterns and entry points to induce a behavioral change were found, when it comes to promote sustainable fashion consumption.

Studies of the relationship of style and sustainable fashion also revealed a new angle: style as one option to increase sustainable fashion consumption – it still has all positive features of fashion, but generally reduces overall consumption and this is more sustainable. The relationship between style and wellbeing provides another entry point: instead of threatening consumers with guilt associated with unsustainable behavior, the link between well-being and sustainable consumption could create a more positive and better received argument.

The toolbox comprises a homepage with videos and information as well as specific tasks. To make itself sustaining, it includes a teacher’s instruction to promote the tool to be carried out independently. The toolbox have been tried out in schools in several countries.

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