I think (sustainably) there 4IR: Exploring design thinking through a first principle approach in fashion praxis

Haupt, DiandraStadio



Fashion, Jewellery & Textile Design


  • aligned thinking, circular economy, fashion praxis, first principle, design approach


As fashion is becoming increasingly more inclusive of environmentally friendly fibres and sustainable textile solutions, consideration needs to be given to other applications of sustainable strategies within fashion design praxis (Gwilt & Rissanen, 2011, p. 57). Concepts such as design for sustainability, which centres on cutting waste, upcycling and fibre recycling strategies have become commonplace within the industry. A greater focus needs to be placed on developing new ways of clothing construction processes (Fletcher & Grose, 2012, p. 48). In order to address the wasteful nature of the conventional and linear fashion design and production process, designers need to adapt and cultivate new thinking processes that directly affect the phases they most actively participate in.

Through the lens of sustainability, Industry 4.0 falls behind in what is both possible and societally desirable (Ulrich & Gronau, 2020, pp. 110). The internet of things, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics are at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), which has in effect neglected a more holistic and therefore sustainable approach (less technologically centred) towards human, technology and organisational processes (Ulrich & Gronau 2020, pp. 110). Looking at areas such as digital technology solutions and circular economy solutions and the relationship between the two, 4IR has the potential to align the United Nation’s goals on sustainable development, while still supporting continued digital transformation within industries (Hoosain, Paul & Ramakrishna 2020, pp. 11). In order to cultivate this holistic approach consideration needs to be given to investigative processes in practice and how the relationship between the digital and sustainable can be aligned.

This paper emanates from a MA Design study that is nearing completion. The study uses a practice-led research framework with investigative methods such as, the think-aloud method and reflection cycles in order to apply a first principle design approach within fashion praxis. This first principle approach aims to address the limitations of the current linear design and production process, allowing for the implementation of sustainable strategies at the start of the design process by means of a design from principle approach (a set of principles that has been synthesised from the UN’s sustainability goals, as well as various approaches to design thinking). This paper reflects on the potential of 4IR to be inclusive within this first principle design approach by reflecting on the value of a first principle approach and the potential of incorporating 4IR to advance the adoption of sustainable strategies. The concept of integrating the circular economy and 4IR emerging innovations offers the opportunity for creative and positive impact towards sustainability through aligned thinking (Hoosain, Paul & Ramakrishna 2020, pp. 14).


DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (https://www.defsa.org.za/imagine).