How to implement sustainable design?


Azul Stengel, Co-founder of Lienzo

Photo by Roberto Sorin

In the long road towards sustainability designers have a big responsibility within brands to lead the way in incorporating best practices on their designs. If done properly, the design stage will have a great impact on reducing the environmental and social footprint of a company.

Introducing sustainability from the conception stage will guarantee an approach towards sustainability that is more holistic and coherent. It is key to keep in mind that designers have a creative choice in their design process, materials and production, and consequently sourcing and manufacturing. While designing, the pattern-making process should take into account waste management, when choosing fabric and color, the designers should use textile sourcing and the environmental impact of the dying and production process. Evidently, designers have a responsibility regarding the impact their designs have on the environment and on society.

Therefore, sustainable design is a key factor to reduce negative social and environmental impact. The objectives of a sustainable design are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimize waste and create healthy, productive environments. Numerous design strategies exist and all of these can lead to more sustainable business practices and products, which will also translate into greater profitability for companies. In this article, our goal is to provide several strategies to implement a more sustainable design within companies.

The first stage is the creative and conceptual part of the design process. It is key to consider ways to reduce waste. Today this can be done by using digital resources such as clo 3d and marvelous designer. Furthermore, the pattern created digitally can be arranged to use the fabric in the most efficient way possible, reducing textile waste in the production stage. Another way in which the creative and conceptual stage can have a positive impact is to create garments that take into account circularity within the design itself. Creating garments that have a longer life cycle and can be used in different ways will ensure that the consumer can use the product for a longer period of time, relying on the quality and versatility of the product. Once the garment has fulfilled its useful life, good design can make the product easy to recycle and properly dispose of.

The second stage, once the design is conceived, has to do with how the choice of fabric affects the sourcing. Whilst deciding what type of textiles to use in the collection, designers should consider the impact of any given fabric as different fibres have different environmental and social impacts across the value chain. This applies both at a local and global level, considering where the fibre is grown or produced, and from where it is transported afterwards. Logistics usually leave a massive carbon footprint as textiles are shipped across the world to be dyed, cut and stitched together before arriving at their final destination. By sourcing fibres and producing at a local level, garments will have a lower environmental impact. Furthermore, deciding what color and shade the fabric should have also has environmental consequences, as dying requires highly polluting chemicals and high levels of water consumption. Choosing the right color might reduce the environmental impact of the garment by using natural dyes and techniques.

At this stage it is also key to consider the social impact of the garment. More often than not, garments are produced by women and children under terrible conditions. Companies should ensure that the production conditions of their products and the work environment where the garments are constructed meet OECD and UN guidelines on human rights. This decision is influenced both by designers when deciding on fabrics, and by the company’s production strategy. Companies should responsibly choose to work with certified workshops, as well as personally establish a working relationship to ensure that these workshops are up to standard.

Finally, sustainable designs will have a positive impact on the financial, cultural and social value of the company. A company engaged with the environment and community will have a positive rapport with their clients. In an era of heightened social awareness, these companies can tap into a wider market, establishing longer lasting relationships with their clients and loyal customers.