What is Fashion Design Management?

International Fashion Marketing An multicoloured assortment of clothes on a clothing rail in a fashion studio in front of a window.

Fashion Design Management within a business context is arguably one of the most important considerations throughout the fashion value chain, with the power to revolutionise a brands product offering and position in the market when given dedicated time and resources.

However, there is often some confusion about its true meaning.

So, what is fashion design management in a business context, and how does it relate to service design and design thinking? Read our blog to find out.

Learn more about our International Fashion Marketing and Design Management course

What is fashion design management?

Firstly, let’s explore what fashion design management truly means by breaking this down into two parts.

Fashion business is the process of developing clothes, shoes, and accessories from idea to creation. This involves brainstorming ideas through sketching to considering styles and optimal textiles and other materials to use before the concept is transformed into a sellable fashion product.

On the other hand, fashion design management involves the overseeing of the design processes and making sure that these elements run smoothly throughout the delivery of a fashion brand in the marketplace. It requires an awareness of up-and-coming trends, influences, and styles, alongside a good understanding of the strategic aspects of fashion and service design to facilitate managerial decisions in a fast-paced industry.

Young fashion design management professional manufacturing cream coloured clothing as part of the design management process

Now you have a better understanding of fashion design management, let’s investigate service design and how it intertwines.

What is service design?

In fashion business, service design is the design of any service that helps a brand achieve its goals. By looking for method to improve the various ‘service’ stages of fashion design offerings to their customers, brands can advance the way that their ideas and prototypes are tested and developed to help benefit the final product or service offering. Improvements also mean that they will be able to deliver the end-to-end process more smoothly to reduce costs and better meet ever-changing consumer demands.

One example of service design in the fashion industry that’s gaining popularity with fashion brands is the return of end-of-life garments. Retailers are providing the service to collect and use these garments from consumers to be recycled. The returned garments are then sorted into three categories:

  • Rewear: Wearable clothes are marketed as second-hand clothing.
  • Reuse: If clothes or textiles are not suitable for rewear they’re turned into other products, such as remake collections or cleaning cloths.
  • Recycle: All other clothes and textiles are shredded into textile fibres and used to make other items such as insultation materials. Services like this are used by H&M as part of their close the loop programme.

Reuse: If clothes or textiles are not suitable for rewear they’re turned into other products, such as remake collections or cleaning cloths.

While service design focuses more on the delivery stages of fashion design, let’s explore how this differs from design thinking.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is centered around fashion brands coming up with new ways to optimise the design elements of a product or service to improve the qualities of an item both functionally, aesthetically and sustainably. This ranges from exploring new approaches to materials, fabrics, textiles and services that can make clothing items more sustainable and user-friendly.

An example of design thinking in action includes a ground-breaking project by Pip & Henry which explores the lifespan of children’s shoes. Their results showed that an average child needs replacement shoes every four months, with an overwhelming 85% of those shoes ending up in landfill. So, to combat this issue, they designed an expandable shoe from recyclable materials that stretches as the child grows. This not only reduces the number of shoes being produced and thrown away, but also reduces the amount of CO₂ and water used during the manufacturing process.

The design thinking initiative was awarded a share of the £1 million Circular Future Fund prize alongside a research project by the Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour (LITAC), and the Wolfson CO2 Laboratory in the School of Chemistry, which developed a new polyester dyeing technology that eliminates waste and pollution. Read the full story of that project here.

Plain blue fabric showing a 100% polyester label and washing instructions

Both service design and design thinking are important parts of the fashion value chain. By exploring new approaches in these two areas of fashion design management, brands can identify better ways of working to futureproof their organisations and tailor their product offerings to the markets they serve.

Study International Fashion Marketing and Design Management with the University of Leeds

Our International Fashion Marketing and Design Management Masters is one of the very few online fashion management courses that integrates the two areas of fashion marketing and design management, drawing on expertise from leading academics at Leeds School of Design.

The programme features a module in Design Management where you’ll learn the relevance of the strategic aspects of design management and service design by exploring design auditing and value typology across a variety of phases in the fashion value chain. You’ll also investigate service design within the circular economy model.

Lead the Delivery of Global Design Strategies with an online Masters in fashion from the University of Leeds.

Young fashion professional holding a grey laptop in front of a clothes line and next to a dressmakers mannequin

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