Fashion design praxis and practice: the duality between “design for” and “design with”
Fashion design as design for consumers consequently aligns with the technology-driven design and traditional user-centered design paradigms. Although not incorrect, shifts towards design with present the potential for an alternative fashion design praxis. However, in a South African context, fashion design praxis and practice have never been explored from the perspective of design for and design with. Without empirical investigation, the praxis and practice of fashion designers are unclear, and it is difficult to determine if design with emerges as an alternate strategy. A question may arise – ‘so what if design with materialises?’ – but the value lies in knowing the praxis and how it manifests in fashion design practice. This study aimed to explore and describe the praxis, as well as practice, of two Johannesburg-based fashion designers in order to determine if and how design with emerges. The research question is aligned with the aim: what is the design praxis and practice of two Johannesburg-based fashion designers?
Through a qualitative case study of two Johannesburg-based fashion designers, data collection was conducted face-to-face, in semi-structured interviews with the fashion designers. In addition, data collection included one dyadic, semi-structured interview with one of these fashion designers, as well as an actual user. Analysis of the collected data utilized a constant comparative method with Atlas.ti used as a tool.
The findings show that both fashion designers engaged in fashion design using a design for praxis. On the other hand, one fashion designer also engaged in praxis and practice as design with, hence an alternative strategy. The significance of this alternative strategy is two-fold. Firstly, it has the potential to change fashion design praxis and practice to align with the paradigm shift towards human-centered design. Secondly, design with evoked inclusivity and collaboration through actual user participation, with which to enhance design process activities and better align user needs and desires.