The Secret To Designing Treasured Products
Fashion is fast and volatile. The frequency at which trends change is shocking, and to keep up with it consumers have made regular shopping a habit. Aren't most of us guilty of throwing out clothes as soon as they look slightly worn out or are out of fashion?
Rapid consumerism is the mantra of the day, and most businesses aim to sell cheap and trendy products that are in demand. As we switch out fashion apparel from our wardrobes, we forget that the earth is being buried under the burden of waste that it cannot tolerate for long.
To rescue our planet from this throw away trend of society, we as designers must begin to help consumers realise the importance of sustainability. With sustainable design practices, we can create products that are environmentally, socially and financially better. Once consumers recognise the superiority of such clothes, their preferences will slowly shift away from low quality, fast-fashion choices. When this happens, we can immediately see a significant reduction in the wasteful practice of buying and throwing away clothes that easily lose their charm.
There are many different sustainable design approaches, but the one that fashion designers can and should always be incorporating, is designing products to be treasured forever, by creating Emotional Durability. Let's take a detailed look at this concept and how you can implement it yourself.
What is Emotional Durability?
Jonathan Chapman, professor of Sustainable Design at Brighton University proposed the theory of Emotionally Durable Design as a solution to the throw away trend in society. If you're fascinated (like me) and want to know more, you can find his book Emotionally Durable Design.
Chapman's research focuses on the need for products that are responsibly made, have high quality and are valuable. The idea is for the user or wearer to build a strong emotional connection with the product over time. As the product ages, it develops character and continues to impress. The wearer becomes emotionally attached to the item, considering it an integral part of their collection and decides to hang on to it of his own free will.
Creating an emotionally durable product is not easy. Nevertheless, it is the way to establish yourself in the design industry. To put this into perspective, let's take a look at why emotional durability is so important to designers.
The Significance Of Emotional Durability In Fashion
Fashion consumers are brand conscious. Brand identity is crucial to the survival of a product line, and unless our designs incorporate sustainable innovations, a business will not succeed for too long.
Emotionally connecting a brand with its customers makes them want to hold on to it longer. This is what brands like Appalach and Patagonia have managed to do. Patagonia tells its customers to buy only what they really need and also offers free repairs of its products. This service keeps it ahead of its competitors. The marketing strategy of Appalach is weaved around stories of how they create their products. This tells consumers that each product is unique and enhances its appeal. Read more about these approaches in our article On Marketing Your Eco Credentials.
Challenges In Implementing This Concept
Emotionally durable products are those that improve and develop over time. One brilliant example of this concept was created by the students at the University of Brighton, who designed trainers that fade to reveal a previously invisible pattern. This makes the product interesting and the mystery of how it evolves over time is what makes it more desirable.
Designers have to think out of the box, and link together what a customer wants now and what he would favour in ten or twenty years, and then design a suitable product. For such a design, we should recognize what factors can create a positive emotional aspect in the consumer. This requires effort and time. Market research is also necessary. Once the design is ready, innovative marketing strategies will be essential for the product to generate sales. When you tackle these challenges, your product becomes a success.
How To Find the Emotionally Durable Connection For Your Brand
Research suggests that there are certain factors that make a brand emotionally attractive, and therefore helping it to sell. Timeless designs, for example, are those that never go out of fashion. Another one is emotional branding, where the user identifies with the product story and builds loyalty towards it. Exclusive designs promote individuality and the limited availability makes it attractive. Then there are DIY designs where the user feels a sense of achievement and gratification when they are also involved in the design of the end-product.
In his research titled Emotional Durability is the New Sustainability, Claudal Arguin places the consumer at the centre of the design process. For emotional durability, the design should be unique, carry scope to educate the consumer, be creative and unique and designed to meet the user's needs and values. When we focus on these factors, we are on the right path to developing an emotionally durable product.
On a final note, it's important to remember that marketing sustainable products is the responsibility of every conscious designer. Emotional durability is our path towards it. Not only is it economically viable because a longer physical lifecycle translates into better brand loyalty, but it is also how we can effectively contribute to the sustainability movement.
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