Shrinking Violets

Payne, Alice (2015) Shrinking Violets. [Design/Architectural Work]

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Description of the work

Shrinking Violets is comprised of two half scale garments in laser cut silk organza, developed with a knotting device to allow for disassembly and reassembly. The first is a jacket in layered red organza including black storm flap details. The second is a vest in jade organza with circles of pink organza attached through a pattern of knots.

Research Background

This practice-led fashion design research sits within the field of Design for Sustainability (DfS) in fashion that seeks to mitigate the environmental and ethical impacts of fashion consumption and production. The research explores new systems of garment construction for DfS, and examines how these systems may involve ‘designing’ new user interactions with the garments. The garments’ construction system allows them to be disassembled and recycled or reassembled by users to form a new garment.

Conventional garment design follows a set process of cutting and construction, with pattern pieces permanently machine-stitched together. Garments typically contain multiple fibre types; for example a jacket may be constructed from a shell of wool/polyester, an acetate lining, fusible interlinings, and plastic buttons. These complex inputs mean that textile recycling is highly labour intensive, first to separate the garment pieces and second to sort the multiple fibre types. This difficulty results in poor quality ‘shoddy’ comprised of many fibre types and unsuitable for new apparel, or in large quantities of recyclable textile waste sent to landfill (Hawley 2011).

Design-led approaches that consider the garment’s end of life in the design process are a way of addressing this problem. In Gulich’s (2006) analysis, use of single materials is the most effective way to ensure ease of recycling, with multiple materials that can be detached next in effectiveness. Given the low rate of technological innovation in most apparel manufacturing (Ruiz 2011), a challenge for effective recycling is how to develop new manufacturing methods that allow for garments to be more easily disassembled at end-of-life.

Research Contribution

This project addresses the research question: How can design for disassembly be considered within the fashion design process? I have employed a practice-led methodology in which my design process leads the research, making use of methods of fashion design practice including garment and construction research, fabric and colour research, textile experimentation, drape, patternmaking, and illustration as well as more recent methods such as laser cutting. Interrogating the traditional approaches to garment construction is necessarily a technical process; however fashion design is as much about the aesthetic and desirability of a garment as it is about the garment’s pragmatics or utility. This requires a balance between the technical demands of designing for disassembly with the aesthetic demands of fashion. This led to the selection of luxurious, semi-transparent fabrics in bold floral colours that could be layered to create multiple visual effects, as well as the experimentation with laser cutting for new forms of finishing and fastening the fabrics together.

Shrinking Violets makes two contributions to new knowledge in the area of design for sustainability within fashion. The first is in the technical development of apparel modularity through the system of laser cut holes and knots that also become a patterning device. The second contribution lies in the design of a system for users to engage with the garment through its ability to be easily reconstructed into a new form.

Research Significance

Shrinking Violets was exhibited at the State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library, 1-5 November 2015, as part of The International Association of Societies of Design Research’s (IASDR) biannual design conference. The work was chosen for display by a panel of experts, based on the criteria of design innovation and contribution to new knowledge in design.


Gulich, B. (2006). Designing textile products that are easy to recycle. In Y. Wang (Ed.), Recycling in Textiles (pp. 25-37). London: Woodhead. Hawley, J. M. (2011). Textile recycling options: exploring what could be. In A. Gwilt & T. Rissanen (Eds.), Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the way we make and use clothes (pp. 143 - 155). London: Earthscan. Ruiz, B. (2014). Global Apparel Manufacturing. Retrieved 10 August 2014, from

Impact and interest:

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9 in the past twelve months

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ID Code: 94413
Item Type: Creative Work (Design/Architectural Work)
Refereed: No
Material: silk organza and merino wool
Measurements or Duration: 1000mm x 700mm x 700mm
Number of Pieces: 2
Publisher: International Association of Societies of Design Research 2015 conference (IASDR)
Location: From date: To date:
State Library of Queensland, Asia Pacific Design Library IASDR exhibition 2015-11-01 2015-11-05
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Textile and Fashion Design (120306)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 05 Apr 2016 22:26
Last Modified: 19 May 2016 00:29

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