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Materials Origin & Functions

1-2 days

Individual / Group / Artefact- / material-driven



Identifying raw materials and components in a garment can provide an overview of the many material and manufacturing choices a designer and/or fashion brand make during product development. Every single choice, as well as the combination of choices leaves an environmental footprint.

A first step to understanding the potential environmental footprint of a garment is understanding the ‘material journey’ of the multiple materials and components used in a garment. Rather than focusing on quantitative measures, this activity builds on qualitative mapping of material flows.

What materials and components do your garments consist of?

Links to Pillar(s)

Cultural - Economic - Environmental - Social



Research where materials come from by asking students to:

  • Choose an existing product, comparable to what you wish to design.

  • Take the product apart and group components in material fractions based on functions such as main fabric, zipper, lining, buttons, tags, sewing thread etc.

  • Identify the materials used.

  • Research and map resource flows of the materials used from raw material, processing and product manufacturing.


Ask students to prepare a visual presentation and share findings with the rest of the class, and discuss:

  • If the material complexity could be lowered, what kind of alternative material choices could you make in a second iteration of the garment design?

Suggested Readings

Fletcher, K. 2012. “Durability, Fashion, Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use”. Fashion Practice 4 (2), pp. 221–238.

Hasling, K.M, Ræbild, U., Patel, A. & Herrtua, I. 2020. Material Pathways. Design School Kolding 

Nørup, N., Pihl, K., Damgaard A. & Scheutz, C. 2019. “Evaluation of a European textile sorting centre: Material flow analysis and life cycle inventory”. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 143, pp. 310–319.

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