This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Fashion, Forward! A Practice-Led Exploration into the Confluence of Traditional Techniques and Contemporary Technologies in Fashion and Making




DuPuis, Jenny Leigh

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Consumer and Design Sciences


The current research is a combination of practice-led design research and a phenomenological qualitative study into the incorporation of traditional handcraft techniques such as garment construction and fabric dyeing, with contemporary technologies and materials such as digital printing. Additionally, a previously-made wearable technology artefact was reviewed to glean insights into its process and resultant challenges. The purpose of the research is to address the gap in literature and skill-based knowledge in making in the combination of tradition and technology. The objectives of the design research are: to explore the design and making processes in the integration of traditional techniques with contemporary technologies, to create artefacts as a means of skill building and technique exploration, to document the processes, and to present all findings to expert artisans for critique and feedback. The objectives of the qualitative phenomenological research are to explore how traditionally-trained artisans incorporate contemporary technologies, techniques, and materials into their practice. The design research process involved the creation of technique exploration artefacts involving beading, fabric manipulation, dyeing, and digital printing. All steps were recorded through notes, photographs and/or video, and a gallery exhibit conducted for an audience of expert artisans from whom to gain critique and feedback, which was used to create a final process garment in half-scale. A sample of 5 expert artisans who combine both traditional techniques and contemporary technologies in making were interviewed to gain insight into their practice, and common themes identified and interpreted. Design research results were viewed alongside the results of the qualitative research, and the following main conclusions drawn: Artisans raised in an "analog" way who then had to switch to "digital" past the majority of their traditional training (i.e. generations prior to Millenial) may face more difficulty in incorporating contemporary technologies into their practice, as the contemporary technologies and resources may not feel as intuitive. Thus, further research is recommended in this area. Additionally, documentation is a major component of the design process, both as a means of record-keeping and as a knowledge resource, and it is recommended to use a simple and clear method to ensure the widest reach for accessibility. A commonly-used and recognized format is the "step-by-step" tutorial, which involves detailed photographs depicting steps taken and materials needed, accompanied by rich descriptions and explicit detail. As traditionally-trained artisans may already be familiar with the Master-Apprentice model of learning knowledge and skills from a more-experienced other via hands-on training, a contemporary training technique that may be useful is that of a webinar, or a video conference, wherein the more-experienced other is accessed live via the Internet. This opens the pool of knowledge beyond those artisans locally available. Specific to wearable technology, major challenges lie in both the accessibility of relevant knowledge resources and the materials themselves. In addition to finding the resources, supplies, and equipment needed, inflexibility of materials yield challenges for traditionally-trained artisans including rigidity and weakness of wiring or conductive thread circuitry, and the need for the artisans to adapt existing making knowledge to meet the requirements of the different media. As a result of these conclusions, it is recommended that further study be conducted in this area, with the potential to open the research to additional contemporary technologies such as 3D printing and lasercutting.