Dematerialization refers to using less, or no, physical material to deliver the same functionality in product design. In the context of fashion, dematerialization can include a range of practices such as social marketing, technology and service design. Essentially, the concept aims to deliver the same value to the consumer using little to no materials.
This idea may seem far-fetched—questions arise as to where materials could come from to support a dematerialized approach. As communities become wealthier and consumption rises, the flow of material and resources also increases. This results in an increase in the materials found in the collective reservoir. In Britain alone, an estimated £89 billion worth of clothing is found in the collective wardrobe.
With environmental concerns growing around the fashion industry, using less material to deliver value to the consumer could be a crucial domain of investment. Paired with donation, secondhand markets, recycling and digitization in supply chains; dematerialization could aid in the industry’s transition to a more circular economic flow. Implementation of this concept could see cradle-to-cradle product design where the materials originally extracted remain in the flow of the value system of the economy.
The concept of dematerialization is challenging to grasp and will be even more difficult for companies to implement. The creative opportunity that lies ahead paves the way for innovative companies in creating new markets. Recycled polyester, plastics, and tires are already in use for fashion products—cleverly avoiding resource strain while adding new and unique value. Great opportunity lies within the adoption and implementation of dematerialization to make best use of resources, for the greatest number possible.
How would you implement dematerialization in fashion?
Olatubosun, P., Charles, E., & Omoyele, T. (2021). Rethinking luxury brands and sustainable fashion business models in a risk society. Journal Of Design, Business & Society, 7(1), 49-81. https://doi.org/10.1386/dbs_00020_1
Santos L.R., Montagna G., Neto M.J.P. (2020) The Virtualization of the Fashion Product. In: Di Bucchianico G., Shin C., Shim S., Fukuda S., Montagna G., Carvalho C. (eds) Advances in Industrial Design. AHFE 2020. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 1202. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-51194-4_106
Whitson-Smith, Jade (2016) A dematerialised approach to fashion design. In: Circular Transitions, 23rd 24th November 2016, Tate Modern. (Unpublished)