Responsibility – the new sustainability? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Creative Enterprise in Fashion Design at Massey University, College of Creative Arts Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Sustainability is a confounding term, with no one definition or meaning, leading some brands to ditch the term altogether. As the term sustainability becomes more widespread and accepted in the fashion industry, it is getting harder to distinguish between brands that are genuinely working towards a responsible business as opposed to those with a marketing strategy centred on sustainability despite unecological business practice, commonly known as greenwashing. Therefore, this thesis aims to develop a responsible business that balances brand ethos and identity with economic and environmental prosperity. Within the field of fashion studies, academics discourage the idea that the fashion industry can be sustainable due to its emphasis on economic growth. This view predominantly aligns fashion with the fast fashion model of business. In contrast, this work is lensed from an small to medium enterprise (SME) perspective and understands that fashion designers can limit environmental harm and remain economically viable when acting responsibly. Adopting a pragmatic approach to data collection, research is conducted through qualitative data collection and a mixed methods approach explored in two parts: A) communicating a responsible brand and B) the design and creation of a non-seasonal collection 'RHYANA'. Part B adopts an iterative approach, enabling constant re-assessment and tweaking of garments based on stakeholder feedback and demand and desirability execution. The findings of part A facilitate a collective understanding of what constitutes ideal brand communication in terms of importance placed on language and transparency, subsequently informing the brand identity and market positioning. Overall part A and B inform the overall branding of RHYANA through visual imagery and tone of voice, whilst considering the overall operations of the business and how it is to function responsibly through a start-up perspective.
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