Since 1996, TED (http://www.tedresearch.net) at UAL has been developing and refining a set of sustainable design strategies for textile and fashion designers.

These strategies have emerged out of a need for a toolbox for designers to help them navigate the complexity of sustainability issues and to offer real ways for designing ‘better’.

While the environmental impacts of our production and consumption system have become increasingly discussed and brought to the fore, and textile/fashion designers have begun to consider their responsibilities as creators of unsustainable products and systems, there have been few tools or frameworks for designers to be pro-active.

“We became frustrated by the lack of real action in light of these often depressing facts, and wanted to create some strategies for positive change.”

In 2010 Rebecca Earley and Kay Politowicz at UAL created TED’s TEN.

In 2011, they brought out the first set of cards whilst working for VF Corporation in the USA; in 2014 the animations were created for the Mistra Future Fashion programme, as well as Swedish and Chinese translations of the cards.

1 – design to minimise waste

This strategy encourages designers to minimise the waste that is created in the textile industry, both pre and post consumer. It includes zero waste cutting and recycling but it also introduces the idea at the outset that we need to avoid producing stuff that doesnt work, that people dont want.

“Of the total textile fibre produced, up to 65% is lost, post-consumer, to landfill, incineration or composting, which represents between 400,000 and 700,000 tonnes per annum in the UK. Of this, at least 50% is said to be recyclable” (Allwood, 2006)


  • Slow design
  • Design for long-life and short-life applications
  • Zero waste cutting
  • Design with enhanced aesthetic value


2 – design for cyclability

This strategy explains how when you design for cyclability, the thought process is very different, but totally connected to, the practice of recycling textiles.
Design for upcycling is about “not merely conserving the resources that went into the production of particular materials, but adding to the value embodied in them by the application of knowledge in the course of their recirculation” (Murray, 2002)


  • Design for recycling / upcycling
  • Design for mono materiality
  • Design for disassembly for the closed-loop systems of the future
  • Think re-useable/non-invasive installation or renewal

3 – design to reduce chemical impacts

This strategy is about appropriate material selection and processes for any product to minimise environmental impacts.
“One cupful of pesticides and fertilisers are used in the production of the average t-shirt” (Observer, 2005)


  • Seek organically produced materials
  • Use mechanical technology to create non-chemical decorative surface pattern
  • Create effects to replace materials and processes known to be harmful

4 – design to reduce energy and water use

Energy consumption and water usage in the textile industry are extremely high and occur at each stage of the lifecycle of textiles – at the production stage, in the use phase (where consumers use and care for textiles and garments) and at the end stage (which covers either disposal and/or re use of the material.
“ 60% of the total energy consumption in the lifecycle of a t-shirt occurs in the use phase. i.e washing, ironing, drying ” (Allwood et al, 2006)


In the production phase:

  • Exhaust printing and dyeing
  • Dry patterning systems
  • Air-dyeing
  • Distributed manufacture

In the use phase:

  • Design for no/low launder
  • ‘Short life’ textiles
  • Technical coatings to reduce washing
  • Innovative and informative labeling
  • Localisation
  • Natural energy systems

5 – design that explores clean/better technologies

Replacing systems of production with less energy consuming and smarter technologies to reduce environmental impacts.


  • Bio-based materials and processes
  • 3-D printing
  • Laser
  • Water-jet
  • Sonic cutting
  • Sonic welding
  • Digital printing
  • ‘Re-surfacing’ of polyester
  • Novel dyeing techniques
  • Digital finishing
  • Tagging

6 – design that looks at models from nature & history

This strategy is about how much textile designers can find inspiration and information for future sustainable design from studying and reflecting upon nature as well as textiles, habits and societies of the past.
“….the accumulated past is life’s best resource for innovation …reinventing beats inventing nearly every time.” Stewart Brand


  • Shape-memory polymers to mimic natural movement
  • ‘Lotus effect’ nano-coatings
  • Velcro
  • Austerity repair
  • Make-do-and-mend
  • D.I.Y/ punk customization
  • Modern nomads
  • Historic dyeing/ printing techniques

7 – design for ethical production

This is about design that utilises and invests in traditional craft skills in the UK and abroad. It is about ethical production which supports and values workers rights, and the sourcing of fair trade materials. It questions what ethical production means, and how it differs for each scale of production and manufacture.
“For making a $100 pair of trainers, the factory worker will receive just 50 cents” (www.cleanclothes.org)


  • Sourcing fair trade materials
  • Engaging suppliers who abide by codes of conduct
  • Vertical supply chains
  • Consideration of local resources
  • Designers acting as facilitators of sustainable enterprise in communities

8 – design to reduce the need to consume

This strategy is about making stuff that lasts, stuff that we really want and want to keep and look after, and the design and production of textiles and products which adapt and change with age. This strategy is also about exploring alternative forms of design and consumption such as co-design and collaborative consumption.
“Clothing sales have increased by 60% in the last ten years” (Oakdene Hollins, 2006)


  • Emotionally durable design
  • Slow design
  • Consumer participation in co-design and collaborative consumption, crowd sourcing and social networks
  • Apps for bespoke information

9 – design to dematerialise and develop systems & services

This strategy introduces the concept of designing systems and services instead of, or to support, products, e.g. lease, share, repair.
“Systems & services design illustrates how consumers needs can be met with services as opposed to tangible products, and at the same time provide economic and environmental benefits” (Manzini, E. 2001)


  • Lease
  • Share
  • Repair
  • Experience design
  • User-centered methods to design services
  • Collaborative online/local communities
  • Transition-towns

10 – design activism

In this final strategy we encourage designers to leave behind the product and work creatively with the consumers and society at large. It is about designing events and communication strategies beyond product design to increase consumer and designer knowledge about the environmental and social impacts of fashion and textiles. Here, the textile designer becomes a ‘Social Innovator’. We reflect on how much has changed for textile designers, and how much potential for the future there is!
“…new ways of thinking about how design can catalyse, nurture, enable and activate positive societal changes towards more sustainable ways of living and working….” (Fuad-Luke, A. 2009)


  • Publications
  • Blogs
  • Open-source networks
  • Exhibitions
  • Conferences
  • Festivals
  • Social media
  • Manifestos