From a Tool to a Culture - Authorship and Professionalism of Fashion 4.0 Designers in Contemporary Digital Environments

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
152 + app. 94
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL THESES, 105/2022
This doctoral thesis investigates how the field of fashion design is affected by the current transformations in technological environments of "fashion 4.0". Contributing to fashion studies and design research, the theoretical framework of this qualitative research draws from authorship theorisation, sociology of professions and posthumanism. The empirical multiple-case-study research focuses on four pioneering, technologically advanced fashion 4.0 fashion design practices, where creation takes place in virtual spaces and is shared with non-professionals, networks or machines. The case studies are The Fabricant, Atacac, Self-Assembly and Minuju. The primary data were collected ethnographically through semi-structured interviews and field observation, and supplemented with written or spoken material generated by the cases. The secondary data consisted of media publications on the cases. Research material is analysed using the reflexive thematic analysis method.      The article-based thesis consists of four publications and an introduction. Publication I, "From Worth to Algorithms: The Role and Dimensions of Authorship in the Field(s) of Fashion Design", is a conceptual investigation of fashion designers' authorship in relation to their profession and contemporary digital practices. Publication II, "Open-Source Philosophy in Fashion Design: Contesting Authorship Conventions and Professionalism", delves into open-source philosophy as a design approach that contests conventional fashion designership, analysing the phenomenon through three empirical case studies. Publication III, "Digital 3D Fashion Designers: Cases of Atacac and The Fabricant", looks closely at two case studies that represent the rise of digital(-only) fashion and liquify the boundaries of fashion designership. Publication IV, "'Just Hit a Button!' – Fashion 4.0 Designers as Cyborgs, Experimenting and Designing with Generative Algorithms" explores algorithmic fashion design as a posthuman dimension of designership and proposes the concept of a cyborg designer.      The thesis provides new knowledge on the authorship and professionalism of fashion 4.0 designers operating in the digitalised society. It is argued that the new (sub)field of digital fashion contributes to the re-professionalisation of fashion design through open-source philosophy, posthuman discourse, intellectualisation of fashion practice, novel employment possibilities and entry into the gaming and technology fields. Fashion 4.0 practices are changing the ideal of fashion design from the autonomous designer to a community player and metathinker who adjusts their skills depending on projects, collaborators and co-creators. The fleshiness of fashion design transpires in digital fashion practices in which designers use digital technologies as design companions, ledgers of their tacit knowledge, sites and materials of creation. Fashion 4.0 designers are characterised by fluidity between digital technologies, human networks and physical realities.
Supervising professor
Vänskä, Annamari , Prof., Aalto University, Department of Design, Finland
Thesis advisor
Clark, Hazel, Prof., Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York, USA
fashion designer, authorship, professionalism, digital fashion, fashion 4.0
  • [Publication 1]: Särmäkari, Natalia. 2020. “From Worth to Algorithms: The Role and Dimensions of Authorship in the Field(s) of Fashion Design”. Chapter 11 inAesthetics in Dialogue: Applying Philosophy of Art in a Global World edited by Zoltán Somhegyi and Max Ryynänen, 149–167. Berlin: Peter Lang.
    DOI: 10.3726/b16690 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Särmäkari, Natalia, and Annamari Vänskä. 2020. “Open-Source Philosophy in Fashion Design: Contesting Authorship Conventions andProfessionalism.” Synergy – DRS International Conference 2020, Brisbane, 11–14 August, proceedings edited by Stella Boess, Ming Cheung and Rebecca Cain, 2410–2426.
    DOI: 10.21606/drs.2020.195 View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Särmäkari, Natalia. 2021. “Digital 3D Fashion Designers: Cases of Atacac and The Fabricant.” Fashion Theory.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: /10.1080/1362704X.2021.1981657 View at publisher
  • [Publication 4]: Särmäkari, Natalia, and Annamari Vanskä. 2022. “‘Just Hit a Button!’ – Fashion 4.0 Designers as Cyborgs, Experimenting and Designing withGenerative Algorithms.” International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 15 (2): 211–220.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.1080/17543266.2021.1991005 View at publisher