Public defence of Natalia Särmäkari!

IDA researcher Natalia Särmäkari will defend the thesis “From a Tool to a Culture: Authorship and Professionalism of Fashion 4.0 Designers in Contemporary Digital Environments” on 28 October 2022 at 12:00 (UCT +3) in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Design, in lecture hall H304, Otakaari 1, Espoo, and online in Zoom. More information about attending the defence as well as the link to the thesis can be found on the Aalto University website.

How does digitalisation transform the field of fashion design? Lately, digital fashion has become an integral part of the strategies and tools of fashion companies. This doctoral thesis sheds light on the changes in the fashion design profession in the face of the fourth industrial revolution. “Fashion 4.0” challenges the traditional fashion field by building a new fashion culture characterised by smart technologies, datafication, the fusion of physical and digital and the decentralisation of hierarchies.

The thesis focuses on small digital fashion pioneers whose design approaches question the author-centeredness of the traditional fashion design culture and the designer’s authority by utilising algorithms, digital 3D tools and “open-source” philosophy. The qualitative multiple-case study (2018–2021) looks at four representatives of the phenomena, The Fabricant, Atacac, Self-Assembly and Minuju, where creation happens virtually in collaboration with the public and computers.

The research findings indicate that fashion design expands into the game and technology sectors, opening new employment opportunities for fashion design professionals. At the same time, new players enter the field. Fashion designer 4.0 is a community actor and an adaptive meta-thinker instead of an independent artist. The embodied knowledge of fashion design is emphasised in digital fashion practices. The designer becomes a cyborg who merges technologies, human networks and physical realities.

This article-based thesis draws from authorship theories, the sociology of professions, technological posthumanism and fashion technology research. Falling within fashion studies and design research, this research provides new knowledge on digital fashion from the perspective of the fashion designer profession. The extensive empirical research material deepens the understanding of how the field of digital fashion re-professionalises fashion design and reconstructs the social status of designers.