Anna Lidström, doctor in Redesign
Interview: Redesign means rethinking and readjusting
January 17, 2024

Our mindset about things, materials and resources needs to be changed, or we won’t achieve a much-needed circular economy. And one of the important aspects is how we look at the end of things. This mindset of continuation is vital to Sweden’s first doctor in Redesign, Anna Lidström.

Redesign is not a very new concept – neither the word, nor the actual practise. That said, when we talk about the redesign of clothes and fabrics, we still lack established methodology and in part terminology – especially from the scientific point of view.
In her doctoral thesis “Design foundations”, Anna Lidström has laid out some of the basics on how to work with resign. Or as the thesis explains:
“… despite the many examples of redesign practices and research projects being carried out to broaden theoretical understanding, a relatively underexplored area is redesign methodologies and approaches that provide the foundations for redesign as both an artistic field and business model. …”

If you don’t know how it’s done, it restrains your imagination in what can be done.

Why redesign?
To Anna, redesign is not a new thing (no pun intended). She has always been interested in the aesthetic qualities and the fun expressions of used materials and fabrics.
– My grandfather’s tarpaulins, for example. They spoke to me artistically, even as a kid. There´s resistance in the material, as well as the oddity in size and colour. What could they be transformed into? It’s the same problem I faced as everyone in the upcycling business. If there’s already a given material, what can be done? As you must understand that what you see and feel, not necessarily is the only and finished product.
– So, I had this early interest that I later on turned into a profession as a designer. And realising that there isn’t one given methodology to redesign. Which sometimes makes things harder. If you don’t know how it’s done, it restrains your imagination in what can be done. And basically, that’s the why behind my research.

Having a method helps
Firstly, you have your materials. As redesigning always evolves from the material. It can be old or unsold clothes (deadstock) in whatever condition. This is also where the exploration begins when redesigning.
– A piece of garment is an obvious end, the (first) final phase of the material given. The trick is to see the open door and know how to walk through it, Anna says.

Anna’s thesis points out the problem and what she found:
“The results suggest that traditional fashion design processes, methods, and terminology are problematic when designing with garment as materials. … On the basis of the theoretical findings, examples of alternative design techniques and tools for redesign are discussed, and fashion as a practice is discussed from a redesign perspective.”

This is the difference between walking and running as a designer

Attitudes and concepts
Anna makes a point out of establishing methodology that can be upscaled, even for industrial uses. This way she hopes to influence how the industry looks at garments and products previously defined as end-of-life waste.
For example, Anna has suggested three distinct methods in working with the redesign of old garments: Vamping, Sampling, and Mapping. These are all methods to analyse what in the old garment can be used and how to do it. Depending on whether you want to reuse the whole garment, pieces of it, or totally readjust the material use.
– I want to explain how I do it. And to me, this is the difference between walking and running as a designer. Sharing methods, so that another designer has the means to replace, add and/or to change things up totally. My suggested terminology are just me trying to establish how a designer can work on the surface or in-depth with the materials given.
– I’m a practitioner. I want to be able to work with my own hands, as I create. I needed this terminology myself and saw a lack of them. Now I offer others that part of my research, based on working with redesign myself.

it’s about fashion, not waste management


The fashion perspective
When we talk about why Anna chose to be a researcher as well as a designer, she talks about the perspective.
– To me, it’s about fashion, not waste management. I feel I can share how to work with redesign out of my design perspective. I’ve always been a practitioner and I wanted to make sure that redesign remains in the realm of creativity. My thesis is just basic research, but most definitely from a design world perspective.

On a business scale
Anna Lidström received her doctorate degree in 2023, as the first Doctor of Redesign in Sweden. Now, her research continues, for example with the project AI for Textile Remake. It investigates the technical and esthetical possibilities for an automated remake of used clothes.
– Used clothes has in many ways just been looked on as piles of trash. Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) we hope to be able to sort, classify and quantify this material for redesign.
– Perspectives are important for a practitioner. I’m trying to keep my designer and user perspective – looking at the whole design process. It’s just the same with every entrepreneur. They will, as they see the material given, ask the question: What can I do with this?

Facilitating Redesign
– I look at myself as a facilitator, both for other designers and for the industry. We need methodology, but also the technology to facilitate a sustainable way of life. I feel an obligation to support others now that I’m established. and, to have the two perspectives of creativity and business acumen. We can only solve this together.

Here you can find Anna Lidström’s doctorate thesis “Redesign Foundations”
And here you find Anna Lidström on LinkedIn

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