Design as a creative activity that aims to develop objects of material culture was first promoted by US manufacturers during the 1920s and 1930s. It was presented as a means to escape the economic crisis of that era, while it was also brought forward as a force that drove competition in the distribution and production areas (Pashkevych et al., 2020). 

A new form of design, namely eco-design, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2004) and the United Nations Environment Programme (2004) is coined as a product development process that considers the complete life cycle of a product and considers environmental aspects at all stages of a process. It aims to create products with the lowest possible environmental impact throughout its life cycle. 

An almost identical definition is also provided by Cimatti, Campana and Carluccio (2016) who note that eco-design is a sustainable design approach which carefully considers the environmental impact of the product during its whole life cycle. It is also presented as a factor that can assist with the reduction of the ecological footprint, which is the measure of human impact on Earth's ecosystems. 

In the Fashion world, eco-design can be applied by choosing sustainable materials, such as cotton and wool, instead of synthetic fibers and selecting processes that don’t impact the environment, substituting damaging chemical substances with natural ones (Cimatti, Campana & Carluccio, 2016). But the decision about materials and processes is much more complex, as even natural materials can have a negative impact in terms of soil, water, GHG emissions, etc., and man-made cellulosic and synthetic fibers have many other good properties in terms of recovery, use of energy, recycling, etc. 

Moreover, eco-design in product, design and development has a fundamental role in designing and producing sustainable products. The decisions made during the product design and development process affect up to 80% of the environmental and social impacts of a product. The choice of materials, forms, colours and production systems also affects the use and disposal of the product throughout its life cycle, and the designer thereby also influences the patterns of sustainable consumption. 

Eco-design involves thinking about a product’s life-cycle. Therefore, a designer does not only consider trends, fashion, and aesthetical issues, but also the logistics, the maintenance and use of textile items, and even the disposal or recycling of a given product (Koskela & Vinnari, 2009). 

Eco-efficiency approaches have been regarded as one of the measures that, if adopted by the manufacturing industry, could potentially reduce its environmental impact. Eco-design has been increasingly seen as being key for an improved and sustainable development of products. However, as noted by Fitzgeral et al. (2007) for eco-design to fully represent an effective approach, it must be based on accessible and supported engineering and design principles throughout the entire manufacturing process of a product.  

During the design phase, two core activities are brought forward: environmental assessment, which aims to evaluate the environmental impact of a product, and environmental improvement, whose focus is rather on the discovery of environmentally friendly solutions. Those two activities are supported by already existing eco-design tools, and are also complemented by communication and traditional decision-making tools.  

According to Brezet and Van Hemel (1997), eco-design has brought forth new activities, namely the search for environmental information, environmental assessments, and environmental strategies. Initial environmental assessments and strategies seem to be two differentiating factors between eco-design and traditional design (Collado & Ostad-Ahmad-Ghorabi, 2010). 

With the introduction of eco-design in companies, organizational and operational difficulties were pointed out in a number of case studies. More specifically, as indicated by Lindhal (2005), the environment has been noted as an important factor but as not a main priority and ,according to Reyes (2007), there are no direct requirements regarding the environment presented by clients to companies. However, success factors have also been presented by Reyes (2007) and Boks (2006). Indicatively: 

  • Deep support from the managing team. 
  • Dynamics of cooperation. 
  • Customization of eco-design methods and tools. 
  • Dissemination of environmental values in all services of companies. 

An effective and efficient integration of eco-design has to involve all parties: from the management, marketing, and design teams to sub-contractors, suppliers, and policy makers and final users. 

Zeng, Durif, Robinot (2021) show that eco-design packaging can lead to food waste reduction through its physical, social, and commercial functions. In particular: (1) consumers are more sensitive to improvements related to visual rather than verbal attributes of packaging; (2) consumers’ food waste decisions seem to be more strongly affected by instrumental functions (e.g., conservation product quality and communication guidance for storage) than social ones (e.g., pollution related to packaging) and commercial functions (e.g., category identification); and (3) health consciousness has mediated moderating effects on these relationships.  

Eco-design as a sustainable approach that takes into consideration the environmental impact throughout a product’s life cycle can potentially be applied to both the fashion and the food industry. In both industries, companies could adopt an eco-design approach during the production and distribution phases in order to proactively analyse the environmental impact in question. Then, steps can be taken towards the effective and efficient reduction of harmful emissions, waste, etc. Companies can also adopt recycling practices and/or reuse materials that would otherwise be left in storage or be discarded. 

  • The Borbonese company is a historic Made in Italy luxury brand that employs eco-design practices. During the process of introducing a new collection, Borbonese takes the leftover and/or unsold material from previous collections and introduces them to a new life cycle, instead of being disposing of them in a dump. The company creates an inventory of those unused items and then uses utilizes them in the production of their next collection. This practice represents an example of Eco-design, with recycling as one of its central axes, that appeals to the luxury brand market (Cimatti, Campana, Carluccio, 2016) 
  • Petit h-Hermès. Hermès has developed a new brand, Petit h, to design new objects from the waste of their usual collections. The designers of Petit h create new products using only leftover materials (leather, silk, ceramics, glass, etc.). In this case, the process of design starts from the waste, not from the desired object. It is a good example of a high level of craftmanship allows the creation of unique, luxury goods that follow the model of circular design. 

a) Academic/peer reviewed 

Brezet, H., Hemel, C., UNEP IE Cleaner Production Network., Rathenau Instituut., & Technische Universiteit Delft. (1997). Ecodesign: A promising approach to sustainable production and consumption. Paris, France: United Nations Environment Programme, Industry and Environment, Cleaner Production. 

Boks, C. (2006). The soft side of ecodesign. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14, 1346-1356. 

Brezet, H., Hemel, C. ., UNEP IE Cleaner Production Network., Rathenau Instituut., & Technische Universiteit Delft. (1997). Ecodesign: A promising approach to sustainable production and consumption. Paris, France: United Nations Environment Programme, Industry and Environment, Cleaner Production. 

Carillo, T.R. (2007). L'éco-conception dans les PME : les mécanismes du cheval de Troie méthodologique et du choix de trajectoires comme vecteurs d'intégration de l'environnement en conception. 

Cimatti, B., Campana, G., & Carluccio, L. (2016). Eco Design and Sustainable Manufacturing in Fashion: A case study in the luxury personal accessories industry. Procedia Manufacturing, 8, 393–400. 

Collado D., Ostad-Ahmad-Ghorabi H. (2010). Influence of environmental information on creativity. Design Studies 31, 479-498. 

Fitzgerald, D.P., Herrmann, J.W., Sandborn, P.A., Schmidt, L.C., and Gogoll, T.H (2007). Design for Environment (DfE): Strategies, Practices, Guidelines, Methods, and Tools. In: Kutz, M., (ed). Environmentally Conscious Mechanical Design. London: Wiley 

Knight, P., & Jenkins, J. O. (2009). Adopting and applying eco-design techniques: A practitioners perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(5), 549–558.  

Köhler, A. (2013). Challenges for eco-design of emerging technologies: The case of electronic textiles. Materials & Design, 51, 51-60. 

Koskela, M., & Vinnari , M. (Eds.). (2009). Future of the Consumer Society. In The Future of Consumer Society. Tampere.  

Lindahl, Mattias. (2005). Engineering Designers' Requirements on Design for Environment Methods and Tools. 

Pashkevych, K. L., Khurana, K., Kolosnichenko, O. V., Krotova, T. F., & Veklich, A. M. (2020). Modern directions of ECO-DESIGN in the fashion industry. Art and Design, (4), 9–20.  

United Nation Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics (UNEP DTIE) (2004). Cleaner production (CP) activities. 

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2004). 

Zeng, T., Durif, F., & Robinot, E. (2021). Can eco-design packaging reduce consumer food waste? an experimental study. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 162, 120342.  

b) Other sources 

European Environment Agency (2022). Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy.'s%20circular%20economy,-PDF&text=From%20the%20perspective%20of%20European,after%20food%2C%20housing%20and%20mobility.