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.