I have spent the last four days working in Paris with Vincenzo from commongroundpeople at the Parisian business school INSEEC Msc Fashion Marketing. Vincenzo met our client; the brilliant Maurizio Serena at his service design course at Central St. Martins and discovered the work I did with Textiles Futures a few years ago. We teamed up to create a two day course introducing service design to the world of fashion. The industry is infamous for it’s impact on global warming and lack of user engagement – very fertile ground for the application of service design!

Every service is a catwalk from Snook on Vimeo.

Our first day was all about introducing the concept of service design to thirty fashion marketing students. We began by asking them if they had a ‘fashion heart’ or a ‘business heart’ – this gave us a real sense of where the motivations of our students were and why. We created a powerful metaphor of every service being a catwalk. The slides below highlight the strong parallels between prototyping, service fails and blueprinting.

We introduced a trend gallery, inspired by the fantastic content generated at the recent Wearable Futures event in Ravensbourne, London. These trends ranged from fashion that produces energy to fashion that can protect the wearer from privacy invasion. We encouraged the students to think about the opportunities for innovation and challenges within each trend.

We then generated new ideas and solutions around a specific trend. The ideas ranged from an app to make it easy to swap clothes to shoes that generate energy by walking. We  then used the persona tool to think about target customers and then prototyped!

Our second day focused on reflecting on the tools and methodologies introduced the previous day and introduced the strategic tools used to take this initial service design thinking to the next level. We used the world cafe technique to encourage the students to answer critical questions:

  • What does service design have in common with the fashion industry?
  • What will fashion service experiences feel like in 2034?
  • What changes could occur if the fashion industry embraced service design?
  • How can the process of service design contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry?
  • Design job description for someone who is responsible to designing services in the fashion industry

Teaching on a Saturday left us with some sleepy students so we used a warm up method known as ‘The Human Knot’ – we asked the participants to close their eyes, grabbing another’s right hand and then a left hand. When you open your eyes you are in a knot and you have to figure out how to untangle yourself without breaking your bond. This exercise works really nicely as it reflects very real dynamics that are present in any team – do we let some members of our team go? Why are two people joined so closely and not co-operating with others?

We then visualised the entire life cycle of a garment or fashion accessory. From the moment a designer is inspired to create to the moment is bought by a consumer. This revealed the complexity of this process as well as the immense number of stakeholders and partners involved, providing a holistic view on fashion industry dynamics. We also debated the different phases of the journey in terms of energy, finance and user engagement.

The students then split into smaller groups to visualise the journey of specific garments – a burberry coat or a channel handbag. This enabled them to dig really deep into the backstage processes and the huge range of external parties that are involved in a successful garment life cycle. We then selected a service from this journey to blueprint. We introduced a very basic version of a blueprinting tool to introduce the students to ‘the line of visibility’ and the concept o front stage and back stage.

Our day ended by introducing the business model canvas. We had a really interesting conversation about the triple bottom line and the difference between a business plan and a business model. The business model canvas is a tool that enables us to prototype business models and be very visual.

This whole experience was a healthy reminder that not everyone is driven by a social agenda and not everyone is curious about technology. The fashion industry has fantastic examples of what happens when the fashion industry does embrace these things ; Toms and their shoes for people in need, Patagonia and their partnership with eBay and Pumaand the re-use agenda. Here is a little excerpt from our client:

The idea of applying service design to fashion has been simmering in my mind for a while : how can service design create value in fashion ? What new services could be created for fashion consumers exploiting new technologies ? How can we improve the design of touchpoints in the overall fashion consumer journey and experience ? What new service levers can the fashion industry build ? What if services become the new dominant logic in fashion marketing ? How can fashion be truly sustainable socially and environmentally ?

All of these questions and more were explored in a 2-day workshop with the students of the Master in Fashion Marketing, Design and Brand Strategies at INSEEC Business School in Paris on January 17 and 18. Lauren Currie of Snook in Scotland and Vincenzo di Maria of commonground in Italy were the facilitators of a dynamic, thought-provoking and innovative workshop which got our future fashion professionals to answers some of those initial questions, creating and protoyping new services for the industry. A successful experiment which we will definitely repeat in future and that, we hope, could start sewing the seeds of a new way to approach fashion marketing, taking advantage of INSEEC’s location in the international capital of fashion, Paris.

A huge thank to Maurizio for inviting us and making us feel so welcome! We are planning our next project together which will introduce the value of service design to fashion bodies who want to become more human-centered and sustainable. Of course a Snook visit to Paris isn’t complete without visiting Stéphane and his team at La 27e Region…what a fantastic bunch doing great things creating design led public services in France.