Fashion designers' decision-making process: The influence of cultural values and personal experience in the creative design process

Hwang, Ja-Young
Major Professor
Mary Lynn Damhorst
Eulanda Sanders
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

The purpose of this research is to understand the relationship of fashion designers' cultural values and personal experiences and the process of creativity in their design process. This study also expands knowledge of South Korean fashion designer's personal experiences in creating objects. A qualitative approach with semi-structured, in-depth, one-on-one long interviews was used to gain understanding of complex meanings held by participants and their cultural values, personal experiences, and the process of creativity in their design process. Samples of 12 South Korean fashion designers (n=12), who had a minimum of three years of experience as designers, were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling.

Each interview took approximately one to two hours. At the beginning of the interview, participants were asked to fill out demographic background questionnaires to provide data including demographic information, significant life experiences that lead them to the fashion industry, and importance of skills for designing clothes. Twelve South Korean fashion designers participated in this study; however, one designer declined to fill out the survey of demographic background information. Therefore, the demographic statistics are based on 11 participants. During the interview, participants were asked about the design process, creative process, inspirations, and personal optimal experience of flow. Constant comparison processes were used to analyze the data.

Eleven overarching themes emerged from the interview: (1) the uncertainty encountered by apparel designers vs. fashion designers; (2) the creative fashion design process; (3) the designer's role in the system; (4) the designer's skills; (5) fashion as communication; (6) the creative role as a source of inspiration; (7) the fashion system's role; (8) merchandising as a vital entity; (9) role of cultural values; (10) fashion as a global phenomenon; and, (11) individual designers vs. in-house designers.

The findings suggest that cultural values have an indirect influence in South Korean fashion designers' creative design process. Particularly, Confucian philosophy creates an indirect influence on South Korean designer's work environment and creativity in spite of some negative influence on the creative design process and creativity. Second, all fashion designers who participated in this study described the important influence of the fashion system in South Korea, (i.e., the consignment system) to become a successful designer domestically and internationally. Third, the overwhelming majority of participants are unaware that they were impacted by cultural values or their background. Fourth, this study indicates that designers' personal experiences serve as sources of inspirations and may have a direct result of increase in creative design ideas and creativity. Fifth, designers experience flow during the creative design process, when designers have positive experiences from five categories including barrier, break time, balance, autotelic experience and happiness from recognition.

Few research studies have been conducted with respect to South Korean fashion designers' creative design processes, the findings of this study will help extend knowledge of the relationship between cultural values and personal experience with the creative process. The framework or conceptual model of the creative design process suggested in this study adds to the existing literature and knowledge related to the relationship of how the fashion system, cultural values, and personal experience influence the creative fashion design process. Moreover, little research has been conducted on designers' experience of flow during the creative design process. Therefore, the finding from this study will possibly broaden knowledge of design theory, the global apparel industry, and design education. Its research will function as a foundation for others who are interested in studying South Korean fashion designers.