Theses Doctoral

Exploring the Learning Process of DIY Fashion Designers Embracing Entrepreneurship

Ree, Ashli

The purpose of this explorative field study using elements of case study design was to understand how DIY (Do It Yourself) fashion designers learn to engage in entrepreneurship. DIY fashion designers in this study refers to designers who personally design and make each garment without relying on manufacturers. These fashion designers all have design skills, but as they transition from designer to designer-entrepreneur with existing skills, they realize an additional set of skills is needed. To understand why they started the business and how they learned the skills necessary to maintain this dual role, the researcher interviewed 20 designer-entrepreneurs with different levels of experience: novice (3-5 years), middle-level (6-10 years), and seasoned (11 plus years). A selected literature review was conducted to shed light on the work of other researchers related to fashion entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, and adult learning. The researcher used a qualitative methodology to explore how the designer-entrepreneurs learned and what they learned to maintain their dual role. A purposeful sample was drawn from a group of designer-entrepreneurs with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences. Data were collected through individual interviews followed by two focus group discussions. Data were examined to understand why certain DIY fashion designers chose to become designer-entrepreneurs, what challenges they faced in the dual role, how and what they learned, and which learning strategies they used.

All designer-entrepreneurs in this study indicated that the motivation for becoming a designer-entrepreneur was to address their inner needs, which required both intrinsic reward and extrinsic validation. An overwhelming majority of them stated that most of the challenges stemmed from the entrepreneurial half of their dual role because they lacked the information needed to sustain it. All designer-entrepreneurs in this study learned through experiential and self-directed learning. A majority of them indicated that their main learning strategies consisted of finding or forming social networks for their design and business needs and developing their own learning habits.

Based on these findings, the researcher made recommendations for educators teaching fashion or entrepreneurship and for current designer-entrepreneurs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 16, 2021