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Navigating the interface between design education and fashion business start‐up

Colleen E. Mills (Department of Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 16 November 2012




The purpose of this paper is to address the interface between design education and business start‐up in the designer fashion industry (DFI) and provide a new framework for reflecting on ways to improve design education and graduates’ business start‐up preparedness.


This interpretive study employed semi‐structured interviews to collect nascent fashion designers’ enterprise development narratives and tertiary educators’ views on how they prepare designers for the challenges of the DFI.


While design and production skills studied in design education are valuable, it was found that work placements are particularly important resources for aspiring fashion business owners because they provide “education in enterprise” and the sort of social capital required for business success. The research produced a framework for reflecting on and refining the fit between design education and the practice of enterprise development in the DFI that incorporates considerations of the creativity‐business tension and designer's enterprise orientations.

Research limitations/implications

The findings suggest there is a need to create more intersections between fashion design and entrepreneurship education and to incorporate more education for and in enterprise. They also suggest there is value in encouraging students to select design education that fits their enterprise orientation and any skill deficits associated with this orientation.


The paper makes a valuable contribution to both the higher education and entrepreneurship literatures by presenting an original model for conceptualising the way design education can interface with business start‐up to develop industry‐appropriate social capital and sound business practices.



Mills, C.E. (2012), "Navigating the interface between design education and fashion business start‐up", Education + Training, Vol. 54 No. 8/9, pp. 761-777.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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