Chinese Knitwear Brands: The need for creative design to result in global business success

Zhang, Xin (2023) Chinese Knitwear Brands: The need for creative design to result in global business success. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Xin Zhang PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Aug 2022_Final Award Mar 2023.pdf - Accepted Version

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Chinese cashmere knitwear companies have become suppliers of international fashion brands because of their technological excellence, advantages of raw materials and competitive prices. However, their in-house brands are steadily declining. In the past 15 years, Chinese cashmere brands have progressively lost their market share to Chinese and Western fashion brands, with a few notable exceptions. Their brands lack differentiation from other Chinese competitors, causing low price competition, which contributes to sustainability issues such as unsold stock and material/manpower waste. The decline is likely to continue as the brands serve only an ageing market, rather than attracting younger generations to their products. Chinese cashmere companies invest little in design, which is a significant limitation for improving the brands’ opportunity to become successful and sustainable businesses.

This study looks for solutions from the design perspective. The research aimed to investigate what design can do to help deal with the current problems of the Chinese knitwear brands to improve their prospects for future business success. The objectives of the study were to enquire into the challenges and opportunities facing the Chinese knitwear sector, to evaluate current design practice in knitwear brands, to understand how design and brand management can be integrated to generate a sustainable brand.

Research questions were developed to explore the brand and design problems, the role of design and organisational structure, what the barriers and enablers for a thriving design culture were alongside possible solutions for design improvement. A pragmatic philosophy underpinned research design, guiding the adoption of methods in response to research questions. Interviews with stakeholders from both the knitwear industry and design education were undertaken. In addition, a case study using design action research with immersive field research was developed for investigating the knitwear brand issues; furthermore, a knitwear collection was created using western design approaches to demonstrate an exemplar design process for the sector and to illustrate the differences to current Chinese design

The study argues the obstacles to design culture enrichment in Chinese knitwear brands was caused by their design context, lack of brand positioning, limited understanding of their consumers and business models that are not fit for purpose. An absence of experienced leadership creates unclear design direction, instead of collections centred around a theme; Chinese brands sell unconnected designs. Brands lack the distinct brand characteristics that distinguish them from their competitors.

The contribution to knowledge made by this study includes the identification of the reasons for the decline in Chinese cashmere brands, an understanding of their barriers to design culture to developing good designs and it also highlights the lack of awareness of sustainability issues in the sector. The study sheds new light on the rarely acknowledged issue of how to upgrade these brands as modern business for younger consumers, and how to enrich the design culture for brand business growth within sustainable contexts. The thesis analyses in depth the causes for the decline in these brands and makes recommendations for how design can make a contribution to reversing the brands’ decline and increasing their sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
18 August 2022Submitted
13 March 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Knitwear, sustainable fashion, design process, action research, Chinese market, brand development, design practice, qualitative methods
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-03 - design studies
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2023 16:56
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 12:04

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