Can Anyone Be a Designer? Amateurs in Fashion Culture

Main Article Content

Fabian Holt
Maria Mackinney-Valentin


This article offers an analytical perspective on the implications of recent media evolutions for the conventional roles of the designer, with a particular emphasis on the changing relation between amateur and professional design in fashion culture. The article builds on the recent media studies literature on the intensification of media communications in the early 21st century and how it involves deeper transformations — mediatizations — of many areas in business and society. There are already extensive literatures on the mediatization of finance, politics, food, and religion, for instance, but how is the process playing out in fashion? And what are the implications of this process for designers and design education? The article argues that media have become a key context for understanding the changing dynamics between professionals and amateurs and the evolution of more distributed forms of design creativity. The article is a conceptual paper that begins by situating the evolution of amateur design in theories of media and modernity to offer a contemporary theorization of amateur design and to establish an analytical perspective from which core aspects of the changing amateur/industry divide are illustrated through influential examples in the analytical sections of the article. Among the examples are the online platform Etsy and T-shirt company Threadless. The conclusion puts the findings of the case studies into perspective and points to a future where new generations of designers and design educators approach and strategically manage these new relationships and distributed forms of creativity.

Article Details

Design Concept Issue
Author Biography

Maria Mackinney-Valentin, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design

M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor