Dr Donna Sgro is a Lecturer in fashion and textiles design, with a background as an independent fashion designer. Her research investigates creative pattern cutting in fashion and textile design using studies from nature and methods of metaphoric analysis.
Donna teaches across 1st, 3rd and Honours years in the Fashion & Textiles Design Program, and has taught in the School of Design's Interdisciplinary Design and Design Studies programs.
In 2018 she completed her PhD ‘Dynamic Cutting: How tacit knowledge of material creativity and spatial creativity can be activated using metaphor in fashion design practice’ (RMIT Architecture and Urban Design).
Donna's fashion and textile works have been exhibited around the world, including Australia, USA, Japan, France, UK and South-east Asia. Her work is most well recognized for the Morphotex Dress, a world-first in biomimicry for structural textile colour. This work is currently on display at the Museum of Fiber Arts, Taichung.
Donna has presented her research at international conferences including the 2nd International Conference on Creative Pattern Cutting, Futurescan4: Valuing Practice, the conference of the Association of Degree Courses in Fashion and Textiles and CUMULUS: International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media.
Her current projects include the creative development of her method of Dynamic Cutting for dance performance with choreographer Kristina Chan, and the development of design methods easing the translation of insect studies for design applications with Dr Christopher Kaltenbach (NSCAD University).
Can supervise: YES
Creative practice research, textiles practice, fashion design practice, creativity, creative pattern cutting, making, craft research, ecological thinking, metamorphosis, metaphor, insect studies, biomimicry, biodesign.
Donna is the Subject Coordinator for Honours subject Professional Practice Identity and Foundations in Patternmaking and Construction 2 (1st Year). Donna teaches into Thinking Fashion (1st Year), Foundations in Patternmaking and Construction 1 (1st Year) and Professional Practice for Fashion & Textile Designers (3rd Year).
Sgro, D 2020, 'Dynamic Cutting using material engagement with textiles in pattern cutting for fashion design practice', Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice.
Material engagement in fashion and textile design practice using pattern cutting is an overlooked aspect of creative development in the design of garments. This creative practice research is based in my artisanal practice of fashion and textile design, which involves designing and making garments through all stages of development by hand. Material engagement describes the relationship between materials and their handling by practitioners. This complex relationship connects the intentions of the practitioner and their embodied interactions with what materials afford through their handling. Research in the practice of creative pattern cutting is concerned with identifying how creativity occurs through pattern cutting. However, the criticality of material engagement in the pattern cutting process has been minimally expanded upon by fashion designers. In my research, I have identified that material engagement is foregrounded through questioning the conventional notion of the pattern as a plan or template. In this article, I suggest how theories that critique the classical separation of form and material can support this foregrounding of material engagement in garment cutting. Dynamic Cutting is a new method of experimental cutting for fashion and textile design which emphasizes designing the surface and form of the garment at the same time. Dynamic Cutting evidences that textiles are an integral part of cut-led garment design and designer accounts can evidence the variety in approaches using materials when cutting. This research applies a creative practice research methodology which combines design practice research, critical design and reflective practice perspectives. This methodology serves to surface tacit understandings of materials and how material engagement and material affordances are integral to dynamic form creation processes when cutting garments.
Sgro, DM, Chant, A & Solente, OG 2013, 'A Conversation about Collaborative Practice by MAKE.SHIFT Concepts', Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 93-108.View/Download from: Publisher's site
ABSTRACT. MAKE.SHIFT Concepts is a Sydney-based collaborative research practice combining textile practitioner Armando Chant, fashion practitioner Donna Sgro, and design architect Olivier Solente. Through the practice, the designers explore transdisciplinary crossings between fashion, textiles, art, and architecture. Each designer brings a particular expertise to the practice, which when combined is expanded into something new. MAKE.SHIFT Concepts have produced two bodies of work for exhibition, CONSTRUCTIONS and TRANSITIONS. The designer interview is conducted in the form of a conversation between the three individuals, who discuss and evaluate the complex interactions that occur in the process of producing creative work between disciplines, and the establishment of a working practice focused on process. The research practice asks the following questions: How can transdisciplinary practitioners develop a collaborative practice that explores potentialities, and what types of outcomes may result? How may these outcomes expand the disciplinary practices out of which they arise? CONSTRUCTIONS was the first exhibition of collaborative work from MAKE.SHIFT Concepts. This exhibition was installed at the Damien Minton Annex Space, in Redfern, October 29 November 4, 2012. This exhibition included a series of works including hanging fabric, garments, and sculptures, together with projected image. TRANSITIONS was the second exhibition of collaborative work from MAKE.SHIFT Concepts. This exhibition was installed at No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne, March 26-31, as part of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program. This exhibition included a series of outcomes, including hanging garments, wood and metal sculptures, and a fashion film.
Sgro, D 2019, 'Dynamic Cutting: a new method of experimental pattern cutting using metaphor to activate tacit knowledge of material creativity and spatial creativity', Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice, University of Bolton, United Kingdom.
This creative practice research was conducted as part of my PhD by project at RMIT University. The values embedded in practices of fashion design are becoming better understood through research that is based in creative practice and undertaken by practitioners. In my experience as a fashion designer, the separation of design and pattern cutting in my practice impacted creativity in the cut of garments. This research aimed to expand creativity through pattern cutting by challenging this separation formed through my tacit knowing in practice. A metaphoric strategy was explored to adapt new methods for design from a study of butterfly metamorphosis. In this study, research for design was undertaken using mixed methods including growing butterflies, documentation, drawing and text-based analysis from a variety of disciplines on the subjects of butterflies and metamorphosis. Generative metaphors developed from this study of butterfly metamorphosis provided an alternative conception of a garment in the design process for pattern cutting. First, the garment was conceived as a transitioning insect body, then as a dynamic form, lastly as a chrysalis formation. This series of metaphors led experimentation in research through design of garments and textiles, resulting in two new concepts to describe creativity in pattern cutting using tacit knowledge. Material creativity refers to the creativity a practitioner experiences when designing and making garments through individual engagement with materials. Spatial creativity refers to the creativity a practitioner experiences when working with and analysing patterns in both 2D and 3D forms. Dynamic Cutting is a new method of experimental cutting for fashion design, which involves attuning to both material and spatial affordances. This research offers a new framework for thinking through, reflecting upon and expanding notions of creativity in fashion design using tacit, hand-based engagement with pattern cutting. It also demonstr...
Sgro, DM 2016, 'Making the creation of fashion visible', CUMULUS Hong Kong 2016: Open Design for E-very-thing, Hong Kong Design Institute and Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, Hong Kong Design Institute, pp. 600-604.
This research paper investigates garment-making processes, which
are ordinarily tacit, from the perspective of the fashion designer-maker.
The paper draws on a PhD project entitled Metamorphic Fashion:
A Transformative Practice, which is nearing completion at RMIT
University. Critical consideration of the status of the made garment
in fashion design reveals the elision of the fashion-making process by
the represented garment and its semiotics. Whilst material thinking is
at a developed stage in the related disciplines of design, art and craft,
fashion design is largely disassociated from material transformation.
Fashion-making processes lack visibility, and a revaluation only seems
possible if such methods gain transparency and if their proximity to
handcraftedness, which in the past was more widely acknowledged,
is reaffirmed. If a fashion designer is also a maker, the garmentmaking
process can be a creative and empowering means of coaxing
the unknown into existence. Therefore, a critical reappraisal of the
process of fashion making is timely.
Reflection on the fashion-making process reveals discontinuity,
chance encounters, discovery, the fragmentary and the partially
formed. The process involves negotiating ambiguity, which must be
embraced by the designer to be transformed into certainty. When
valued as generative, newly fashioned outcomes can emerge.
In this research, methods are developed to articulate fashion design
making as transformative, using a creative-practice methodology.
The subjective positioning of the researcher’s experience and tacit
knowledge is acknowledged and explored. An intimate perspective
on the engagement between self and material is provided using video
recordings, conveying the complex interrelationship of concept and
material during fashion making.
Sgro, DM 2016, 'Fashioning Dynamic Form: Experimental making to evolve design practice', The Second International Conference for Creative Pattern Cutting, University of Huddersfield, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom.
This paper introduces a fashion design approach initiated in the authors current practice-led doctoral research. The research explores the concept of metamorphosis to transform the design process. This has involved exploring the idea of dynamic form as a method of fashioning garments. This approach questions the separation of form and material encountered when design, pattern cutting and making are considered independently. Exploring dynamic form is a risky activity that implicates taking time, slowing processes of making by integrating critical thinking and reflection; slowed fashion. It involves exploring opportunities for change by responding to material and visual properties, with a mix of intention and curiosity, the outcomes of which are improvisational. What these explorations might lead to one cannot exactly predict, however, this type of experimentation as a process can benefit from documentation and dissemination, to understand the ways in which research led by making for fashion design is possible.
Sgro, DM 2015, 'Fashioning Evolution: Making fashion practitioner research by analogy', Making Research | Researching Making, ADAPT-r - Architecture, Design and Art Practice Training-research, Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 178-185.
In my research, metamorphosis is used as a conceptual analogy to explore how change occurs in the process of making fashion garments. This research forms part of my PhD by project, Metamorphoric Fashion: A Transformative Practice, undertaken at RMIT University.
Metamorphosis is understood as a process of change through which something undergoes a complete trans-form-ation. Change is acknowledged to be a defining characteristic of fashion, yet
is rarely theorized from the perspective of the practitioner engaged with processes of materialization. Within the context of fashion and design studies, fashion practitioner research is under-represented, and the understanding of what fashion practitioner knowledge is, lacks
solidarity. For emerging fashion practitioner researchers this is complex, however, represents unique opportunities for individual contributions to be made to the development of creative research practice within the discipline and more broadly; to consider what is shared and what is
different within creative practice research. To make research through fashion practice, I have used metamorphosis as an analogic structure as a strategy to develop criticality; in order to be able to develop reflection, identification and articulation of the experience of making fashion. In
this paper I propose the concept of fashioning evolution to describe how change is experienced as an ongoing generative condition within fashion making practices, which are actively shaped in the process of making garments.
Sgro, DM 2014, 'Metamorphoric fashion: a transformative practice', Proceeding of Shapeshifting Conference, Shapeshifting: A Conference on Transformative Paradigms of Fashion and Textile Design, Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, pp. 1-22.
Transformation is embedded in the growth of an organism, while fashion, highly responsive to changing social and physical environments, rides the current of flux like a dreamer wandering through darkness. Through my fashion practice, attempts are made to reflect upon, expand and make possible inroads into the translation of this creative movement, from inspiration to mixed garment and textile outcomes. This involves engaging the imagination of possible futures, new approaches, and unknown outcomes, through mixed material expressions. Translating the life cycle of an organism, which is highly adaptive, evolutionary and responsive, this work forms part of my PhD study, “Metamorphoric Fashion”, being undertaken at RMIT University, Melbourne.
Using a practice-led research methodology, which draws upon mixed creative methods, my research attempts to engage with the uncovering of imaginative potentials of fashion and textile processes. The concept of transformation leads this investigation, and initially a study of butterfly metamorphosis was undertaken. This involved “fashion-designer-becoming-lepidopterist”, and engaged a movement between the ordinarily disparate worlds of ecology and creative practice. Using mediums of photography and drawing, a series of transitions were recorded in which the organism underwent both transitional and metamorphic change. Through these methods, meditations on relationships between nature-culture become possible, as thinking about ecology enters the creative process. Through drawing, a series of stylizations developed which recorded the imaginative thinking time, line by line.
My particular fashion practice is in the process of transformation and diversification, reflecting the nature of the metamorphic phenomenon, and the particular interpretations of the butterfly study that an individual approach enables. Aiming to uncover the ways in which the practice is able to accommodate these transformations, forms part of this study. Why th...
Sgro, DM 2012, 'Biomimicry and Fashion Practice', Fashionably Early Designing Australian Fashion Futures, Fashionably Early: Designing Australian Fashion Futures, The Australian Fashion Research Network, National Library Australia, pp. 61-70.
The local practice of fashion is being critically challenged by an increasingly networked global fashion system, which produces endless variations of the same. Counter this global trend is an emerging range of fashion practices, which focus on differentiation, challenging modes of assimilation. Particularly, these practices question the notion of time, where slow models are mapped out, and design processes become transparent, engaging their intended wearers with unique stories of design exploration. My research endeavours to advance how an understanding of biomimicry might enable new modes of fashion practice, and engage ecological thinking to produce endlessly differentiating forms. Invariably this research asks how an interdisciplinary understanding of fashion practice may underpin innovation in the field.
Chan, K 2019, 'Platform 2019', Articulate Project Space.
Sgro, D 2019, 'Dynamic Cutting: a new method of experimental pattern cutting using metaphor to activate tacit knowledge of material creativity and spatial creativity', Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice, Association of Degree Courses in Fashion and Textiles, University of Bolton, Atrium Gallery.
Sgro, D, Britton, C & Chan, K 2019, 'Morphic Garments', Performative Cutting, Gaffa Gallery.
The creative works include 5 garments designed by me, alongside 8 photographs (Donna Sgro) and 10 collages created for dramaturgical development (Sgro, Britton, Chan). Additionally, I was performing the making of additional garments in the gallery space for the duration of the exhibition.
This research is in the field of fashion and textile design practice using artisanal methods, defined through hand making. Making in Pieces was an exhibition designed to reveal the steps involved in the respective fashion and textile design practices of Donna Sgro and Cecilia Heffer. The aim was to set up working stations (a studio) within the exhibition space for viewers to gain firsthand experience of artisanal making processes. The idea was to convey the material transformation that occurs in an artisanal practice. The process opens up and ‘makes known’ the incremental steps in a making process that are usually witnessed solely by the designer.
Traditional artisanship, connected to Haute Couture ateliers in fashion and textile design practice is experiencing a decline, due to the proliferation of global production and mechanization [Business of Fashion, 2015]. However, in the context of slow design, artisanal practices are being redefined through a broader acknowledgement of contemporary practices; extending the application of the term artisanal [Aakko 2016]. Making in Pieces gives agency back to the maker and engages with original ways to disseminate and expand artisanal practice.
Making in Pieces was included in Sydney Craft Week in 2017 through a peer review selection committee. It was exhibited in GAFFA Gallery, Sydney 11-22nd October. The increasing popularity of the event is evidence of a changing interest in notions of making and artisanship, these play an integral role in the future of local practices across a broad range of disciplines.
Aakko, M. 2016, Fashion in-between: Artisanal design and production of fashion, PhD. Thesis, Aalto University.
Business of Fashion, 2015, ‘How can traditional craftsmanship survive in the modern world’ Business of Fashion, Special Issue, 19 April.
This research is in the field of fashion and textile design practice, it engages with artisanal embroidery methods through an ongoing collaboration with Master Embroiderers Rajat Jain (Delhi), Ashok Laidawal (Vrindhavan) and the Stitching Project a social enterprise led by Fiona Wright, Pushkar, India. Embroidered Relations from UTS to India was an exhibition designed to showcase the fashion and textile design collaborations of Cecilia Heffer, Donna Sgro and Armando Chant with master embroidery artisans. The aim was to open a discussion on the complexities of cross-cultural collaboration and to explore the space between design and artisanal practice.
Traditional artisanship in India spans over 4000 years and is embedded with rich history of cultural practices. Although artisan culture still exists it is in danger of losing valuable skills and knowledge as younger generations move to the cities to find work, often losing family connection, their heritage and living in very poor conditions. Over the last seven years the UTS Fashion and Textile program has connected with Indian artisan culture through their Global Studios. The intention is to facilitate a broader acknowledgement of artisan practice. This research gives agency back to the artisan and engages with new original ways to extend design collaboration and artisanal practice.
Embroidered Relations from UTS to India was included in Sydney Craft Week in 2018 through a peer review selection committee. It was exhibited in the UTS Library, Sydney 11-22nd October.
The cultural value of the exhibition has been recognized by Gene Sherman SCII Fashion Hub who extended an invitation to exhibit the artisan collaborations at the Museum of Sydney, 12th April 2019. The exhibition complimented the Keynote address by Bandana Tewari Editor at Large-Vogue, India on the importance of sustaining artisan practice. A panel discussion followed with Tewari leading the conversation ...
Sgro, DM, 'DYNAMIC: Garment-in-process', Cut Fold Shape, Grace Cossington Smith Gallery.
4 works grouped as 'DYNAMIC: Garment-in-process' (2016-2017)
1. DYNAMIC GARMENT. Garment - mixed textile; hand-woven cotton ikat, hand-stitching, silk satin organza. 2016-2017.
2. EVOLVING GARMENT. Garment-in-process; hand-woven cotton ikat, hand-stitched silk satin organza, knitted trims. 2016-2017.
3. MAKING | SEEING. Process film; cutting and handling the textile, forming and observing the garment. 1.57min. 2016-2017.
4. MAKING FORM. Process film; reconstructing a method for reflection. 1.26min. 2015.
Sgro, DM, 'MorphoPop Dress', Biomimicry Exhibition, National Taiwan Science Education Center.
Sgro, DM, 'Morphotex Dress', Trash Fashion: designing out waste, Science Museum, London, Science Museum, London.
The Morphotex Dress is one of 3 garments I have created using Morphotex fabric. Morphotex is a world first in structurally coloured fiber technology, developed by Teijin Fiber Japan, a company I worked with during my participation in the 1st SHINMAI Creator's Project in Japan, 2009. The Morphotex dress was selected for inclusion in an international exhibition 'Trash Fashion: designing out waste', a curated selection of international fashion designers, at the Antenna Gallery within the Science Museum London. The gallery selects the latest science news from leading scientists, engineers, designers and thinkers to showcase to the general public. Using a fabric such as Morphotex demonstrates that unconventional approaches to fashion design production can enable sustainable solutions. The colouration of the Morphotex fabric is created by structural colour, rather than pigmentation, eliminating the highly toxic process of industrial fabric dying. By working with a fabric such as Morphotex, my garments demonstrate the possibilities for engaging technological solutions to the problem of textile waste, encourage dialogue around the issue of sustainable fashion, and link biomimicry, an emergent practice within the field of sustainability, to fashion design. The Morphotex Dress has been recognized as an exemplary example of sustainable fashion, as evidenced by its inclusion in the 'Trash Fashion' exhibition, also demonstrating the interdisciplinary value of my work. The interest generated by this exhibition has extended its duration from June 2010 until September 2011. The Morphotex Dress has also been exhibited at 'FashionWare' SXSW in Austin, Texas, March 18-19, 2011
Sgro, DM, 'Octopus's Garden', The 1st SHINMAI Creator's Project Show, Japan Fashion Week Organization, Tokyo Midtown, Tokyo, Japan.
The collection of garments, titled 'Octopus's Garden, was developed for exhibition as part of the 1st SHINMAI Creator's Project Show, sponsored by the Japan Fashion Week Organization as part of the 8th Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo. I was selected as one of five winners from 60 applications and 17 countries, to receive sponsorship. The collection was presented in 2 catwalk shows on 23rd March 2009, as part of the official schedule. At each show 500 guests from the fashion industry, media, and the public were present. The collection received significant press coverage in Japan, together with articles from other parts of the world. Selections from the collection were later exhibited in Sydney and Paris. Investigating a biomimetic approach, the collection was based on a study of the properties of deep sea creatures, along with research into the potential for using technologically advanced Japanese fabrics in order to create high quality garments that encapsulated slow fashion properties. Part of the collection included the use of Morphotex, the worldâs first structurally coloured fiber created by nanotechnology using a biomimetic approach, developed by Teijin Fiber Japan. Other fibres used included the eco-fibre, Tencel. The prints developed were also environmentally friendly. The collection investigated a slow fashion approach via the method of combining new developments in Japanese materials together with high quality manufacturing techniques. The slow fashion approach is part of an emergent fashion design practice which embraces sustainable business principles, and emphasizes quality and longevity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JabNp6zjTpc http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/shinmai-creators-project-rtw-fall-2009-…
`Dislocations' is a series of three textile works, created by Armando Chant in collaboration with Donna Sgro. The works were presented as part of Interwoven which is a curated selection of fashion and textile works of the Design Institute of Australia Textile Practice Group. `Dislocations' investigates the biological phenomena of patterning that is evident in butterfly wing growth, and the resulting structural distortion in the pattern that develops. The textile works were an investigation of this structural principle through their constructed methodology. The three works were hand-screenprinted in monochromatic half-tones, sliced and re-constructed through stitching, emphasizing the disruptive nature of the pattern. The works are an investigation into the creation of `constructed disruptive imagery' using a biomimetic methodology. Disruptive imagery has been developed in relation to textiles in the area of camouflage. Camouflage is a biomimetic adaptation where pattern is used to cloak what is seen. Using a different principle of disruptive imagery, this work investigates how other biomimetic adaptations may be used to disrupt the visual within a textiles context. Interwoven was exhibited at the Design Gallery of the DIA Head Office and promoted to members of the DIA nationally as part of LOOK.STOP.SHOP, a Melbourne Spring Fashion Week event.
Phenotype I and Phenotype II are speculative fashion and textile works, created by Donna Sgro and Armando Chant, in collaboration. The works were part of the interdisciplinary exhibition, Language of Life, focused on biomimicry. The works investigate the biomimetic principle of Phenotypic Plasticity. Within fashion practice, garments are usually created and presented in reference to the body. These works are created in reference to a biological principle, altering the usual relationship of the garment to the body, and the function of the garment. The works include garment, textile print and video projection. Biomimicry is an emerging discipline, which seeks to imitate solutions found in nature, to solve human design problems. Biomimetic methodologies exist in various design, architectural and textile practices. There is potential to develop biomimicry methodologies in relation to fashion practice. Fashion practice typically engages with the emotive, visual, tactile and experiential dimensions of human relationships and through this work we ask how these relationships may influence biomimetic methodologies. Phenotype I and Phenotype II explore this methodological question and what contribution fashion practice can make to the emerging discipline of biomimicry. Phenotype I and Phenotype II were included in an interdisciplinary collection of responses to the emerging discipline of biomimicry. This exhibition enabled dialogue between participants from the practices of architecture, medicine, design (including fashion & textiles), science, biology and the creative arts. The exhibition was curated by Dagmar Reinhardt and Greg Shapley, and work was selected based on its ability to contribute to an interdisciplinary dialogue around the subject, and advance the understanding of what a biomimetic approach may be. The exhibition was in part a response to research arising out of the Master of Architecture, Graduation Studio from the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Pla...
Sgro, DM 2018, 'DYNAMIC CUTTING: How tacit knowledge of material creativity and spatial creativity can be activated using metaphor in fashion design practice'.
This Ph.D. research by project takes place in an existing fashion design practice that involves the design and pattern cutting of garments and textiles. The development of professional skills in fashion design in the commercial sphere, in time became tacit knowing formed through repetition of habitual hand-based activities. In this practice design was separated from pattern cutting which impacted creativity in the cut of garments. To challenge habits in practice, a metaphoric strategy was used to adapt new methods for design from a study of butterfly metamorphosis.
Fashion design can be led by pattern cutting, however, conventional practice still emphasises the separation of cutting from design, formed through industrial practice. Values of efficiency and repetition continue to influence how pattern cutting is explored and applied in practice. To evidence a greater awareness of diversity in pattern cutting, as it is applied in practice, requires a larger contribution by individual fashion designers and pattern cutters to develop this area of practice and research. Methods for experimental pattern cutting are rarely shared or developed beyond individual studio environments.
In this research I develop strategies for increasing material creativity and spatial creativity through pattern cutting by attuning more closely to tacit knowledge formed through material and spatial engagement. Metaphors enable me to better reflect on this knowledge and make it more explicit, while evolving new lines of experimentation through pattern cutting. As a result of expanding this experimentation I develop a new experimental method of cutting garments called Dynamic Cutting. This method involves designing the surface and form of garments simultaneously and questioning the very notion of patterns as templates.