Kirsi Niinimäki is determined to revolutionize the fashion industry. Specialising in strategic sustainable design, she explores transformative design practices applied to product-service systems, which lead to sustainable consumption. As a Postdoctoral Researcher and Visiting Scholar in Fashion, Clothing and Textile Research at Aalto University, Niinimäki believes that design research can further enhance the area of sustainability, transforming design and manufacturing systems that are currently in place in the clothing and textile industry.
Prior to embarking on her academic career, Niinimäki cut her teeth as a textile designer for a little over a decade. She later served as a principal lecturer for eleven more years at what is now the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Her industry experience coupled with an extensive knowledge of fashion and textile areas prompted Niinimäki to pursue her Doctorate in Sustainable Design at Aalto University.
“Sustainability is something that really interests me,” Niinimäki says. “What we are actually doing is currently unsustainable, especially in the area of fashion. I want to know how we as designers can contribute better to this sustainability field and how we can actually change the whole fashion production system.”
With her expertise in product-service systems, Niinimäki was invited by Eindhoven University of Technology as a Design United Research Fellow. There, Niinimäki helped develop an impact strategy for their experimental, practice-based design cases, which aims to foster more meaningful collaboration between academia and industry.
“I think design researchers are not only doing research based on traditional design,” Niinimäki claims. “It’s more that we are opening collaboration possibilities, opening the understanding between the different stakeholders to bring in new knowledge.” The researcher anticipates that this new knowledge will expand design futures for the fashion and textile industry, challenging companies to reevaluate and improve their manufacturing practices, policies and business models in the area of sustainability.
In addition to making a positive impact through her research, Niinimäki thoroughly enjoys the synergistic nature of her work. “I think that research can be really creative and I like these kinds of collaborations a lot,” she admits. More importantly, Niinimäki considers her research endeavours as an ideal opportunity to tap into her creative sensibilities and to challenge herself to learn new things. “Learning is something that really inspires me. It can be done throughout your life and it doesn’t stop when you’ve done your dissertation. And I think that’s really important.”
That being said, Niinimäki is convinced that multidisciplinary research is the way of the future. In order to forge new innovations, design practitioners and researchers must strive to combine the breadth of knowledge and disciplines from a variety of scientific fields. Furthermore, the research fellow maintains that sustainable development will continue to pose a major challenge to our society in the coming years and that there is an urgent need to produce new knowledge in a multidisciplinary way.
“I see a lot of possibilities to do things differently,” Niinimäki says. “But I think that collaboration and communication are the most important aspects needed to achieve this.”
Professional profile of Kirsi Niinimäki
Research Fellow 2014
Postdoctoral Researcher and Visiting Scholar in Fashion, Clothing and Textile Research at Aalto University
Kirsi has been nominated as a Professor in Fashion Research in Aalto University (September 2015)
Kirsi is leading a new research group called Fashion/Textile Futures in Aalto