Dr Emma Rigby, PhD MA BA (Hons)

Dr Emma Rigby, PhD MA BA (Hons)

Work email


ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4787-0516

Specialist Subject Areas

Fashion and Sustainability, Fashion Design, Fashion Futures, User-Focused Research Methods, Fashion and Domestic Studies, Fashion Ethnography, Practice Theory


Emma holds a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design with Marketing from the University of East London, an MA in Fashion and the Environment from London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London and a PhD entitled Fashion Design and Laundry Practices: Practice Orientated Approaches to Design for Sustainability from Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.


Emma Rigby is a design researcher and lecturer in fashion futures at Cardiff School of Art and Design. Her research and teaching explores fashion design as an interconnected relationship between society, materials, aesthetics and the environment. 

Emma completed her PhD in 2016 at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, funded by a London College of Fashion Artscom Progressive Studentship Award. Her doctoral research uses clothes laundry as a medium through which to examine how fashion design, resource consumption and sustainability are tied into social practices. Emma's research approach is practice-led and draws on empirical and observational methods to access user experience. Her methods have included developing novel laundry probes as artefacts given to elicit responses to develop a design process. Emma wrote a chapter about this method for Opening Up The Wardrobe: A Methods Book Edited by Kate Fletcher and Ingum Klepp (2017) and has discussed her research topic on BBC Radio 4 programme You and Yours. In addition, she has written peer-reviewed articles for Fashion Practice and Utopian Studies. Her work has been featured in influential fashion texts including: Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change by Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose, Practical Guide to Sustainable Fashion by Alison Gwilt and Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black, as well as national and international press platforms including: Guardian Online, Vogue Business China and Metro.

Over the past decade, Emma has developed a broad and varied experience of teaching and curriculum design spanning across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  Her teaching is underpinned by research, and she has been invited to give research lectures at institutions including: London College of Fashion, Chelsea College of Art and Design, Goldsmiths University London, Muthesius University Kiel (Germany), Kolding School of Art and Design (Denmark), Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (UK) and Bucks New University. Her professional activities also include reviewing for academic journals including Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process and the Fashion Industry.

Emma has previously worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion and was a founding partner of Here Today Here Tomorrow: a collaborative studio and shop with focus on sustainability, based in Dalston, East London. She has held previous lectureships in Fashion Culture and Contextual Studies as well as Fashion Design. Her industry experience include working in design teams for fashion companies in London and Melbourne.

Emma is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Member of the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion.

Current Research

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4787-0516

Emma's theoretical understanding of design evolved during her design-based doctoral research where she blended practice theory with design theory to provide fresh perspectives from which to understand environmental problems in fashion and propose solutions. Using clothes laundry as a case study, her research focused on laundry as a resource intensive stage in a garment's life cycle. The findings highlighted that understanding laundry as a social practice opens space to reconceptualise design, domestic behaviours and sustainability. This practice-orientated approach to design for sustainability decentres material products and instead draws attention to the everyday embedded social dynamics that are set within a nexus of spaces, materials, thoughts, actions and emotions. Her work is influenced by Donella Meadows' systems thinking and contributes towards the growing area of design thinking. An integral characteristic of Emma's work is understanding the social and human contexts in which design opportunities exist.

Emma has presented her research and hosted workshops at over 15 national and international conferences, seminars and exhibitions, including Making Futures (2019), Global Fashion Conference (2018) and Circular Transitions (2016). Her research has also reached a wider audience via public and industry facing exhibitions including The laundry Pile which she co-curated for London Design Festival, Lila Launderette (2017); Festival of Nature, Arnolfini, Bristol (2018) and Temporary Contemporary, Huddersfield (2019).

Principal Publications, Exhibitions and Awards


  • Connor-Crabb, A., & Rigby, E. (2019) Garment Quality and Sustainability: A User-Based Approach, Fashion Practice, 11(3), 346-374

  • Rigby, E., Brooks, A., Fletcher, K., Francis, R., & Roberts, T. (2017). Fashion, Sustainability and the Anthropocene. Utopian Studies , 28(3), 482-504 .

  • Rigby, E. (2017). Laundry Probes. In K. Fletcher, & I. G. Klepp (Eds.), Opening up the Wardrobe: A methods book (pp. 81-83). Novus.


  • Rigby, E. (2016). Mundane Matters: Laundry, Design and Sustainability. In: Earley, B. and Goldsworthy, K. (ed.) Circular Transitions, London, November 2016, (pp.131-140). London: University of the Arts London.
  • Making Futures Conference, Plymouth College of Art. Presentation with Harrison, L and Whitson-Smith, J. 'The Laundry Pile'. Sept 2019.
  • Global Fashion Conference 2018: What's Going On? A Discourse on Fashion, Design and Sustainability. Workshop with Connor-Crabb, A. 'Elements of Quality: Beyond Seamlines and Fabrics'. Nov 2018.
  • Circular Transitions: A Mistra Future Fashion Conference on Textile Design and the Circular Economy. Oral presentation. 'Mundane Matters: Laundry, Design and Sustainability'. Nov 2016.
  • Circular Transitions: A Mistra Future Fashion Conference on Textile Design and the Circular Economy. Poster Presentation 'Clothes in Motion'. Nov 2016.
  • Lancaster Design PhD Conference, Better by Design: Environment, Society and Self. Oral presentation. 'Laundry Narratives: Reflections on Design, laundry'. Jun 2015.
  • Lancaster Design PhD Conference, Better by Design: Environment, Society and Self. Poster Presentation 'Fashion Design, Laundry Practices and Sustainability'. Jun 2015.
  • Yorkshire Water Innovation Fringe. Oral Presentation. 'Energy, Water, Fashion: A Longitudinal Study of Garment Use and Maintenance'. Nov 2011.
  • SEADS Sustainable Design Between Ethics and Aesthetics, Denmark. Oral presentation.  'Energy, Water, Fashion'. Nov 2011.
  • KEA, Towards Sustainability in the Textile and Fashion Industry Conference, Denmark. Oral presentation. 'Energy, Water, Fashion'. Apr 2011.


  • Temporary Contemporary. (2019 June 24 – July 13). The Laundry Pile. Huddersfield. Co-curation and showcase of work.
  • Arnolfini. (2018 June 7) The Laundry Pile. Bristol Co-curation and showcase of work.
  • Lila Laundrette. (2017 September 20) The Laundry Pile: Materials, Meanings and Mundanities of Everyday Life. London. Co-curation and showcase of work.
  • VF Corporation. (2012, March) The Future of Apparel. USA. Showcase of work in group exhibition.


  • London College of Fashion Artscom Progressive Studentship Award. Sept, 2010

  • London College of Fashion, Fashioning the Future Awards, 2009