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Home » Professor Desiree Smal

Vice-Dean: Teaching and Learning, FADA
Name: Desiree Smal
Location: Deans office, Lower Ground Floor, FADA Building Bunting Road Campus
FADA Fashion Design Staff, FADA Management Staff  Staff Members

Contact Details:
Tel: +27 (0)11-559-1399


About Professor Desiree Smal

NDip and NHDIP (Technikon Pretoria), MTech Fashion (TUT), DTech Design (CPUT)


An educator by heart, Desiree is currently the Vice-Dean, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and an Associate Professor in the Department of Fashion Design.  She joined the University of Johannesburg in March 2007 for the post of Head of Department in the Department of Fashion Design, a position she held for 11 years. As Vice-Dean: Teaching and Learning, she considers it important to be actively engaged with teaching. Therefore, predominantly teaches design at undergraduate and postgraduate level, supervises design masters and doctorates candidates, and is involved in collaborative teaching with other design disciplines in the Faculty. Having been at the forefront of fashion design education in South Africa for the past 36 years, she follows specific schools, people and thinking in relation to sustainable praxis. She aligns to organizations such as the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion and actively contributes to the academic discourse of the design disciplines and subscribes to the importance of knowledge and people development.

Her focus area for teaching and research is environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. She regularly contributes to national and international conferences and has published since 2008, in a discipline of fashion where the importance of research and postgraduate studies has only become important since the start of this Millennium.

She actively contributes to design education and research in South Africa through the Design Education Forum of South Africa (DEFSA) where she held the position of president from 2021-2023 and is appointed as a member of the Design Working Committee, established by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC). The purpose of the committee is to advise on the development of Design Policy and Design Strategy for South Africa and the establishment of a Design Council for South Africa.

She is co-founder and an active member of the UJ DESIS Lab, a research focus area in design situated within the Faculty. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Sustainable fashion and Textiles, is a member of the interim editorial board for establishing a journal for design titled Design Afrika: Journal of Design, Design Research and Design Education.

Recent publications



Smal, D. 2024. Technology, Sustainability and the Fashion Industry. Can Fashion save the world? Future-focused sustainable fashion design thinking in education. (Eds) King, I.; Schramme, A. & Verboven, N.ISBN: 9781032641362.

Journal articles:

de Waal, D., & Smal, D. (2024). Re-thinking do-it-yourself: An ontological approach to sustainability in fashion design praxis. DIY, Alternative Cultures & Society, 0(0).

De Wet, A.J.C., & Smal, D. 2023. Innovative, environmentally sustainable fashion design: a blended learning teaching framework that supports positive emotions and creativity during the design process. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. Received 11 Oct 2022, Accepted 01 Sep 2023, Published online: 10 Sep 2023. Online. DOI:

Harvey, N. & Smal, D. 2021. The Generative Tool: a design journey in fashion education. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. 14(1): 28-36. DOI: 10.1080/17543266.2020.1849412.

Van Heerden, S; Tselepis, T & Smal, D. 2016. The female innovation-generation consumer’s evaluation of traditional and virtual displays in South African Clothing retail environments. Journal of Consumer Science. Special edition. Diversifying clothing research in Southern Africa. 1. ISSN: 0273-5254

Smal, D. 2012. Design + Sustainability = Fashion: Sustainable design praxis in fashion. The International journal of Designed Objects. 6(3):41-47. ISSN: 2325-1395. DOI: 1379/CGP/v06i03/57925

Smal, D. 2008. Eco fashion: fashion fad or future trend? Image & Text. 14:100-112. ISSN: 1020-1497

Conference papers:

Smal, D. & Harvey, N. 2018. The Wheel: A teaching tool for fashion design students. Proceedings of the 6th Global Fashion Conference 2018. What’s going on? A discourse on design, fashion and sustainability. London: GFC. ISBN: 978-989-54263-0-0

Smal, D. & Harvey, N. 2017. Transforming fashion design education to design with intent. Proceedings of the 14th National Design Education Forum of South Africa Conference. # Decolonise! Pretoria: DEFSA. ISBN 978-0-620-78459-7.

Smal, D. 2017. Re-thinking the approach to environmentally sustainable fashion design praxis. Proceedings of the Cumulus Conference. Re-Do. Pp. 399-411. Kolding: Cumulus. E-book ISBN: 978-87- 93416-15-4.

Smal, D. 2014. Environmentally sustainable fashion: a design-led approach. Proceedings of the Cumulus Conference. Re-Do. Pp. 399-411. Johannesburg: Cumulus. ISBN: 978-0-620-60373-7.

Smal, D. & Lavelle, C. 2011. Developing a discourse in fashion design. Proceedings of 6th International Design Education Forum of South Africa Conference. 20/20 Design Vision. Pp. 192-198. Johannesburg: DEFSA.

Smal, D. 2007. How green is your wardrobe? Proceedings of the International Design Education Forum of South Africa Conference. Flux – design education in a changing world. Cape Town: DEFSA. ISBN: 978-0-620-39561-8


Book chapters:

Smal, D. 2019. Sustainable fashion in South Africa: A case for design-led environmentally sustainable fashion design praxis. In, Gwilt, A.; Payne, A. & Ruthschilling, EA. (Eds.). Global Perspectives on Sustainable Fashion. Pp. 223-231. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ISBN: 978-1-3500-5815-6.

Journal articles:

Smal, D. 2009. The future of eco-fashion: a design-driven approach. Fashion Forward. 1:225-262. ISBN: 978-1-84888-001-6

 Conference papers:

Smal, D. 2021. Future-focused sustainable fashion design thinking in education, progress or inertia? 2021 Responsible Fashion Series, Can fashion save the world? October 14-15 (on-line), Antwerp. (presented, reworked for book publication)

Nel, L., Munro, A & Smal, D. 2021. Fostering a sustainability-oriented ethics of care to transform the fashion system. 2021 Responsible Fashion Series, Can fashion save the world? October 14-15 (on-line), Antwerp. (Presented, not published).