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Shakaila Forbes-Bell

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With the world facing a turbulent time, many of us have been experiencing physical signs of our stress, and one particularly pertinent change is in our skin. 

You may be perplexed by your so-called ‘lockdown acne’ but there’s a reason why your skin isn’t on top form right now. By spending more time at home our skin is inevitably exposed to less pollution and we’ve had more time than ever to dedicate to our skincare routines – so why is it taking a downturn? Here’s a couple of reasons why:

Hormones

Our skin is extremely sensitive to its surroundings, but it’s not only what our skin encounters on the outside that affects its condition; how we feel on the inside can have an impact too. Following environmental changes, our bodies are prone to enter a stress response. This response causes an influx of hormones like cortisol, which cease non-essential functions as your body enters a fight-or-flight response. While this would have been beneficial for the survival of our ancestors, in modern, less threatening circumstances the consequences to this reaction can add to our worries! As cortisol causes inflammation of the skin, and the skin glands to produce more oil,  it in turn becomes more acne-prone too.

The way stress indirectly impacts your skin

Poor Sleep

Nevertheless, there are more indirect impacts of stress that can also be affecting your skin. Poorer sleep is a common consequence of stress, with people reporting less sleep, more disturbances, and lower sleep efficiency (Kim & Dimsdale, 2007). With it being well-established that sleep is incredibly important for our bodies to rest and repair, interruptions to our sleep pattern inevitably make it harder to combat precursors to our skin troubles. For example, compared to poor sleepers, good sleepers showed less skin aging, better recovery from skin irritation or redness, and better perception of their appearance (Oyetakin‐White et al, 2014). Therefore, prioritising something as simple as sleep could help to contribute towards healthier skin and more positive self-perceptions even if the skin is troubled.

Poor Diet

Stress is also intrinsically linked to diet quality; the more stressed we feel, the worse the quality of our diet becomes (De Vriendt et al, 2012). While some of us have a propensity to over-indulge as a result of stress in order to comfort ourselves, others tend to restrain their eating and instead snack of highly processed, convenient foods (Wardle, Steptoe, Oliver & Lipsey, 2000). With our skin being extremely responsive to the food we consume, it’s likely that dietary changes during a period of stress can also contribute to changes in the skin.

3 things you can do to rescue your skin

If you too have been experiencing skin troubles during a stressful period, you can make a few simple changes to bring it back to life.

1.     Relaxation  

Taking just ten minutes a day to focus on yourself and be in the present moment can do wonders when it comes to relieving stress. Practicing yoga, meditation or mindfulness can help to ground the mind and bring things back into perspective when they feel a little out of control.

2.     Consistency

Maintaining a simple, sensitive skincare routine can provide your skin with the nourishment it needs to help it recover. Try to use unperfumed, natural products in order to avoid further irritation.

3.     Diet

Try to be mindful of the types and quantities of food you are consuming when you know you are facing a stressful period. As over and undereating can prevent the skin from making a speedy recovery, it may be helpful to plan meals in advance so you can assess the quantity and quality of what you will be consuming. Research has found a link between consuming foods with a high glycaemic load (e.g. sweets and chocolate) with the exacerbation of acne. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to these as they can also provide a short-term mood boost

It is no secret that our society is dictated by prejudices and discriminatory behaviours that we may not even be aware we are endorsing. Unfortunately amongst many others, the fashion industry reflects a ‘white privilege’ and it has even been suggested that ‘racism is at the heart of fast fashion’. A single glance up your local Highstreet or quick google search makes it immediately evident that the vast majority of both affordable and high-end designers are white and accommodate primarily white individuals. Little further reflection will also reveal how utterly absurd this underrepresentation is. Since when did, or should, the colour of someone’s skin determine their creativity, talent or potential? 

These attitudes are incredibly damaging to current and aspiring fashion professionals, but by simply becoming more aware of who we choose to buy from, real differences can begin to emerge.

With this in mind, we have created a collection of 22 black-owned brands that we believe deserve a little more love. There should be something to suit all styles and budgets, so consumers at every level can experience the fashion industry’s hidden talents.

Affordable

Offering non-toxic, cruelty-free nail-polishes that are individually made, 516 Polish is an ethical, sustainable brand. They pioneer ‘swatch diversity’ by providing product samples on a variety of skin tones and have specially formulated products that complement customers of all ethnicities. 

Boucléme creates British-based, cruelty-free and plant-based products that enhance natural curls. Their easy-to-follow 3-step regime encourages women to feel empowered rather than embarrassed by their curls. 

Selling sunglasses and jewellery that are inspired by North African heritage, this accessories label aims to create trendy yet timeless pieces.

Founded in a small New York apartment, Fanm Djanm (meaning ‘strong women’) is an accessory-based store best known for its bright and bold headwraps. Each piece is handmade in Brooklyn using sustainably sourced fabrics.

Cruelty-free cosmetics inspired by 80s and 90s music culture are what MDM Flow are best known for. From multi-use ‘glossy pots’, to lip products in a range of natural and experimental shades, this beauty brand has the potential to create fun, fresh and funky looks that take you from day to night. 

Selling beautifully crafted yet affordable 14k gold-plated jewellery, Saint Kojo is a hidden gem. If the elegant aesthetic is enough, they also use a portion of profits to educate and empower disadvantaged women in Africa. 

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✨✨✨ 📸 :@jenloumeredith

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This London-based brand celebrates diversity through it’s simple yet sexy garments that represent individuals of all ethnicities. At its heart, Sincerely Nude hopes to ‘break stereotypes one shade at a type’ by raising the awareness and accessibility of a more inclusive industry.

Vitae London incorporates ‘minimalist watch design with maximal social justice’. Working closely with charities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, each watch purchase provides a child with life-changing educational supplies. Their classic designs come in a range of metal colours and materials to create a bespoke timepiece. 

Premium

Andrea Iyamah is a clothing line ‘inspired by nature, inspired by colour, ethnic cultures, nature and design elements that stay true to creating authentic clothing’. Started by Nigerian designer Dumebi Iyamah at the age of 17, it hopes to modernise and embrace traditional African cuts and colours to create unique garments that make a statement.

Nalé’s designers are inspired by different aspects of travel, culture or the simplistic beauties of everyday living. This luxury womenswear brand is characterised by its appreciation of diversity, allowing consumers to learn about cultures all over the world.

Nubian Skin provides lingerie, hosiery and swimwear that aims to cater for consumers of all skin tones. Their founder Ade Hassan, MBE wanted to redefine the industry’s narrow representation of ‘nude’ undergarments, which seemed to disregard a significant proportion of the market – most notably women of colour.

Edgy streetwear in bold patterns and prints are at the core of Phlemuns. For those who want to elevate their everyday pieces and invest in stand-out sweats, their collections will not fail to make a statement.

Starting in Trinidad and Tobago in 1979, Sacha Cosmetics values the ethnic diversity of their consumers. They aim to formulate high-quality products for all individuals, regardless of race. Something all beauty brands should aim to do too.

Blending contemporary and traditional techniques, Tihara Smith is a recent graduate who creates fun and fresh fashion accessories. Inspired by her Caribbean heritage and London upbringing, Tihara creates unique pieces that allow her customers to carry a piece of the Caribbean with them.

Luxury

Aurora James founded this luxury accessory company in 2013 to help maintain traditional African designs and techniques. Each piece is inspired by an aspect of different cultures worldwide, ensuring a range of heritage styles are kept alive within the fashion industry. Using traditional practices in the production process, Brother Vellies ensures artisanal jobs are sustained and the manual craftsmanship involved is still acknowledged.

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Tyla Sandals • Summertime fine 🤎🦢

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With an array of luxury ready-to-wear and bridal women’s wear, Cushnie has something to offer the modern woman for every occasion. Designer Carly Cushnie creates timeless, minimalistic pieces with a fine attention to detail, all of which encourage women to feel both elegant and powerful.

Described as “a contemporary Ready-to-Wear apparel line for Women Without Limits”, Hanifa designs each of its garments with women of all shapes and sizes in mind. Ruffles, ruching, pleats and puffy sleeves best describe the brand’s aesthetic which collectively form figure-flattering, femeine and elegant pieces that undoubtedly suit every type of body.  

In recognition of the nude-shoe market’s poor diversity, Kahmune was formed. The luxury footwear is constructed from sourced, premium Italian leather, making their shoes a life-long investment. Each piece is available in 10 shades which are inspired by the global ethnic diversity, allowing every customer to find their staple nude shoe.  

Mateo New York is a fine jewellery designer founded by self-taught Matthew Harris who was born and raised in Montenegro Bay, Jamaica. Describing their collections as having an ‘aesthetic of simplicity and minimalism’, their collections are designed with modern women and art in mind. With the delicate use of diamonds, pearls and precious stones each piece conveys a sense of natural elegance.

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🌸 🌸🌸🌸🌸

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Specialising in ready-to-wear and bespoke jumpsuits, Rebecca Tembo ensures each client has a personalised, luxury shopping experience. All pieces are made one at a time using sustainable methods. She also founded The Entry, a course which aims to help aspiring start-up designers to build their brand and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Established in 2005 by Telfar Clemens, an undergraduate student born to Liberian parents in New York, Telfar is a pioneer of unisex fashion. Driven by its core value of inclusivity, the fashion brand is known to promote contemporary garments in ways that stand against the fashion industry’s historical discrimination and misrepresentation of non-white ethnicites.

The Folklore is an online concept store that sells a limited selection of pieces from African designers in order to promote their work and improve their financial success. Their curated collections represent ‘the diversity of Africa’s contemporary urban landscapes and design aesthetic’ and allow people online access to the African fashion industry that previously relied primarily on remote, local selling. If you’re after a one-of-a-kind piece, this is the place to look. 

What are your favourite Black-owned businesses? Comment below or tweet us @fashionispsychology

With Fashion Psychology being a relatively new, up-and-coming area of research, study and work, it is perhaps no surprise that we regularly receive questions from our readers and fashion psychology enthusiasts alike.

Making the field of fashion psychology more accessible to the general public is one of the central aims of this platform and sharing what we learn and know with our readers in an interesting and engaging way is incredibly important.

So, with this in mind and due to popular demand, last month, we hosted our first live Q&A with Fashion Psychologist and founder of Fashion Is Psychology, Shakaila Forbes-Bell.

You can watch the recording of the event below, where Shakaila discusses her journey in Fashion Psychology and we cover topics ranging from, what fashion psychology is, how you can work in or study fashion psychology and the important qualities successful fashion psychologists may hold. 

If you have any further queries or topics you would like us to discuss, leave them in the comments below, or let us know on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and we will include them in a future Q&A or similar event.

Finally, thank you again to those of you who showed interest in, or came to the event – it was a great success and was lovely to see your faces and discuss all-things fashion psychology with you all!

In part 1 of our psychology of scents series, we revealed that fragrances hold far more significance in our lives we may initially realise. They are inevitably a fundamental aspect of human existence; we have an enormous implicit, as well as explicit, reliance on our sensory experiences in our everyday lives. With this in mind, in part 2 of our series, we asked three fragrance-industry experts: Anne Churchill, a sensory researcher at Givaudan, Suzy Nightingale, senior writer for The Perfume Society and Karen Gilbert, founder of and perfumery teacher at Karen Gilbert 5 questions to help you nail your next fragrance purchase 

psychology scent fragrance
L-R: Suzy Nightingale,Karen Gilbert, Anne Churchill

1. Why are scents so important?

SUZY: We know that we used to rely on our sense of smell for survival, that even though we may no longer use that sense to detect predators, still when we use a fragrance, it directly plugs into our limbic system – that part of our brain linked to instincts and emotions. Using a fragrance is much more than merely smelling clean or fresh – soap does a good job of that. They can immediately remind us of people we’ve loved and lost, of places we’ve travelled, make us feel more powerful or relaxed: and all in an instant! Your reaction to a perfume bypasses logic – you don’t intellectualise your response, it can feel like being punched in the solar plexus.

At the perfume society, we regularly get emails and calls from people desperately trying to track down their beloved grandmother’s favourite fragrance or wanting to find a new perfume to boost their confidence or help them feel less stressed.

During our (pre-COVID-19) How to Improve Your Sense of Smell workshops, we asked people to blind-smell scents and give us their immediate emotional reactions. Some people would smile joyously and laugh as they suddenly recalled a happy memory. Others burst into tears as they felt unsettled but couldn’t think why, or a scent reminded them of a loved one. A scent is an invisible accessory that can say something quite different than your physical appearance. Fragrances are the link between Art and Science, for me. The closest thing we can get to actual alchemy or time travel.

The current pandemic will create a trend for fresh, clean natural fragrances and scents that enhance our sense of safety and wellbeing. 

2. What are the main motivators in fragrance selections?

ANNE: People often pick a scent that reminds them of a positive memory, a relative, any association that brings them back to a joyous time. A lot of the way we feel about scents is through learning and we see this even in infants. If a mother has a preference for a certain scent when pregnant, the baby will respond positively to that scent once born!

It’s worth noting these positive associations are extremely personal and can differ in different cultures depending on the environments you’ve been exposed to. Your brain gets used to smells around you which is why you may no longer smell your favourite perfume, fabric softener or clothes. 

SUZY: We’re noticing an increasing number of people exploring ‘niche’ (smaller, independent and artisanal) houses. People want to smell unique, so we are seeing lots of bespoke blends, and even bigger brands offering personalised services and personality-led quizzes to ‘match’ people to their perfect scent. 

Our own Fragrance Finder computer algorithm at the Perfume Society uses key emotion-based words along with the fragrant ingredients listed, to help guide people to discovering six new fragrances based on a current favourite. Because finding a new fragrance isn’t just about how you want to smell, it’s about how you want to *feel*.  Gendered fragrances are a marketing construct – men and women both happily wore violet and rose and musk and orange blossom for centuries. And now we’ve seen the majority of niche houses move away from ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ classifications, even going beyond the ‘unisex’ term and preferring ‘gender-less’ or ‘gender-free’. Guerlain called their Lui fragrance ‘gender fluid’ while Gucci described their Mémoure d’Une Odeur as ‘gender-neutral.’

Karen Gilberts book 'Perfume - The Art and Craft of Fragrance'

3. What factors cause changes in perfume buying habits?

KAREN: My clients are usually looking to create their own fragrances, and this is often related to an occasion. Many people buy a 1-day perfume class as a gift and some have created occasion-specific scents. Wedding scents are really popular as people want something memorable for their special day.

ANNE: People choose different fragrances to mark different occasions but they also tend to choose fragrances to suit their environment and mood. For example, people are drawn to citrus fragrances when they want to feel invigorated and happy. Perfumes can be crafted to place people in various moods. 

In economic downturns we often see a rise of nostalgic and comforting scents, things that remind us of happier, more carefree times or help us feel cosy

4. Does the fragrance industry follow trends?

SUZY: Trends do influence the fragrance industry, just as fashion trends filter through to everything in culture, eventually. One year we might see brightly coloured or blinged-out bottles, the next they may be plain and paired-back. In economic downturns we often see a rise of nostalgic and comforting scents, things that remind us of happier, more carefree times or help us feel cosy – with bottles harking back to ‘retro’ styles, or incorporating touchy-feely elements such as soft, stroke-able textures on the bottles or box packaging.

Last year we saw a rise in so-called ‘solar’ scents – fragrances using orange blossom, neroli and petit grain to evoke sunshine captured in a bottle. I think it’s because of the uncertain political climate – people were looking for an instant shot of happiness in a scent! I think happiness and comfort will be trends for some time to come, the way things are going.

KAREN: If you look back at 20th-century history you can see a direct influence of global trends on the fragrance industry. The big brash scents of the ’80s were followed by more transparent marine scents in the ’90s and the ’00s was the era of the celebrity scent. In recent times we have seen more natural, sustainable and gender-neutral scents that reflect our times. I imagine that the current pandemic will create a trend for fresh, clean natural fragrances and scents that enhance our sense of safety and wellbeing.

5. What advice would give someone choosing a new fragrance?

ANNE: Be aware of your “personal skin smell”, your skin biology affects fragrances so the same perfume will smell differently on different people due to their skin type, pH level etc. Make sure you test your favourite scents on your skin and no one else’s. 

KAREN: Make sure you do research on your favourite fragrances beforehand. Use blogs like  Fragrantica, Bois de Jasmin and Perfume Shrine to guide you but take reviews with a pinch of salt as fragrance selection is a very personal thing. 

SUZY: Try things without looking at the list of ingredients – really give them time to develop on your skin. You need to live with a scent for several hours to truly experience it as the differing molecules evaporate at different rates. We’ve seen sales of our Discovery Boxes rise by an astonishing percentage because people are looking to treat themselves and try new scents they might never have thought about or heard of before. 

I always encourage people to start with a fragrance they know they love and look up the name of the perfumer – these ‘noses’ often have a signature style just as any other artist or maker does – and try some of their other creations. But most of all: be brave! The joy of a scent is they can be washed off if you genuinely dislike them – but oh there’s a world of wonders to discover out there. Life is too short to simply smell ‘nice’. I want everyone to find those scents that make you gasp, that make your eyes roll back in your head with pleasure, that make you crave to wear them and feel instantly better when you do. They’re just waiting for you to find them… 

All dressed up with nowhere to go. That’s been me at least once per week since lockdown started. On this blog, we’ve gone on and on about the power of comfort dressing. One of the (very) few good things this pandemic has given us is the ability to be comfortable daily. However, and I can’t stress this enough, giving up the glam life is not recommended. 

Read more: Can loungewear make you better at your job?

Your clothes can help you experience different realities

Although we are limited by things like cultural norms and money, your clothes are still a powerful tool of self-expression. They can help you enhance certain aspects of your identity and even embrace traits you never knew existed in you. You should think of your clothes as a roadmap that helps you navigate these different realities but what you may not know is that your clothes can also help you escape your current reality. 

We’re currently living through one of the most trying times of our lives. Around the globe, people have lost their jobs, their loved ones and any sense of normalcy due to COVID-19. You may be trying to simply get on with it but it’s important to develop strategies, no matter how small, to help you take your mind away from the doom, gloom and uncertainty and one way to do that is by playing dress-up. 

Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top - Dash
Top (gifted): Femme Luxe Black Tie Front Organza Mesh Sleeve Crop Top, Jeans: River Island wide leg jeans in light blue

Playing dress-up is a form of escapism

Playing dress-up is not just for kids. Doing a full face of make-up, styling your hair and wearing a sultry dress are all acts of playing dress-up because right now, the places we would normally showcase these looks are restricted. Engaging in these acts when you’re stuck at home can seem ridiculous but it can also constitute a powerful force that can positively affect your mental wellbeing.  

Recently, a friend of mine remarked that she felt silly for wanting to buy a new pair of heels that caught her eye. I’ll tell you what I told her – there’s no need to completely suppress your shopping habits even though right now they may seem out of the ordinary. Studies have shown that “extraordinary” shopping experiences can be cathartic and can act as a break from daily habits that too often leave us feeling stressed and underwhelmed. We’ve all become increasingly aware of sustainability and the damaging effects of overconsumption. So, rather than regularly whipping out your credit card, you can mix in a few new pieces with those that haven’t seen the light of day since lockdown. The most important thing is that you make playing dress-up your new weekly ritual. 

Fashion psychology
Top: John Zack velvet cowl front top in lime

Certain clothing styles can release tensions

Wearing clothes that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of everyday life act as a symbol for you leaving that life behind, even for a few hours. Studies have shown that people have fun by simply engaging in the act of wearing outlandish, sexy or even eccentric outfits which contributes to a feeling of escapism because “clothes in themselves carry this tensions release dimension”. 

Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia
Dress (gifted) Femme Luxe Emerald Bardot Cowl Neck Ruched Midi Dress - Malia

We’re living in highly politicized times when even wearing a mask (please wear a mask) is seen as a form of social commentary and frankly, it’s tiring. Ultimately, your clothes should be an area of your life that brings joy. While comfort is important, you should attempt to get ‘all dressed up’ at least once in a while to embrace the power of your wardrobe to help you escape the bleaknesses of your day-to-day life; even if you have nowhere to go and even if it’s just for a little while. 

In the comments, let me know what pieces you’ve missed wearing this year.

If you asked anyone to describe what loungewear is their first remark would be “it’s comfortable”. Professor Lubos Hes defines clothing comfort as “a state of satisfaction indicating physiological, psychological, and physical balance among the person.” Doesn’t that sound lovely? Loungewear often features stretchy and soft fabric that induces a state of comfort, one that is typically absent when we wear day to day clothes like suits and jeans but what impact does this have on our ability to do our jobs?

How leggings became the new jeans

Since COVID-19 shook the world upside down many have us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. In the absence of a restrictive work environment, every day is casual Friday. In the UK, loungewear sales have jumped a whopping 49% since lockdown. In the states, 56% of adults have admitted to incorporating more loungewear into their daily styles but some people have taken their affinity for loungewear one step further. A survey found that 1 in 8 Americans would rather have a casual office dress code than being paid an extra $5K annually! On the surface that sounds pretty insane but when you think about the psychological impact of comfort dressing, it makes sense.

Femme Luxe Stone Rib Two Piece Loungewear Set - Aloranna
Outfit (gifted): Femme Luxe Stone Rib Two Piece Loungewear Set

If you feel good, you’ll think good...

Loungewear may be the key to you killing it at work. One study revealed that comfortable clothing can enhance cognitive performance. Psychologists Bell, Cardello and Schutz investigated the relationship between clothing comfort and exam performance in students. The results revealed that students who wore more formal clothing had a lower comfort level and ultimately, a lower test score. Think about an outfit you love that’s completely uncomfortable. Although it might make you feel amazing and powerful, the physical discomfort is a distractor causing a cognitive overload that prevents you from giving your all to any task at hand. The extra cognitive boost you get from comfort dressing could be the missing key to that commendation or even that promotion. 

But if you feel good AND look good, you’ll be unstoppable

Feeling comfortable is one thing but looking good at the same time can have a major positive impact. Fashion Psychology research has shown that positive feelings about your clothes change the way you think about yourself in numerous ways. Most importantly, it can change your perception about how good you are at your job while negative feelings about your clothes can make you feel incompetent.

Femme Luxe Grey Marl Off The Shoulder Loungewear Set - Imana
Outfit (gifted): Femme Luxe Grey Marl Off The Shoulder Loungewear Set - Imana

No matter how comfortable you are, if you think negatively about an outfit, chances are you will act in accordance with your negative assumptions. With that being said, you shouldn’t spend your workday in holey leggings and stained hoodies. Invest in a core set of loungewear essentials that both feel good and look good. Not only will these pieces make you feel positive about your capabilities it will help you to crush any curve balls that come your way. 

Have you witnessed your productivity levels change by wearing more loungewear pieces? Let us know in the comments below. 

Update: With COVID-19 ravaging global communities, a lot of us may be experiencing grief. Sadly, grief is not something that is talked about enough and yet its something we will all experience at some point in our lives. Fashion Psychology teaches us that our clothes and accessories are more than things that make us look good. They can elevate our mood states, cause us to act differently and they can even help us get through traumatic experiences. Through my collaboration with Heart in Diamond, I have explored my personal experience with grief and have investigated the impact that cremation jewellery can have on the healing process. If you would like to learn more about “wear-apy” let me know if the comments. 

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When I started working on this piece I would have never, not in my wildest dreams, expected the subject to hit so close to home. Several weeks later whilst I meander from day to day I remain stuck in shock at the sudden loss of my big sister. At this point in time I can only describe my grief as contradictory. I haven’t hit the stages of bereavement that traditional Psychology teaches in a neat and predictable fashion. Rather, I float between misery and acceptance, anger and denial. I have made countless bargains with the universe in a desperate effort to turn back time while I hinge on the pendulum that is my life, where everything now exists either before or after that tragic day. 

One thing I know for sure is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with loss. Whilst my mother has relied on her faith to see her through each day, I have noticed a shift in my ability to cope when I’m in the presence of my sister’s belongings. A love of fashion was one of the countless subjects we bonded over. As with most sibling relationships, when it came to our clothes and accessories, the concept of ‘ownership’ changed daily. Her old jumpsuit slowly became our jumpsuit, my new top instantly became hers upon the joint conclusion that she looked better in it. On the flip side, there were many fights involving some variation of “what’s mine is mine and don’t even think about asking to borrow it!”. From a cognitive standpoint, studies have shown that brain areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC) which are active when we’re thinking about ourselves are also active when ‘we create associations between external things and ourselves through ownership’ (Kim & Johnson, 2010). That is to suggest that our belongings are an extension of ourselves that conjure up countless narratives of both our singular and shared identities. 

Some researchers argue that the extent to which we see our possessions as an extension of ourselves or others depends on our confidence levels. In a study where participants were given false feedback on a personality questionnaire which made it seem that they were not particularly self-aware, they responded by rating their belongings as particularly self-expressive – as saying something about who they are (Jarrett, 2013). It is fair to say that in this moment in time my confidence has been significantly reduced. My belief system and understanding of my place in the world has been shaken and only in clinging to tangible items, specifically those that she has left behind, reminds me that she is still a very huge part of who I am and that she will always be with me. 

When it comes to a lost loved one’s possessions, the importance of ornamentation and jewellery in the grieving process spans across all human cultures over many decades. For example, in the Victorian era, so-called ‘mourning jewellery’ was a popular trend of the time, whereby accessories were fashioned out of the tresses of the deceased. In Buddhism, the ashes of accomplished Buddhist teachers are mixed with clay are made into devotional images that link the living and the dead (Goss and Klass, 1997). Whilst trinkets featuring coils and curls can still be found today, a fashionable take on the Buddhist tradition has recently grown in popularity in the form of memorial jewellery. 

 

One company that is paving the way in memorial jewellery is Heart In Diamond. Serving many countries worldwide including the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, China and more, the diamond specialists serve to propel the healing power of jewellery one step further by creating beautiful bespoke diamonds in over 500 styles featuring the ashes of your deceased loved one.  

Volkan (1981) suggests that ‘linking objects’ (actual material objects of the dead) function to maintain a bridge with the lost person. Unsurprisingly, Heart In Diamond’s testimonials reveal a deep sense of comfort clients feel about possessing a very physical and tangible reminder of their loved ones that they can carry with them at all times. 

To sympathize with someone is to agree with a feeling or a sentiment but to empathize with someone is to understand and be in tune with their feelings. Having been through this process as well as supported friends that have too I hope that I can share that experience with other families in an empathetic way. My diamond symbolizes the loss of my father. The combination of his ashes and my hair has now unified us forever and was a poignant journey for me to take. The Orange-Yellow Princess cut diamond is a representation of Japan and its reputation as the land of the rising sun and this is where he saw his final sunset. – Claire, USA, Heart In Diamond Client”

Linking objects like memorial jewellery can provide a way to maintain contact with the dead and ‘allow the mourner to externalize elements of the self and internalize elements of the other’ (Volkan, 1981). They serve a bridging function as symbolic representations of the person’s experiences with the loved one’s soothing and comfort.

“We were never big supporters of the highly regulated diamond industry that gives the general public the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable. We believe that what gives an item value is the history and what that item means to us personally. Purchasing a diamond from the store neither has a meaningful history nor does it have any personal attachment to us. Heart In Diamond has changed the diamond industry and has made diamonds really worth something valuable. – Kenneth, Nikki and our furry son, Orchid, USA, Heart In Diamond Client” 

When we lose a loved one the financial burden is often one of the most psychological draining and unexpected parts of the bereavement process. When speaking to David Miller, Heart In Diamond’s content director I found out that the mounting costs of burials is one of many reasons people are seeking their services. “Cremation is cheaper than a burial, sometimes up to 70% less (we actually wrote an article on this). Cremation enables you to make memorialization objects such as cremation diamonds. If you don’t burry the cremated ashes, cremation also saves land.”

The environmental benefits of cremation jewellery doesn’t stop there. “The diamonds are absolutely conflict free because they are directly sent to us, no mines are involved”

“Step 1: After we have received the sample, it undergoes the process of analysis. The purpose of the analysis is to define the chemical composition and extract the perfect amount of carbon out of the material. Our laboratory specialists need about 3.5 oz of ashes or 0.07 oz of hair.

Step 2: the carbon is added to the diamond growing foundation, out of which a unique crystalline matrix will grow creating a personal diamond.

Step 3: The mixture is placed in the core of the HPHT where diamond-growing conditions from the earth’s crust are simulated with temperatures of over 2000

Step 4: Raw diamond will be polished and cut according to client’s specifications

About our personal service: if you live in one of the regions we have a representative in, we can come to your house to take your order and help decide. We hand deliver the memorial diamonds to you”

For those who feel ready, memorial jewellery can be a wonderful way to feel close to a loved one again. At such a difficult time anything at all that brings a measure of comfort is highly valuable.

Clothes and accessories have many powers beyond their aesthetic appeal. They can make a statement, reveal something about your identity and as we’ve seen with memorial jewellery, they can also provide comfort and a sense of peace, some shelter from the powerful negative emotions that can surround the death of someone we were close to.

To find out more about memorial jewellery and Heart In Diamond visit their website here.

For bereavement support contact Cruse Bereavement Care here. 

This post forms part of a sponsored collaboration between Fashion Psychology and Heart in Diamond

⁠I was delighted to speak to The Guardian about the increased interest in tennis-inspired outfits this summer. ⁠⠀
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“The fact that Wimbledon has been cancelled may, paradoxically, have fuelled the trend. With the pandemic causing many aspects of ordinary life to be put on hold, the idea of dressing vicariously, whether for Glastonbury or Centre Court, has seen the sartorial principle of wearing your Worthy Farm finest to sit at home and muddle through.⁠⠀
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Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell thinks this idea of dressing for the occasions may be an attempt to regain control at a time when we have little power. “There is that collective desire to get back to our normal lives given this feeling that we’re missing out on so many things… ‘I can’t go but I can still look the part’.”⁠⠀
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Click here to read the article in full and scroll down to check out my Wimbledon inspired looks. 

Dress: American Apparel, Shirt: Zara, Sunglasses: Asos

On 25th May 2020, George Floyd was added to the heartbreakingly long list of names of Black people who have been murdered due to the colour of their skin. You can see these names emblazoned on the news and across social media hashtags and yet, for  many Black people like me, these names read like the stories we were told growing up – the story of our unending suffering. To say that Black people live in fear is not hyperbole. When the people whose job it is to protect you, murder you enmass – how can you not be afraid?

In an effort to minimize the impact of institutional racism on global police forces, I’ve seen a few people cite one of psychology’s most controversial studies – the Stanford prison experiment. In the study led by Philip George Zimbardo, participants were placed in a prison-like setting and given uniforms that gave them the role of either a prisoner or guard. In just 6 days, these seemingly normal men abused their power as guards and the study turned into a lesson that, if given the chance and if placed in the right situation, anyone can be corrupted. If only it were that simple. 

Analyzing [police corruption] as a product of race-blind situational forces erases its deep roots in racial oppression. – Ben Blum

Replications of the study instead proved that our behaviours  largely conform to our preconceived notions. Sadly, these notions have been shaped by: school systems that jump to expel black students, white-washed media, news stories that frame Black people as thugs, jobs that fail to give Black people wage parity, fashion houses that use racist designs as marketing ploys – all of which facilitate corruption by painting the picture that in every sense, Black lives don’t matter. 

Racism and prejudice seep into every area of life and is even one of the reasons why I created this website. ‘Fashion is Psychology’ was born out of my undergraduate thesis which explored how the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin was treated in February 2012. As the news stories and hot-takes came flooding in, I couldn’t shake a comment from American Talk Show Host Geraldo RiveraI think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as much as George Zimmerman was”. While it’s true that clothing style and race are integral to impression formation, as we’ve learnt from Zimbardo’s study, awful acts are neither situational or clothing dependent. 

56 Black Men Campaign by Cephas Williams

Trayvon’s hoodie became the symbol of #BlackLivesMatter and sparked movements from the Million Hoodie March in New York in 2012 and the 56 Black Men campaign in the UK by entrepreneur Cephas Williams just last year. Both movements shed light on how clothing styles are used as a weapon against Black people, an excuse for White fear, when in reality, racism is so deeply entrenched in the fabric of society it supersedes choice of dress.

Ironically, hoodies are an integral part of the streetwear market which as of 2017 was valued at $309B. Streetwear and the wider Fashion industry at large consistently draw from Black culture, but rarely uplifts Black talent. As BOF highlighted, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing are the only Black creative directors at major brands, and “there are almost no Black CEOs”. Even Abloh himself has recently come under fire, firstly for an initial donation of only $50 to the Black Lives Matter movement (Abloh is currently worth an estimated $4M) and then for his largely White staff – proving that the success of a few Black people is not enough to eradicate Fashion’s race problem. The situation in front of the camera is getting slightly better with some studies showing that the number of BAME people featured in marketing campaigns has increased in recent years. However, as my own research has pointed out, considering the strength of the Brown Pound and the fact that Black consumers are willing to pay more for products advertised by Black models, it’s shocking that representation is still a topic of discussion. 

So where do we go from here?

Illustration by Sacrée Frangine

Fashion has a duty to support Black people

A value of a brand is no longer dictated by the clothes they design. Consumers need to know where a brand stands on various socio-political issues. They not only need to show support they need to embody the ideals they’re espousing in their Instagram posts. The recent actions of fast-fashion brand Pretty Little Thing is a great example of how the tides of change are dissolving Fashion’s old “thoughts and prayers” approach to activism. In the wake of Floyd’s death, influencer Jackie Aina called out Pretty Little Thing (among others) for capitalising on Black culture via their aesthetic but staying silent in the face of Black suffering. Their initial response of posting an illustration of a black (literally black) hand holding a White one was met with a wave of criticism. The brand have since teamed up with recording artist Saweetie to create a line where all of the proceeds go to the Black Lives Matter organisation. 

Donating is one thing but more needs to be done. The industry has a duty to use its privilege to hire more Black talent, to place more Black people in senior positions, to amplify Black voices and to invest in more Black businesses.

Psychology has a duty to support Black people

As highlighted by researchers Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan (2010), “individuals from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD societies) make up the bulk of samples in psychological research. This is problematic because it skews generalizations about human behavior overall since although 80 percent of research participants are from WEIRD societies, people from these societies represent just 12 percent of the world’s population.” 

Education has been hailed as the first line of defence against racism but if the literature is already skewed and Black voices are silenced, how much can we really learn? Studies investigating racism in particular can fall short when it doesn’t include Black researchers to provide the nuance needed to produce the robust results demanded of the field. The Psychology workforce is also overwhelmingly White. From Black academics to Black therapists, more targeted support is required to even the playing fields.

I wish I could say that fear of the police and institutionalised racism was the only fear Black people have. There’s also the fear that you’ll have to always work 10 times harder than your White counterparts to achieve an equal level of success. The fear that the way you act will be a reflection of your entire race when you find yourself (yet again) being the only Black person at school or work. Then there’s the fear of having to continually explain your existence and why your life matters. It’s troubling to know that it took so many lives to be lost for us to see real change but change is coming and it’s time for everyone to get on board. 

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Header image: Sébastien Thibault