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Shakaila Forbes-Bell

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I was thrilled to speak with Today about Uggs’ rise in popularity. 

“The pandemic has caused a shift in the way we look at clothing from ‘How does this look?’ to ‘How does this make me feel?’ So it’s understandable why people have turned to comfortable shoes like Uggs to help them navigate the difficulties of the current climate.” 

“The ‘good old days’ and the associated fashion trends bring a sense of comfort due to their predictability and the positive emotional response that occurs every time we engage in nostalgic thinking. So when old trends are repackaged as something new (such as new colorways and variations), consumers are essentially getting a psychological rush on two fronts.”

Click here to read the article in full.

Photo from today.com

Join the conversation with Kelsey Stewart and myself as we discuss the link between beauty routines and mental health. 

“Depression and anxiety are often worsened when people feel they’ve lost a sense of control. Studies show that ritualistic processes like applying makeup can help people cope with these negative emotions, mainly because you have complete control over the process and the outcome.” 

“Applying makeup provides a much-needed break from that negative cycle as the process forces you to disengage from those thoughts and be present in the moment.”

Click here to read the piece in full. 

I caught up with Jo Munro about how COVID-19 has changed the way we dress, based on insights from Afterpay’s Bi-Annual Global Trends Report. 

“Never before in our lifetime, have we experienced something that has shaped behaviour across the globe in near-identical fashion. Across the world and in Australia, we embraced comfortable loungewear and athleisure. Although we’re craving the psychological impact of ‘comfort-dressing’ and we can see this trend continuing according to the Global Trends Report with Aussies shopping for sneakers, slides and sandals over other styles such as stilettos, fashion’s relaxed mood won’t last forever. Human’s crave novelty, so it’s expected that we’ll see a departure from head-to-toe athleisure. Mixing staples with more formal looks are expected to grow in popularity with outfits such as blazers paired with sweatpants and hoodies and so forth.”

“The top colours being shopped are blue and orange. Light and cool colours like blue are typically associated with calmness, relaxation and peace people want to tap into these colours as a source of comfort to de-stress. Warm colours like orange are often associated with excitement, stimulation and fun, tapping into these colours can provide an emotional lift.”

Read the article in full by clicking here

I was delighted to speak with Shift London to discuss why brown became the colour for everyone.⁠

“Fashion psychologist and founder of Fashion is Psychology, Shakaila Forbes-Bell says that your colour choice can have an effect on your mood. “Brown often contains long wavelength colours like red and yellow, it can serve to heighten the senses and evoke feelings of warmth”.

“As humans, we tend to mimic our surroundings as a way of adapting. The popularity of the colour brown could be our way of adapting to the fall season and becoming more grounded in our environment.”

Catch the complete article here

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.