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With over 50% of UK adults owning a pet, there is no doubt we are a nation of animal lovers. Why is it, then, that a certain number of us willingly wear clothing made from animal fur and exotic leather? Fur has a long history in fashion, from its function in the earliest hunter-gatherer communities to the status it has gathered over the last 100 years. 

However, the 20th Century conservation laws protecting animals triggered a change in peoples’ perceptions of fur garments. The ‘Dumb Animals’ campaign launched by Lynx, showcased blood-covered coats referencing the animals sacrificed for fashion and with that, the modern anti-fur movement was born. 

The fashion industry at odds

The real fur debate has split high fashion into two camps, with big names on both sides. Heritage brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton present fur on the runway each season, while Gen-Z favourite Gucci went fur-free in 2017. Individual consumers also have varying views about the ethics of wearing fur, and because opposing groups exist in society, fur consumption is classed as a controversy. People who are pro-fur argue that wearing it is a personal choice, while those against fur feel the use of animal skins for luxury is unnecessary and immoral. So, how can psychology help to explain these differences in opinion?

Psychology’s role in the faux fur movement  

Studies show that ‘fashion leaders’ are more open to using exotic leather for clothing than ‘fashion followers’. Fashion leaders tend to prioritise individuality over political correctness, so admit to liking leather apparel despite how they might be perceived. On the other hand, teenagers who worry about how their peers see them have negative feelings about fur consumption, compared to those who are more independent. So, it seems those who subscribe to social conventions and uphold shared morals are more likely to oppose wearing fur and exotic leather. 

The messages we interact with can also impact our beliefs on this issue. Psychologists asked fashion consumers to either read positive information describing fur as fashionable, or negative information emphasising furs association with animal-rights issues. Those who read the pro-fur message displayed more positive beliefs about fur clothing, while those who read the anti-fur message reported more negative beliefs. These attitudes had a direct effect on how likely individuals were to want to buy real fur in the future.

It may seem obvious that our beliefs are shaped by what we read and watch: consuming animal welfare advertising may naturally make you inclined to oppose the use of real fur or leather. However, it is interesting that fashion itself can potentially improve how people perceive animal fur. We already know that those at the forefront of fashion generally hold positive beliefs about exotic skins. 

So, high fashion involvement consumers possibly reinforce their beliefs by regularly engaging with fashion media promoting fur, leading them to consume it. Yet as modern fashion consumers become progressively more conscious of ethics, it could be that we see a shift towards anti-fur beliefs and a decrease in demand from those with high buying power. 

But what are the implications of all this?

The Fashion industry

The main takeaway is the power brands have to influence their consumers with the messages they spread. Pro and anti-fur brands alike can harness this to align their customers’ beliefs with their own to increase the desire for real or faux fur

Animal-welfare organisations

Emphasising the social implications of consuming fur and exotic leather may make shoppers more conscious of how their purchases are perceived, and so more likely to go faux. 

Consumers

It is important to be aware of the information we read. Engaging with both sides of the debate means we can recognise our own feelings on this issue – without influence from the industry or our peers – and make purchases that reflect our true values. 

I really enjoyed speaking with Madeleine Cuff for i about the devotion young people have to slow fashion, as a commitment to bettering the environment and as an identity source. 

“Because of the pandemic, people are “thinking more about what they own, what they buy, and why they are buying it.”

“Millennials and Gen Z are incredibly socially conscious. They have been thinking a lot more about how they can personally make their own positive impact.”

“Young people use their clothes as a way to showcase their identity… Second-hand clothing is really a way to stamp your mark.”

 

Click here for the full article. 

Photo from: inews.co.uk 

Sustainability is an undeniable buzz-word in the fashion industry as the world has become more aware of the declining state of the environment and the role fashion plays. Exciting ideas and innovation continue to grow and characterise this phase in fashion’s history.

Pre-loved shopping and clothing rentals have been hailed as an important part of the solution to bringing fashion into a greener future. While second-hand clothing is no new concept, the variety of platforms that are now available to us and the growing popularity of renting clothing means we have more choice than ever when it comes to participating in the sharing economy. Studies examining our motivations behind our participation in the pre-loved market are now beginning to emerge. We have more insight than ever into why we actually use these platforms and how to better our consumption patterns. 

Based on the findings of Ek Styvén and Mariani 2020, here is a breakdown of our interactions with pre-loved clothing and rental platforms. 

 

Money makes the world go round

It may come as no surprise that the number one motivation to participate in the online pre-loved market was economic. Buying pre-loved and renting usually results in better deals than buying new and selling and renting provides another stream of income. 

Fashion is trend-driven and, for the most part, operates on a seasonal basis, meaning we are constantly exposed to new styles and an ever-evolving idea of what’s “cool”. Selling or renting your clothing is a great way to alleviate the consequences of over-buying, be it through reducing an overstuffed wardrobe or replenishing a slightly drained bank account. Selling means that someone who wants the item can secure it for a lower price and prevents the item from going to waste. Similarly, with renting, you increase the garment usage and ensure it is enjoyed to its full potential. 

Being able to buy clothing for cheaper or renting clothing also makes the trend-driven nature of fashion more accessible to the average consumer as the cost or participating in these trends is reduced, for example, if you’ve wanted to get on the “bright green” bandwagon you could either rent it from someone to see if you actually like it or buy it for half the price. 

Who are we buying from? 

Success on preloved platforms may also be determined by the community aspect many are rooted in. The study found that the success rate of second-hand transactions depends on the way the seller or lender presents themselves. For example, asserting environmental motivations found more success than those who expressed their participation in the pre-loved market as being purely for economic gain. Therefore, the close interaction between members on these apps and websites allows for rapport to be built and an understanding of the person you are buying or selling to. 

A reason why ByRotation fosters more personal interactions between those renting and borrowing on the app, removing the faceless and detached shopping style we are used to. The profiles are highly individualised with each user having a short biography about their interests, style, favourite brands, etc. The renting process is conducted over a chat-style system that encourages those lending and borrowing to have a conversation rather than a more transactional interaction. 

Taking care of our planet

Attitudes towards buying pre-loved are also affected by the sustainability aspect of participating in these platforms. Being conscious of sustainability increases people’s tendency to distance themselves from the consumption system, instead of finding other ways to get their fashion fix. Ek Styvén and Mariani found that awareness of environmental impact increases the likelihood of buying and renting second-hand. 

Playing up the environmental impact of your participation is a tried and true marketing strategy for many resale websites. For example, TheRealReal, who use this to their advantage by altering buyers to the kilograms of carbon saved by their potential purchase as well as the litres of water saved. Putting a numerical value on the transaction’s impact on the environment is a great way of reminding customers of the environmental benefits and keeping the business’s sustainability aspect at the forefront of the sale. 

Therefore, we could expect to see the continued growth of such platforms as the protection of the environment remains of central importance, and our exposure to the crisis increases. The more we know the more likely we are to seek alternatives to our more harmful consumption habits. 

Interestingly, the study found that this is a two-way street: Awareness of sustainability increases positive attitudes towards second-hand fashion. However, participation in fashion’s sharing economy can also increase the perceived importance of sustainability aspects, suggesting that in buying pre-loved, we become more aware of fashion’s environmental impact. 

How can we take part? 

If I learned anything from this study, it’s that simply getting involved is the first step, whatever your motivations might be. If you’re looking to dip your toes in fashion’s answer to the sharing economy or are simply looking for more platforms to add to your list. Here are a few of my personal suggestions:

ByRotation 

Branded as “The social Fashion Rental app”, ByRotation has created a community of users looking to share their wardrobes. The app operates on a peer-to-peer basis where you create a profile and upload your items ready for lending. The app has a beautiful selection of clothing from the wardrobes of real people with different styles and of all sizes. With the motto “What’s mine is yours”, ByRotation is taking sharing clothes with your girlfriend’s to the next level.

Vestiaire Collective 

Vestaire provides a whole range of choices when it comes to what you’re looking for. The e-commerce website specialises in luxury goods, but you can find many brands from fast fashion to designer as it is a peer-to-peer marketplace. Additionally, Vestiaire provides an authentication service to minimise the risk of inauthentic goods being sold. It’s also simple to use and even takes care of shipping for you, so all you have to do is print the labels!

Depop 

Depop is a social fashion marketplace operating much like any social media platform, where you can make a profile, see what others like, buy and sell. You can find anything from vintage clothes to luxury brands. 

With the change in seasons approaching and the added stresses of the new lives we all seem to be living amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping is likely to become an outlet for many but buyers need to beware.

While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a few new pieces every season, the lure of new collections combined with increased discounts makes it all-too-easy to become carried away and that is where Fashion Psychology steps in.

Here are five tips to help you make the most of your money by shopping mindfully.

Tip 1: Ask yourself, ‘why am I shopping?’

Shopping can be motivated by boredom or habit, as much as necessity. Before pressing ‘purchase’ ask yourself why you’re looking for new clothes; is it to fulfill a gap in your wardrobe, or rather as a way to find contentment or purpose in your day. Although retail therapy can have some therapeutic benefits (Atalay & Meloy, 2011) a much more effective and fulfilling way to boost your mood and banish boredom is by seeking human contact or engaging in other restorative activities (Frank, 2004).

Tip 2: Think about what you are choosing

It’s tempting to opt for the most extravagant, or socially desirable option when shopping. While it’s quite natural for humans to want to strive for the best and assure social acceptance (e.g. De Wall & Bushman, 2011), it is easy to get carried away and sometimes, spend above our means. That’s why it’s important for us to not only consider why we are shopping but also what we are choosing.

There is a distinction between satisfying our needs and reaching beyond them. On occasion, if we can afford it, it is rewarding to splurge on something a little more special, but on a daily basis, it isn’t always the best option. An immediate sense of excitement will undoubtedly be apparent after making a luxury purchase, but in the long-run, these decisions have a greater propensity to lead to greater regret (Iyengar, Wells & Schwartz, 2006).

Tip 3: Give shopping your full attention

Equally, do ever find yourself making unnecessary purchases, just because they’re a bargain? I’m sure most of us can find at least one item of clothing that lies latent in the corner of our wardrobes with the tags still on.

When faced with a sale, try to ask yourself ‘would I pay full price for this item?’ and if the answer is no, then the chances are that you don’t need it. It’s also important to consider the price vs quality balance of garments. Super cheap items are unlikely to stand the test of time, so you’ll find yourself in a repetitive cycle of repurchasing. Without spending above your means, think about investing in key pieces for your wardrobe; these will last years, produce less waste and save you money in the long-term.

Tip 4: Plan your shopping

Before you embark on a shopping spree, try to assess your wardrobe and even plan some outfits with the items you own. Mix up your looks from previous years by layering different items and pairing pieces that you might not have thought to before.

When you have identified the gaps, doing something as simple as writing a list can help to prevent your shopping habits from going haywire. Having something concrete to follow will help you feel more in control, even if your emotions might suggest otherwise. However, try not to be too specific. By giving yourself an element of choice, it can help you feel good about yourself and make the shopping experience more enjoyable overall (Garg & Lerner, 2013).

Tip 5: Think about where you are shopping

Unfortunately, the fashion industry is still riddled with exploitation. Garment workers face fatal consequences to their mental and physical health as a result of the conditions they work in every day. Being mindful of who you are giving your money and service will not only encourage ethical and sustainable working conditions and practices but will also support independent businesses that are likely to be suffering as a result of the pandemic’s economic downturn.

Do you have any more tips for shopping mindfully? Let us know in the comments below.

I was thrilled to share my insights with the German publication Augsburg Allgemeine on how our relationship with style is impacted by COVID-19. Including the shift towards feel-good fashion, fashionable escapism and the role of sustainability. 

“The relationship we have with our clothing has changed the most as a result of the Corona crisis.” 

“Fashion escapism is making itself felt on social media platforms like the TikTok”, noted Shakaila Forbes-Bell. “Fashion can be used as a tool to escape daily routines that are constrained by Covid.”

Find the full article here

I’ve studied and worked in the fashion industry for years. Yet it was only a few years ago when I started delving into the topic of sustainable fashion, that I really began to uncover how the industry uses (or abuses) water.

It was disappointing and frustrating (to say the least) to learn that the daily act of getting dressed in the morning, or putting on a load of washing was contributing to the destruction of our waterways. This was something I never really used to consider, and I know I am not the only one. But it was something that hit ‘close to home’.

I grew up on the east coast of Australia, so I was fortunate enough to live only a short walk or drive away from a beach or waterfront, and I never had to worry about access to clean, drinkable water. However, I also grew up with an awareness of the scarcity of water, particularly the precarious relationship Australia has with it. I saw firsthand the devastating effects of droughts and floods, and I became conditioned to shorter showers as water restrictions were the norm.

So, after learning that our clothing habits were having such a devastating impact on this precious resource, it was comforting to learn that even as citizens there are changes we can make –  and now – that will bring about change.

But knowledge is power. Therefore we need to educate ourselves about the “bigger picture”, and only then can we positively inform how we think about and engage with fashion.

We are all part of the fashion supply chain, and it is important to remember that while our individual actions may seem insignificant, they are still needed in order to bring about change.

Water

Why is water so important?

Firstly, water is a basic human right. Yet according to the United Nations, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation. The impact of this type of water stress is devastating, with people being forced to drink from contaminated sources, increasing the risk of infection and disease, and resulting in unnecessary death.

Secondly, oceans. Covering 3/4 of our planet, oceans not only provide us with food, energy and water, but they absorb 30% of the carbon dioxide that we produce, mitigating the effects of climate change.

This brings me to my third point, climate change. We should all be aware by now that the world is facing a climate crisis. In the context of the world’s water sources, if temperatures continue to rise, this puts us at risk of rising sea levels, greater flooding and droughts, increased water scarcity, pollution – the list goes on. This will gravely impact people’s quality of life, and potentially result in the displacement of large populations from land that is no longer habitable.

Given all of this, you would think water would be a pretty high priority for the fashion industry. But, unfortunately it often isn’t.

Water + Fashion

We all need water. We all wear clothes. These are basic human needs (thank you Maslow). Yet in the race for faster, trendier, and cheaper fashion, consideration for our waterways and oceans usually comes runner up. We see this at every step of the process.

Water Consumption:

The fashion industry relies heavily on water, with the growing and production of fibres being the greatest consumer.  You only have to go so far as cotton for an example.

It takes as much as 20,000 liters of water to produce a single kilo of cotton, or approximately 2,700 litres to make 1 cotton t-shirt. Now consider multiplying that by the 21% share of the global fibre use for apparel and textiles that cotton controls (cotton is second most used apparel fibre). 

In addition to this, it is worth acknowledging that 57% of the world’s cotton production occurs in areas that are already under high or extreme water stress, with only 30% coming from rain-fed farming. 

The Aral Sea (or sadly, what is left of it) in central Asia, which was once the world’s fourth largest lake, is a devastating reminder of the effects of water stress on land, biodiversity, and communities.

Water Pollution:

You may have read that in some places you can tell the colour trend for the season from the colour of the rivers. You might have thought this was a myth or exaggeration, but there is some element of truth to this (check out the documentary River Blue).

This is not surprising when run off from wet processing (for example, dyeing, printing) is often left to pollute waterways, and eventually enter our oceans. This is not only harmful to marine life, but also to the health of those who work in the industry and those who live nearby.

The Citarum River in Indonesia is a clear example of the devastating effects of water pollution from the fashion and textiles industry. Every day the river is used as a dumping ground for industrial waste, domestic rubbish, and chemical fertilisers, by the factories and properties lining its borders. There is no proper waste management system, and little or no regulation. However, residents remain reliant on the polluted water for drinking, bathing, crop irrigation and washing clothes.

Microplastics:

If you take a look down at what you are wearing, it’s likely that something you are wearing contains a synthetic fibre. 65% of our clothing is made from these synthetic fibres, the most common being polyester. This is bad news when it comes to our oceans.

Have you heard of micro-plastics? Well synthetic textiles are contributing to 35% of global micro-plastic pollution. 

In the same way that threads come away from our clothing, leaving lint in our dryers, synthetic clothing sheds synthetic fibres (or plastic) during both the wash and wear phases. However, unlike our dryer lint, these fibres are so small, no ordinary washing machine filter is able to catch them. Neither are wastewater plants, so they head straight out to rivers, lakes and oceans, and are ingested by marine life (and if we eat seafood, possibly us).

Water + Fashion + You and I

As we have discovered, everything on our planet is connected. But the idea of being able to make a positive difference may seem overwhelming. We are all part of the fashion supply chain, and it is important to remember that while our individual actions may seem insignificant, they are still needed in order to bring about change.

Here are some impactful changes we can introduce now to the we way we think and engage with our clothing that will go a long way in reducing our impact.

  • Undoubtedly, the most powerful thing we can do is work on the relationship we have with the clothes already hanging in our wardrobes. The most sustainable item after all, is the one we already own. We have the collective potential to slow things right down if we just remember why we loved them in the first place, what memories we share or new ones we can forge, or how we can accessories or try new outfit combinations (who knows what we can come up with).
  • If and when we do go shopping, we must consider what’s on the inside. When it come to fibres knowing which are best, and which ones to choose can be tough. Synthetic fibres (including those that are recycled) shed microfibres, and some natural fibres consume tons of water (literally). Therefore, try choosing organic, or lower water consuming fibres such as linen (my personal favourite), as they work with nature, rather than against it.
  • We can work on our laundering skills. Firstly, we do it too often (a simple spot clean will often do). We should also try opting for a lower temperature, shorter cycle, and maybe even investing in a mesh laundry bag (Guppyfriend).
  • We can use our voices (spoken or written). If something doesn’t align with our values, why not question it and demand answers. If we are finding it hard to recycle our unwanted clothing and textiles in our area, contact the local council. Or if we are unable to find out about a brands supply chain, write an email to a brand, or jump on social media.

As environmental concern reaches new heights, sustainable fashion is gaining traction, populating online, high-street and runway collections alike. But the psychology behind a consumer’s choice to buy Green may not be as altruistic as it appears. Do we really buy sustainable fashion for the sake of the environment, or are ‘conscious’ purchases for our own conscious benefit?

The fashion industry is distressingly damaging to our environment. It accounted for 2-10% of the EU’s environmental impact, 79 billion cubic metres of water, 1,715 million tons of CO2 emissions and 92 million tons of waste in 2015 (source). Once discarded, more than 50% of all clothing was found to end up in landfills or incinerators, and of the clothes collected in, less than 1% of the materials were recycled back into new clothes. Last year alone Burberry burnt £28.6 million of unsold clothing and cosmetics (source). As information around Fashion’s impact becomes more readily accessible and transparent, it comes to no surprise that calls for sustainable and environmentally conscious fashion production have emerged. However, the motivations behind choosing sustainable fashion aren’t cut and dry. There are a number of social and individual factors that drive environmentally conscious behaviour, and they do not always place the environment as the sole beneficiary.  Is it the environment, or actually personal gain, which motivates the purchasing of sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is more than just charity shop bargain hunting. It has evolved to focus on the ecological impact of the fashion industry as a whole; promoting the reuse of materials, creating timeless designs over on-trend items, reducing chemical waste and promoting the wellbeing of employees at all stages of production. Unfortunately, due care in a product’s life-cycle comes at a higher premium, which is placed upon the consumers. 

Reason 1: Selflessness

While benefiting the environment, choosing to buy ‘conscious’ collections (see H&M) comes at a financial cost. Our awareness and contentedness of this follows the environmental concern perspective (Bamberg 2003) where people engage with green behaviours because they inherently care about the wellbeing of the planet above their individual gain. An equivalent piece of clothing may exist for a lower price (visit Primark if you require an eye-opener) but deciding to purchase items from more responsible beginnings demonstrates a genuine desire to benefit the environment over personal and financial gain. 

Reason 2: Popularity

So far so selfless. But beyond inherent environmental concern, forwarding green issues and buying sustainable fashion signals to other people that one is prosocial. One can gain a reputation for being environmentally conscious and concerned about the betterment of the whole, and as such appear more cooperative, helpful and more valuable to a social group. 

Reason 3: Power

Popularity begets power. Prosocial individuals, like those who actively support sustainability ‘are desirable to have in positions of power’ and therefore ‘prosocial behaviour may be a viable strategy for attaining status’ (Griskevicius et al, 2010). Self-sacrifice and deferring one’s individual benefit for a collective benefit has been shown to increase the self-sacrificer’s status within a group of strangers (Hardy & Van Vugt, 2006). For those genuinely interested in conserving the environment, such a reputation is merely a bonus. However, for individuals more interested in status, environmentally conscious behaviour could act as a tactic to elevate their social standing. The extent to which someone actually lives sustainably may be capped at what is merely observed by the social group; the value and reputation of being prosocial hinges upon the perception of others, not on what one does away from the public eye. An individual may wax lyrical about only wearing repurposed cotton clothing, but still put their food waste in their recycling bin. 

Reason 4: Moral Identity

However can morality exist independently of ourselves, of our own benefit? It can be widely agreed that buying sustainable clothing is seen as the morally ‘right’ thing to do for the environment. But moral behaviour hinges upon a moral identity : our position on various moral scales concerning a number of ethical issues, including sustainability and conservation. In a meta-analysis, it was found that ‘moral identity strengthens individuals’ readiness to engage in prosocial and ethical behaviour’ (Hertz & Krettenauer, 2016). A strong moral identity can result in a more environmentally conscious and active individual. For shoppers with a firm moral identity or a pervasive consideration of the environment, the question ‘am I a moral person?’ may do more to inform their sustainable fashion decisions than ‘how much does it cost?’. Researchers found that individuals are more likely to experience emotions of guilt and shame when they do not act in accordance to their moral identity. And with growing concern for the environment and the increasing transparency of the fashion industry’s production practices, guilt and shame are accompanying our consumption decisions more and more. Environmentally conscious consumers may therefore act in a way that supports their perceived morality, by buying sustainable fashion, just to avoid costly emotions; nobody wants to cry over a pair of rip-off Gucci pumps, afterall. Although benefiting the environment, confirming our beliefs on who we consider ourselves to be and avoiding guilt are still acts of self-interest and personal gain. 

Reason 5: It’s Fashionable

For those whom sustainability isn’t a chief pillar of their moral identity, choosing sustainable clothing can be an inherently selfish act. Buying slow fashion can serve a moral imperative: it supports a more responsible clothing industry, one that does not depend upon speed and constantly changing styles to fuel the market. Slow fashion also offers items with a longer life, of greater value relative to other consumables, and a virtue of remaining ‘in fashion’ beyond trends and seasons . They are investment pieces with tangible pay-offs for the individual alone.

Reason 6: You’re just a good person Goddammit

It is key to recognise that the opportunity to choose sustainable fashion is a privilege for those who can financially afford it. The recent criticism of the Extinction Rebellion to ‘check its privilege’ highlights this principle. One may be environmentally conscious, with a strong moral identity and deep sense of obligation to environmental activism, but financially unable to take a day off work to protest. Yet, for those with less who still commit to sustainable consumption, activism and to embodying the change they want to see, can we plausibly consider them selfish? The constant hold financial strain has over our fiscal and notably our mental health (Selenko & Batinic, 2011; Sweet et al, 2013) may dwarf the benefits of identity validation and status of the economically disenfranchised. And yet there are still those who shoulder these economic and psychological pressures, for the sake of the environment. 

Sustainable fashion can even come at a social cost as well. Fast fashion can enable a sense of belonging within a fashion zeitgeist and wider society, particularly for those with fewer economic freedoms. The opportunity to buy into the demanding global fashion arena, to express oneself and feel a sense of belonging in our cultural climate may be a currency that some people are unwilling to lose. So given not only the costs of sustainable fashion, but the benefits of fast fashion which are passed up, it’s obvious that self-interest cannot be the only motivation for green behaviour.

Indeed, it is clear that the motivations to buy sustainable fashion are not always clear, a melting pot of each individual’s ‘moral’ self and the personal costs and benefits. Ultimately personal gain underpins many of the drivers of green behaviour, but sustainable fashion is not mainstream nor cheap enough to come without financial or mental cost. It is unreasonable to suggest that swerving the easy, cheap, behemoth fast-fashion movement – forgoing the additional disposable income and the ranging social and psychological benefits – is a selfish act. Without an inherent desire to benefit the environment, sustainable fashion wouldn’t be a consideration.