Vol. 7 No. 4 Februari 2021
SLOW POKE: “GIVE YOUR FASHION A REST”
Astrid Gisela Herabadi
Fakultas Psikologi, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya
Let us begin by pondering on a couple of questions:
“Do you think any woman would be willing to wear the same clothes for 100 days?”
“Do you think any proud parents will buy clothes only once for their baby in 30 months?”
I believe you would say: “That is utter nonsense, how could anyone do such a thing?”
Before we try to answer the questions, let us look back at the meaning of clothes for people over the course of time. Throughout human history, the invention of clothes has evolved from sheer necessity of protecting one’s body, into a huge industry of fashion. People no longer only chose clothes that is practical and comfortable to wear; but also to establish one’s place in the society (Johnson, Lennon, & Rudd, 2014).
This immense demand for fashion has become a multi-facets phenomenon, and attracted the interest of researchers from many disciplines, such as economics, sociology, anthropology, and of course, psychology. From the perspective of psychology, the nature of how fashion is related to human behaviour is also intriguing. Apparently, fashion has a paradox nature, it gives an opportunity for individuals to be different; establishing their own signature panache; yet it allows people to conform to the “fashionable” crowd (Tajfel and Turner, 2004). Hence, it is not surprising that fashion is amongst the most marketable search goods.
A particular area of fashion market has developed rapidly in Indonesia; the “fast-fashion” apparels. It focuses on low production costs and changing trends, therefore, the production of clothes is carried out quickly with low durability quality (Ng, 2020). It is the dawn of more accessible and affordable fashion, the number of garments bought by the average shopper each year grew by 60% between 2000 and 2014 alone (YouGov, 2017). The growth of the textile and apparel industry was the highest recorded at 18.98 percent in the first quarter of 2019, that number rose significantly compared to the previous year (Ng, 2020).
It may seem as a positive economic indicator, but when we look beyond it, the impact is vast damage to the environment, and the costs are staggering. Fashion industry consumes a large amount of water, and in the process also generate hazardous chemical pollution, it has become the second largest polluter in the world (Ng, 2020). So far, fashion industry depends on demand for new ideas and products which allow individuals to perceive themselves as socially or economically superior (Mair, 2021). Fast-fashion droves people to buy more than they need; when they get bored, they just throw away still wearable clothes to be replaced by the more fashionable ones; and leaves a long trail of waste.
The Covid-19 pandemic creates a disruption to this situation, it put a halt on how often people shop for clothes. This unusual time obliges people to recognize the interconnections between health, economy, environment and human well-being (Hasbullah, Sulaiman, & Mas’od, 2020). By working mostly remotely online, the need to shop regularly for clothes is decreasing, because there is only limited audience available to show-off your “persona” through fashion. Moreover, with the malls and stores closing, clothes shopping experience is also out of the picture. And with that, also gone the excitement of going through racks over racks of new clothes hanging; rushing with tons of clothes to the fitting room; checking yourself in the mirror; and convincing yourself that you “need” that clothes, when you actually only “want” it.
This break, actually provides a window of opportunity for slow-fashion to manifest and grow into a habit of sustainable fashion consumption. In order to compete with fast fashion trends, customer should be indulged to the idea of playing their roles in treating fashion items as an asset by purchasing less clothing. Psychologists as professionals can actually play their part in developing creative campaigns to “nudge” people to consume less fast fashion clothes. Thaler and Sunstein (2008) introduced the concept of nudging, which is basically any aspects of providing non-economic incentives; giving feedback or structure; and offering user-friendly defaults; to alter people's behaviour in a predictable way voluntarily.
Proofs of successful nudging are provided in the answers to the questions that is pose in the beginning of this article. Sarah, in Boston, USA, joined the 100 Day Dress Challenge to live without fast fashion. The experience made her realised that she only needs one single dress to fit every occasion. A fabric’s inventor, Ryan Mario Yasin, in UK, has won the James Dyson Award, for his line of children's clothing, called Petit Pli (French for “little folds”), which already attracted some loyal customers. The special thing is that each outfit can clothe a child from six months of age all the way to three years old.
Those accomplishments give a glimmer of hope that by creating the right nudge, together we can put a stop on the fast-fashion era, and create a new age; the slower version of “being fashionable” and consequently creating a more sustainable way of expressing ourselves.
Hasbullah, N. N., Sulaiman, Z., & Mas’od, A. (2020). The Effect of Perceived Value on Sustainable Fashion Consumption in the Era of Covid-19: A Proposed Conceptual Framework. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences. 10(8), 895-906.
Johnson, K., Lennon, S.J., & Rudd, N. (2014). Dress, body and self: research in the social psychology of dress. Fashion and Textiles, 1(20), 2-24.
Mair, C. (2018). The Psychology of Fashion. Routledge.
Ng, W. (11 November 2020). Effect of Fast Fashion. https://www.kompasiana.com/wennyng6311/5fabdd9a8ede4865cb0ecc22/effect-of-fast-fashion
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (2004). The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior. In J. T. Jost & J. Sidanius (Eds.), Key readings in social psychology. Political psychology: Key readings (p. 276–293). Psychology Press.
Thaler, R.H. and Sunstein, C.R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.Yale University Press.
YouGov. Fast fashion: 3 in 10 Indonesians have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. https://id.yougov.com/en-id/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/