by Emma Kidd, Glasgow Caledonian University
Findings from the Fashion Detox Challenge have revealed that shoppers often amass new clothes to cope with stress and anxiety. The findings come from ‘detox diaries’ completed by shoppers from Scotland, England, the US, Canada, and Australia. Frequent shoppers pledged to take a 10-week break from buying new clothes and to record their thoughts and feelings, as part of a sustainability study, supported by Glasgow Caledonian University. Many admitted being trapped in a cycle of constant buying and feeling emotionally vulnerable.
Participants reported feeling as if they had “nothing to wear”despite having wardrobes overflowing with clothes. Individuals from the study said they often used shopping to alleviate negative feelings, including a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and a fear of social judgement.
The Fashion Detox Challenge was created in a bid to address overconsumption and reduce clothing waste. The most striking thing about the research was how little the physical clothing items had to do with the act of consumption. People are hooked into patterns of overconsumption but the hook is often a fear of missing out or a fear of being unhappy or uncomfortable.
It’s clear that amassing new clothes does not bring lasting happiness and satisfaction, so we need to sell the benefits of buying less.
The research also showed citizens are constantly provoked by year-round sales, time-pressured discounts, pay-later schemes, and aggressive digital marketing. These all carry an underlying message that the clothes you own will never be enough.
If we are serious about reducing the pace of clothing consumption, marketing like that needs to be confronted and addressed.
More attention must also be given to the non-material fundamental human needs which consumers are neglecting. Viewed from this angle, sustainability is not an environmental problem, it is a human problem.
New edition of the Fashion Detox Challenge starts on November 1st 2021!
Artwork by Helga Khorimarko on Shutterstock