Could slow fashion make us happier? New study aims to find out

Could slow fashion make us happier? Academics at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are aiming to find out if choosing clothes with an emphasis on quality, design and sustainability make buyers feel better.

Psychologists Lis Ku, designer Emily Baines and An Liu have already found positive correlations between people’s wellbeing and slow fashion in a study of more than 700 consumers in China.

INSET slow fashion

Now they are launching a study in the UK to see if the behaviours are mirrored by Western shoppers.

“There have been lots of studies which look at the consumption of fashion, but there are few which include the psychological aspect,” explained Dr Ku, who is a lecturer in psychology at DMU.

“Fast fashion is extremely wasteful from an ecological point of view, and psychologically speaking consistently trying to keep up with trends can be a problem. People can feel they have to have the latest look, maintain an image and this can be exhausting.

“We cannot claim buying slow fashion makes you happier from the study of Chinese consumers, but the data does show the positive relationship between happiness and those who consume slow fashion. I believe the pattern will replicate in the UK.”

The China study asked consumers about the kinds of fashion bought, what they looked for in clothing as well as measures of wellbeing such as engagement, meaning and achievement.

It also highlighted that people who were involved in the design process, either by helping to create the pieces, or through hands-on workshops, were more likely to be attached to an item of clothing.

Results showed that consumption of slow fashion positively linked to wellbeing, while the opposite was found for fast fashion buyers.   

Dr Ku added: “What is particularly noteworthy is that high-end fashion, such as international luxury brands and high quality local brands did not significantly predict any of the well-being indicators.

“Instead, our findings suggest that fashion items that consumers typically spend a lot of money on do not necessarily make them happier, nor do they contribute to consumers’ senses of achievement, meaning and engagement.

“This is particularly the case when we consider the negative relationship that we found between fast fashion and well-being, which corroborates previous findings on compulsive buying.”

The fashion business faces huge environmental challenges. Fast fashions see producers create new collections for market every month, selling cheap and creating a throwaway culture. A study by environmental charity WRAP found 45% of people bought new clothes at least once a month and one in eight did so every week.

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Posted on Wednesday 10 May 2023

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