wearing unethical clothing now makes consumers feel guilty

It is well known today that the impact of the fashion industry on the environment is significantly harmful. In particular, it has been shown that it takes the equivalent of 285 showers to produce one pair of jeans. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from the fashion industry will reach 2.7 billion tons, or the equivalent of 230 million cars driven a year.

In recent decades, the growth of the fashion industry, with an emphasis on profitability, has led to an increased desire for low cost, flexibility in design and quality, and speed to market on behalf of retailers, making the problem has gotten even bigger.

The fast fashion, a movement based on overproduction and ultra-fast renewal of collections (up to 50 different collections per year, or almost one different collection per week) is therefore often distinguished for its environmental and social impact. This one fast fashion requires a reduction in production costs and a production speed that sometimes leads to drama. On April 23, 2013, a garment factory worn by Westerners in Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza collapsed on its workers, killing 1,134 people and injuring 2,500.

Revenue up 40% in 10 years

Faced with the pollution caused by the fashion industry, many brands and initiatives have developed. Today we have more and more access to cleaner, more transparent and more ethical fashion. Consumer protest movements boycotting brands or Black Friday are born.

Consumers also show an increased awareness and interest in eco-sustainable and responsible fashion. As Ipsos noted in a 2019 study, “almost two in three French (65%) now say that brands and companies’ commitment to sustainable development is a key choice when buying fashion/clothing.

Mourners hold up portraits of their missing loved ones, presumed dead after the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing building in the Bangladeshi suburb of Dhaka.
Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

However, consumer behavior is slowly developing and the need for pageantry and a daily change of appearance has not disappeared. As proof, sales have increased by 40% in the last ten years. A lack of trust in fashion brands, a lack of understanding of what sustainable fashion is and a distrust of greenwashing, as well as the price and lack of information about the names of sustainable fashion brands, particularly discourage consumers’ enthusiasm for sustainable fashion.

It is therefore essential to develop new approaches to encourage people to buy and wear more sustainable fashion, while committed to the origin of their clothing. With this in mind, a recently published study by our team proposes a new approach based on emotions.

Impact on emotions

We asked three groups (39 people – 26 women, 13 men in total) to spend two hours in our lab: the first group had to come with their own clothes; the second group had to wear a plain and ethical white t-shirt, produced in an environmentally friendly way; and the third group had to wear a plain white t-shirt and be labeled as unethical (fast fashion† The t-shirts provided to the second and third groups were similar, only the label changed.

We measured each participant’s positive and negative emotions using the SPANE scale. This short questionnaire measures the participants’ positive and negative experiences by asking them how often they experience different states such as physical pleasure, involvement, interest, pain, boredom, etc. Each participant’s emotions were evaluated just before the experiment and then after two hours of wearing the T-shirt.

Our results showed that participants who wore sustainable clothing had more positive emotions than participants who wore non-sustainable clothing.

In addition, participants who wore non-durable clothing showed less positive emotions compared to participants who wore sustainable clothing. Indeed, while the median value of positive emotions was similar for the three groups of participants (median of approximately 23) at the start of the experiment, the group wearing the sustainable fashion T-shirt subsequently showed an increase in emotions. a median of 26) and participants wearing the unsustainable fashion T-shirt showed a decrease in positive emotions (with a median of 20).

Despite awareness of sustainability issues, consumer behavior is still slow to emerge.
Cparks/Pixabay, CC BY-SA

Our results also showed that participants wearing sustainable clothing experienced a decrease in negative feelings compared to participants wearing non-durable clothing. Indeed, while the median value of negative emotions was similar for the three groups of participants (median of about 14), the group wearing the sustainable fashion T-shirt showed a decrease in negative emotions (with a median of 7).

This study therefore highlights the existence of a link between what we wear and how we feel, reinforcing the importance of knowing the source of our clothing. Findings that associate wearing sustainable versus non-sustainable clothing with positive and negative feelings amplify the power and influence of clothing on psychological processes, which may encourage people to engage more with sustainable fashion and learn more about it. the origin of their clothing.

The results of this study could be used to show fashion consumers that the ill effects of purchasing non-sustainable clothing extend beyond the ecological and social sphere, including the individual sphere through feelings and emotions. This research hopes to expand on current findings and give the topic of sustainability in the fashion industry the attention it needs to promote and drive change.

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