From Fashion Fatigue To Fit For The Future

By applying the psychology of altruism, we propose how the fashion industry can innovate with the next generation in mind.

Words by Judith Achumba-Wöllenstein

The holiday season is romantically described as a season of peaceful reflection amongst family and friends. In reality, it more often resembles the scene in ‘Home Alone’, when the family scrambles into the cab hoping to make their flight, while completely forgetting about little Kevin sleeping peacefully in the attic. It is a time of frantically rushing from work parties to shopping malls or battling heavy traffic to the supermarket, only to find oneself waiting impatiently as lines of people stock up on food as if the next world disaster is around the corner. It is no surprise that online shopping is on the rise at this time of the year, but even online, the rush can be felt. Whether buying a dress for Friday’s Christmas work party or gifts for loved ones, purchases tend to be last minute and retailers are expected to deliver as fast as possible. The ‘prime effect’, coined after Amazon’s prime membership with a one-day delivery option, has now become the expected standard. This demand puts not just retailers but also delivery companies under enormous pressure.

Frankie + Clo Image by Frankie + Clo,
Neous Image by Neous,

The speed that has accompanied technological advancement is not only felt during the holiday season. The Immediacy of images from the runway appearing online, for example, has challenged the original fashion cycle, which foresees that collections don’t appear in retail stores until a whole season later. Experiments such as ‘Shop the Runway’ were introduced to allow customers to shop the latest looks while live streaming the show from the comfort of their homes. While we applaud technological progression, this experiment suffered some dire consequences. In anticipation of the retail demand from the show, hundreds of meters of the most exquisite fabrics were designed and produced specifically for the given collection. But what happens when the look is not among the ones presented in the show? In order to protect the label’s trademarked textile design, the fabric simply goes to waste and, as rumour has it, is burned at the stake. As of today, ‘Shop the Runway’ is no longer in operation and it seems that many of the technological innovations that fashion has trialled over the years have come to a similar fate: a number of destructive side-effects that are not sustainable for the future. With the many challenges ahead, a sense of problem-solving fatigue is at risk of seeping into the ranks of fashion professionals.

The problem is not a lack of willingness to innovate, but rather, how to do so without disregarding the wellbeing of one another and our planet.

Piczo Image by Piczo,

The speed of modern life and its influence on ethical decision-making was also the subject of a psychological study on altruistic behaviours. Researchers Darley and Batson set up an experiment in which participants were asked to head to another building to give a presentation. Unbeknownst to the participants, they had been randomly allocated to different variables of 'hurry': some were told to hurry along swiftly as their examiner was already waiting for them, others were told that they would likely have to wait upon arrival, while a third group was found somewhere in between. On their way to the other building, they were met by a person (an actor), who was obviously in pain and in need of physical assistance. The study found that how much participants were in a hurry greatly affected whether they stopped to help and how much help they were willing to offer.

Image by Michael Hauptman,

“Ethic(s) become a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases”,

researchers Darley and Batson concluded, explaining that a person in a hurry is likely to experience a “narrowing of the cognitive map”, in other words, they are slower to experience empathy towards someone in distress and recognise their need for help. Just like the participants who were in a hurry because their experimenter was waiting for them, most of us hurry because somebody depends on us being somewhere. Nothing could resonate with a fashion professional more than this — Isn’t it ultimately king customer for whom we make, pack and ship garments to at breathtaking speeds? And the customers, also busy, are in a hurry to present those garments as gifts for their loved ones just in time for Christmas.

In all this rushing, Pak and I (founders of HAJINSKY) are very conscious of the time and trust extended to our content. Neither HAJINSKY nor psychology has all the solutions. What it offers is an understanding of the humanity that is intertwined with fashion, inviting you to stop for a few minutes once a month to reflect and reconsider where our hurry is leading us and for whom we are hurrying for. Taking the speed out of fashion long term may not be possible or even desirable, but that doesn’t have to stop us from creating structures where prioritising wholistic human needs is built into the very system.

To do what is ethically right does not have to mean taking a detour but instead, can be knitted into the fabric of how this industry functions.

Image by Neous,

The holiday season has not only seen a rise in online shopping over the past years but is also known as the busiest season of the year for rental clothing company ‘Rent The Runway’, who have based their business model on finding a solution to meet the social media-born craze to always be seen wearing a new outfit. While not without fault, the model of rental fashion is exemplary in marrying the industry’s speed and society’s need for newness into one purposeful solution. HAJINSKY’s hope is that our research and content will inform and inspire you to exercise and stretch your mind to discover new possibilities and solutions for fashion that will be fit to meet the needs of the next generation in meaningful ways.

Further Reading:

“From Jerusalem To Jericho”: A Study Of Situational And Dispositional Variables In Helping Behaviour by John M. Darley & Daniel Batson

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