In my attendance at numerous debates and roundtable discussions about the future of fashion, I came across this idea of propelling sustainable fashion to the forefront of the mainstream audience: “we need influencers and a 360° marketing campaign that could guarantee HYPE”. It was genuinely discussed as the most viable solution that will break the topic of sustainability free of its niche-laden chains.
But how do consumers behave with hype? What is the appeal and attraction of hype?
The magic of hype appears to introduce a dimension that adds light, colour, and depth to what could be termed our ‘self-curated reality’ — or as the renowned Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin claims: the space we create in which we interpret ourselves within the world. It is here where the power of hype dances with our own values and beliefs, negotiating with our thoughts and experiences to be reborn with a personal meaning.
The allure of hype, therefore, becomes a personal affair. Just when its aura touches our skin and our mind, we use it to serve our own purposes. One way of doing so is to transform the energy of hype into a self-monitoring tool; a way for us to observe, compare and evaluate ourselves and construct our self-image. From a study exploring the factors that make up people’s engagement with luxury fashion that had prestigious and exclusive appeals — arguably qualities that are shared with most hyped items — scientist Alexandra Leung and her team discovered a positive link between fashion consciousness, self-concept, and self-monitoring. In a consumer context, this means that those who are more fashion conscious (e.g. being aware of trends, style, and the inevitable hype) are also more conscious of their overall self-perception and participate more in self-monitoring behaviours, including fashion engagement and purchases, to confirm their self-identity.
This interpretation of reality is potent; potent but to a limit. The main challenge posed to the power of hype is the sea of its replicas that fights for our attention in today’s digital society. Almost every day, there are items, brands, and looks that are given the hype treatment; even as crude as a #. This floods the world over with a constant thirst for our interpretation and in hope for our consumption. Returning to the topic at the beginning of this article, an important question for sustainable fashion is how its use of hype can outcompete the other hype that goes on in the consumer’s world?
Field Theory in Social Science by Kurt Lewin
Psychological and Social Factors of Fashion Consciousness by Alexandra C. Y. Leung et al
How We Make Sense of and Respond to a Rapidly Changing Environment by Eva Lovbrand et al