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  • Writer's picturePBMIF


Find PBMIF on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube for useful tips and facts in consumer and fashion psychology.

One of my favourite programmes at the moment is ITV's Dress To Impress (reruns). It’s a reality series that involves three contestants battling it out to impress a singleton by finding them an outfit according to a brief. What really happens though is that the contestants don't listen to the brief and buy what they want instead. The programme features a lot of clothing that were trendy at the time it was filmed. Sometimes I shriek when I see what trends were worn back in the day. It's got me thinking about issues around fast fashion. I’m ashamed to say that there are many clothing items in my wardrobe that were trends at one point in time and that I’d be embarrassed to wear today.

Do we really need to wear clothes that are in? Why can’t we just have our basics and be done with it?

This is my collection of (recyclable) bags from online fashion retailers, they're reused when I make a sale on Depop.

Fast fashion refers to the clothing industry's business model of replicating and mass-producing recent catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, at a low cost, and in a really short space of time. Trendy clothes at cheaper prices. Some fast fashion brands include SHEIN, Boohoo, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, and Primark. There are many issues surrounding fast fashion such as poor working conditions, exploitation, negative environmental impact, green-washing, and overconsumption, just to name a few.

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. We can’t really blame consumers for purchasing fast fashion because some consumers may not be able to afford well-made and long lasting clothing that usually comes with a high price tag. What can consumers and businesses do to engage in and promote sustainable practices in fast fashion?

There are many issues surrounding fast fashion such as poor working conditions, exploitation, negative environmental impact, green-washing, and overconsumption, just to name a few.

Explore sustainable behaviour framework

How can a consumer be nudged to make sustainable choices? White et al. (2019) have developed a framework, named SHIFT, to encourage sustainable consumer behaviour change. SHIFT implies that consumers are more persuaded to engage in pro-environmental behaviours when the context influences psychological factors being, social influence, habit formation, individual self, feelings and cognition, and tangibility (White et al., 2019). Social influence – Consumers are impacted by the presence, behaviours, and expectations of others. Habit – Many sustainable behaviours involve repetition. It is suggested that to encourage consumers to repeat sustainable actions, actions should be easy to perform, and consumers could be offered incentives and/or feedback. The Individual Self – Who we are as an individual influences our behaviours. This factor involves self-concept, self-interest, self-consistency, self-efficacy, and individual differences. Feelings and Cognition – Our thoughts and feelings help us to evaluate sustainable actions. Self-transcendence and openness to change values have a positive impact on consumers' levels of ethical concern towards welfare (human and animal), and the environment. It has been found that an individual's level of concern towards animal welfare and the environment positively influences a consumer's likeliness to purchase ethically marketed fast fashion (Stringer et al., 2020).

SHIFT implies that consumers are more persuaded to engage in pro-environmental behaviours when the context influences psychological factors.

Have a try at curating a capsule wardrobe

Little to no research has been carried out on the effects of owning a capsule wardrobe. Recently, Bardley et al. (2022) investigated the effect of a 3 week capsule wardrobe on 10 female participants. To put it simply, the capsule wardrobe is a limited collection of apparel that are of high quality, long lasting, and suitable for a variety of occasions. Usually, capsule wardrobes consist of clothes that complement each other. The capsule wardrobe has gained attention within the past few years because it helps guide consumers to consume less whilst allowing them to explore their style at the same time. The capsule wardrobe positively impacted participants; they felt less stressed about choosing what to wear, they became less attached to fashion trends, and they enjoyed exploring their style. Participants were also more aware of conscious consumption (Bardey et al., 2022).

Of course, buying high quality products may not be suitable for everyone, but high quality products don't have to always be costly. Take a look around second-hand clothing apps - You'll be amazed at the bargains you can find.

Educate ourselves with the facts

Stringer et al. (2022) have found that consumers “perceive worker welfare concerns at both a proximal and cultural distance to themselves, and therefore struggle to connect with the issues associated with modern slavery”. In others words, consumers don’t see modern slavery first-hand and it doesn’t affect them personally. Out of sight, out of mind? Consumers acknowledge that exploitation is common practice in fast fashion to ensure that clothing remains cheap.

Out of sight, out of mind?

Zhang et al. (2021) conducted a study on consumer attitudes towards sustainability of fast fashion apparel in the UK, and found that consumers’ claimed knowledge of sustainability is higher than actual knowledge. Therefore consumers should regularly update their knowledge to avoid being misled by fast fashion companies. In addition, Zhang et al. (2021) state that fast fashion producers should be aware that “female working class consumers in the UK, who constitute a major part of the fast fashion market, are not sensitive to fast fashion products with sustainability features. Excessive emphasis on this could probably harm the market share” (Zhang et al., 2021). In the researchers’ words, females are “less sensitive to prices when purchasing fast fashion products with sustainability features”, and males however, are “more ready to increase their purchases of sustainable fast fashion products than females”.

Spread awareness

According to Chaturvedi et al. (2020), Gen Z consumers have strong ethical and moral values towards protecting the environment, which influences their purchase intentions. They take cost, environmental concern, perceived value, and personal norms into account when deciding to purchase recycled clothing. Because of these factors, the researchers suggest that marketers should provide thorough information about the positives of buying recycled clothing such as how it is produced and how it can reduce negative impact on the environment. Chaturvedi et al. (2020) also recommend that consumers who purchase recycled clothing should be offered rewards such as discounts and gift vouchers.

Ditch fast fashion apps

Limiting your access to fast fashion can save you money… and time. Many consumers regret the amount of time they spend on mobile shopping apps (McLean et al., 2022). McLean and colleagues carried out a study to understand the effects of consumers' interactions with mobile shopping apps (their intentions to reuse them, loyalty towards brands, and brand reputation). The researchers found that the addictive nature of shopping apps led to regrettable escapism. When scrolling through mobile shopping apps, participants enter a ‘flow’ state (i.e., being absorbed and engrossed in an activity). During this period, time feels distorted. As a consequence of spending so much time on these apps, consumers feel guilt and frustration.

The researchers found that the addictive nature of shopping apps led to regrettable escapism.

Be aware that influencers, influence

Social media influencers, generally found on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are becoming increasingly popular amongst young people. They have one job to do and that is to influence others. Influencers gain loyal and dedicated followers, which attract the attention of brands. Brands pay influencers to advertise their products and services, especially online fashion retailers. It’s highly cost effective and the need for traditional marketing methods such as television adverts is no more (Sinha & Fung, 2021). Some influencers even create their own brands.

Influencers play a large role in fast fashion, especially on platforms like YouTube. According to Thornton (2021), who studied unethical consumption habits of five fashion YouTubers/influencers, there is a need for fashion influencers to educate their viewers about fast fashion’s impact on the environment. Through 15 videos on the platform, Thornton (2021) found that: fast fashion brands dominate YouTube; YouTubers do not take responsibility for their unethical consumption habits; and no YouTuber successfully avoided making unsustainable fashion choices. If you don’t like the content your favourite YouTuber, or influencer in general is creating, let them know politely in their comments section, or just don’t entertain yourself with their fast fashion videos/content.


Bardey, A., Booth, M., Heger, G., & Larsson, J. (2022). Finding yourself in your wardrobe: An exploratory study of lived experiences with a capsule wardrobe. International Journal of Market Research, 64(1), 113-131.

Chaturvedi, P., Kulshreshtha, K. & Tripathi, V. (2020). Investigating the determinants of behavioral intentions of generation Z for recycled clothing: an evidence from a developing economy. Young Consumers, 21(4), 403-417.

McLean, G., Al-Nabhani, K., & Marriott, H. (2022). 'Regrettable-escapism' the negative effects of mobile app use: a retail perspective. Psychology and Marketing, 39(1), 150-167.

Sinha, J. I. & Fung, T. T. (2021). How Social Media Micro-Influencers Are Disrupting the Business of Youth Fashion. Rutgers Business Review, 6(1), 44-50.

Stringer, T., Mortimer, G. & Payne, A. R. (2020). Do ethical concerns and personal values influence the purchase intention of fast-fashion clothing? Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 24(1), 99-120.

Stringer, T., Payne, A. R. & Mortimer, G. (2022). As cheap as humanly possible: why consumers care less about worker welfare. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 26(4), 717-737.

Thornton, I. (2021). “That is a Huge Wardrobe and Clothing Mistake!": The Unethical Consumption Habits of YouTube's Fashion Influencers and the Environmental Consequences of a Disposable Lifestyle. Pell Scholars and Senior Theses, 136.

White, K., Habib, R., & Hardisty, D. J. (2019). How to SHIFT Consumer Behaviors to be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework. Journal of Marketing, 83(3), 22-49.

Zhang, B., Zhang, Y., & Zhou, P. (2021). Consumer Attitude towards Sustainability of Fast Fashion Products in the UK. Sustainability, 13(4), 1646.


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