Anabel Maldonado is the founder of The Psychology of Fashion, a platform that explores the reason behind our fashion choices and their connection to our personality traits and emotions. Anabel is also a fashion journalist with some of her work being featured in The Business of Fashion and Marie Claire and a luxury brand consultant for brands such as JOSEPH, Hugo Boss, Biotherm and many more.
How did The Psychology of Fashion come to be?
The Psychology of Fashion is a research, media and commerce platform that looks at the fashion industry and the role of clothes in our lives through the lens of psychology. Our content examines why we wear what we wear, the relationships between personality, emotions and aesthetic, as well as industry dynamics. As a fashion journalist and editor working in the industry with a background in psychology, the motivation came from being uninspired by much of the current derivative fashion content. I felt it was missing a level of depth – I’ve never cared much about “the hot new colour for spring” or “the season’s key skirt shape”. Dressing is much more personal despite trends, and our aesthetic tastes are fairly steady through life as they reflect our personality. I was also frustrated by the cultural narratives around fashion being frivolous. I wanted to demonstrate that we’re all sensitive to aesthetics in one way or another and that our choices can have a great effect on us daily. Even those who claim not to care about fashion make aesthetic decisions that say something about them.
What can we learn in general about applying psychology in fashion?
The first aim is to help people understand their “style sense of self” in order to make better choices and enjoy more authentic styling and shopping, in line with who they are and how they want to feel. I also want to help brands better understand their consumers’ profiles so they can make better creative and business decisions. Lastly, through better self-awareness and understanding of psychology, we can decrease the nepotism, abuse and mental health issues within the fashion industry so that it becomes a better place for those in it.
Fashion choices can tell a lot about a person. In today’s world, what is the general perception about sustainable fashion choices?
The perception is definitely changing among many fashion insiders, but we have a lot of work to do with mainstream consumers. Most people simply associate sustainable fashion with hemp cloth-burlap bag looking styles and don’t really grasp the destructive impacts of fast fashion. The desire for novelty and a quick retail-therapy induced dopamine fix often wins out over conscious decisions. I was one of these mainstream consumers, but have been lucky enough to work with Carmen Busquets, who has influenced me greatly in understanding the need for sustainable luxury and why fashion is the world’s second-largest polluter. This is where we can use psychology in motivating consumer behavioural change – making them understand, and making them care. I outline five ways we can achieve this here.
How does contributing to sustainable fashion, either by buying eco brands or vintage, affect our “enclothed cognition” (dressing how we want to feel)?
I would think that it definitely makes one feel morally superior and have a lighter conscience (i.e. a base thought of “I’m a good person”) when wearing things that contribute to sustainable fashion. I have found this to be true. For example, I used to wave-off sustainable fashion and always opt for high street, like many of us, because it’s more affordable and leaves more disposable income for other things. But knowing what I know now about the impact that fast-fashion has on people and the environment, I started feeling a bit icky buying and wearing it and wondering if I really can’t afford to buy better. At two sustainability conferences I attended, one in Copenhagen and the other in San Jose, Costa Rica, I met some very inspiring people wearing some amazing sustainable fashion pieces that were priced more or less in the mid-range. You can find most of them on Maison De Mode.
Do you think sustainability can have a more substantial role within the luxury market?
Yes, definitely. Simply put, it’s in luxury’s interest to be ‘the best’ – and how can it be the best if it operates in a way that’s harmful? Traditionally, luxury didn’t cut corners the way it used to, but with the need for luxury to become more and more accessible, corners are definitely being cut, and with the fast pace of consumption, there’s no time to consider the waste we’re all creating. Luckily, luxury groups such as Kering and jewelry houses such as Chopard are championing the sustainable luxury movement.
As a society, what is the impact we have on each other that allows (or disallows) conscious consumption behaviour to become the norm?
What disallows it is social media – the biggest fueller of over-consumption. We’re social animals and we want new outfits to feed our sense of erotic capital. This is instinctual because “feeling hot” feels safe from a biological and evolutionary perspective. We want to know we’re wanted and accepted. When we see a bunch of influencers looking good in fresh outfits all the time, we don’t want to fall behind. That’s where we’re at as a society. This cultural landscape is hard to reverse, but it would help if there was an increase in influencers who endorse sustainable fashion or re-wearing your clothes as Livia Firth does with #30Wears, and educate others about why this matters. People can’t care if they don’t understand. Then, at least we can lust after new ethically made outfits.