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Dr. Rebecca Collins, deputy dean of the Department of Geography and International Development, and a senior lecturer in human geography, and her research assistant Megan Rushton are studying the novelty of clothing consumption – to try and find out why young people in particular ‘wear what they wear’. For young people who are the largest consumers of ‘fast fashion’ – as well as the demographic group more likely to drive change towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry – Dr. Collins wants to discover how young people feel about the clothes they wear – and what will affect them to accept more sustainable clothing – including ‘used’ and old.
Dr. Collins said: “ My research in this area began several years ago. I have observed an increasing trend towards the front of the ripped jeans of younger consumers, making me curious – they are new jeans, but made to look old – and that’s considered is something to look forward to. It made me think about the aesthetics of old and new, and some contradictions in those who were able to tolerate old clothes clearly. What old fabric is considered socially acceptable for young people to wear, and what style? If we are going to make clothes consumption more sustainable, we need to understand how garments can be recycled, re-created, or reproduced in a way that ensures consumers – young and old – still want to wear them. Although this research began long before COVID-19 and locked up, of course, it would be interesting to see if that would affect people.
Rebecca worked with research assistant Megan – a current university sociology student – and was able to interview her students, friends, and colleagues to assess thoughts and opinions. Their clothing trends. She said: Alex Megan is amazing – she is a great asset to this project because I am aware that this is no longer my world! Megan can bring her own knowledge about young people’s clothing culture to inform our questions and I learn a lot from her about how people ages 18 to 25 relate to clothing and fashion by 2020. With lockout conditions, Megan and Rebecca asked volunteers to participate in their research through a video recording platform. They asked volunteers to provide three dancers from their wardrobe – the ones they loved the most, the ones they wore the most, and the people who wore the least – and then used these dancers as a starting point to Ask participants’ opinions about clothing trends.
The second part of the interview involves browsing an online second-hand store – for example, eBay, Depop, or Shpock – to discuss what they’re going to buy. The whole interview took about 45 minutes in total. Megan said: Other people are really interesting to hear about people who have a relationship with clothes. Their reactions – and responses to old clothes – tend to depend on the item. For example, elected t-shirts keep them wearing very well – but with denim, old clothes can add to the vibe of an item, such as a jacket. People have different relationships with clothes – some love shoes and spend a lot of money on them, but will find spending a lot on their heads is a waste of money. There was a mix of people who would consider buying second hand – and whether that would be considered ‘new to you, but interestingly, a lot of the people I interviewed until now will! I also realize many people are showing a sense of sustainability. And the term ‘classic seems to be very personal – in terms of what that age means!