The two blogs that precede this one are pretty indicative of the energy and time that is required to be able to shop for fashion items that are sustainably made. I am currently working on my literature review on sustainable consumption, and I read a revealing paper by Linda Steg. She argues that four different values are the most relevant in determining the level of engagement in sustainable consumption: hedonic values and egoistic values (both self-enhancement values), and altruistic values and biospheric values (both self-transcendence values). The balance between these four values, according to Steg, has an effect on behaviour. In particular, engagement in sustainable consumption is seen when consumers exhibit strong altruistic and biospheric values. Steg argues that the fact that biospheric and altruistic values often do not translate into consistent behaviour is due to the need for values to be activated and supported by situational cues. Various situational factors can be identified. A well-recognised factor is represented by the capitalist narrative, whose emphasis on growth and competition promotes hedonic and egoistic values. Another factor that can either act positively or negatively is represented by social norms and the behaviour of others. Studies demonstrated, for example, that people littered more in a littered environment but were less likely to litter themselves if they observed someone voluntarily removing litter. Situational cues may not be as effective in activating biospheric and altruistic values in demanding and complex situations when the behaviour is somehow costly (for example, it requires an effort or money) – or when it is competing with the fulfilment of other values that are also important for the individual.
The above theory is ‘put in practice’ in my current experience as ‘sustainable fashion shopper’ as I struggle to keep up with my intention of buying only sustainable clothes given the knowledge barriers, cost, time and effort associated to it. I am pretty proud of myself as I did not buy any clothes or accessories in the last 6 months, but I am also aware of the focus and vigilance I had to maintain for my biospheric values and altruistic values to determine my actions and restrain me from purchasing new items. As I acknowledge that shopping sustainably for fashion is harder than I thought and required me to sacrifice brands that I love (e.g. Comptoir des Cotonniers or Boden), I am also aware that by building a portfolio of brands I can “safely” refer to I will make my shopping experience smoother in the future.
Note: I also discovered the App Good On You that significantly speeds up my checks and helps me identify sustainable brands.
As for my original plan and way forward, I need to start focusing on mending and repairing my clothes. On this, I put much hope in the au pair that will join our family in August as she comes with with the objective to enrolling on a course at London School of Fashion and has had some training in making theatre costumes. I am confident that having her with us will finally encourage me to learn how to sew!
And you may see me posting the image of one original hand-made fashion item one day! Never say never!