Can we leave the hedonic treadmill and shop differently? Yes, we can!


It's better to have fewer things of quality than too much expandable junk.


I am Italian and one could say that Fashion should be in my DNA. Despite the fact that I had a very fashion-frugal childhood - made worse by the fact that my twin sister and I shared the same wardrobe - in my 30s I invested quite a lot of money in designer brands. I spent over a year waiting for my favourite designer’s bag to be on sale at a famous Swiss outlet and it is a much-loved item that I still use with joy ten years later. I have an Armani dress that I bought in 2001, which I used for my CISL graduation ceremony last summer. I am longing for the Dior tulle skirt (£3,100) and now that renting platforms are booming I may have the chance to wear it soon. I am not a fashionista, but I am definitely attracted by the creativity and originality of designers and drawn to beautifully crafted clothes and accessories. As for the majority of my wardrobe, I have predominantly timeless pieces made of high-quality material and as such one can infer that I am not into fast fashion. I grew up with my parents instilling the mantra of “quality over quantity” and it may have played a role in me never falling in love with fast-fashion. I never had the endorphin rush or the raving frenzy of shopping for cheap clothes and I wonder how I am immune to it. In 2007 a team of researchers from Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon showed that, in fact, the brain finds pleasure in the pursuit of inexpensive things. This is because the “hedonic competition between the immediate pleasure of acquisition and an equally immediate pain of paying” is dissolved by the very low price of clothes that signal to the brain that the purchase is a good deal. The neurological process just described, seems to indicate that there is no way to avoid ending up on a hedonic treadmill. Thankfully, things are changing - partly because of a rise in awareness over the social and environmental impact of fashion and partly because governments started to challenge businesses for fuelling a fast-fashion throwaway culture and are investigating cases of modern slavery in the fashion supply chain. Some fashion experts believe a “wake-up moment” is imminent, just as it has happened for takeaway coffee cups, plastic packaging, deforestation and meat. Research conducted by Mintel suggests shoppers have already begun buying clothing less frequently. In 2018, a third of consumers bought clothing once a month, down from 37% in 2016, while those buying every two or three months or less rose from 64% to 67%. A recent survey conducted by Fashion Revolution across the five largest EU markets indicates that while buying clothes, more than one in three consumers surveyed said that they consider social (38%) and environmental (37%) impacts. The majority of consumers want to know more about the clothes they buy and brands have started to take note and act upon it. Consumers are still attracted by low prices and the gap “intention-action” certainly still applies as it is hard to resist favouring immediate gratification, but the above data is showing that there is a shift in consumer attitude and, ultimately, behaviour. The fact that Vogue, the most iconic fashion magazine, has dedicated a piece to a New Year’s resolution where editors and creatives declare their intention to shop less and more mindfully represents a clear sign of the cultural shift that is approaching. Welcome, conscious consumer!

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