For as long as I can remember, designer labels have been idolised as the height of fashion. Brands appeal to customers by giving them a sense of prestige and security, which in turn helps them to feel confident as they walk down the street.
Of course, the clothing we wear has a significant effect on our self-confidence. Recently, fashion psychologist Karen Pine found that ‘putting on different clothes creates different thoughts and mental processes’ and affects how we feel about ourselves and operate in the world. Certainly, there is no denying that satisfaction when someone tells you how great you look in those clothes. But just as those comments are based on the style you are wearing, more than the brand; confidence comes from wearing styles that fit your image.
Consumers have been hit hard by the economic crisis and are turning away from brand names towards style on a budget, buying clothes from Target instead of Dolce & Gabbana and tailoring them to suit their own personal styles. By moving away from branded clothing, consumers grow their self-confidence without going bankrupt, by being able to afford a more diverse wardrobe that is adaptable to change.
Branded clothing’s main appeal used to be its uniqueness. Between the 1960s and 2000s, ‘fitting in’ was the goal for most, and wearing the same styles was a perfect way to achieve that. Those born after the millennium, however, have been raised in a globalised society that celebrates individuality. With millions of people wearing the exact same piece, designer clothing is no match for highly personalised outfits. Instead of buying into a particular brand’s image, consumers create their own personal brand that reflects their individual styles.
This individualist stance, along with a tightening of the proverbial belt amongst Gen Y shoppers, has spurred a move towards sustainable fashion and away from brand name culture. The move towards sustainable clothing is invaluable in reducing waste and its environmental impact. Synthetic fibres, which make up the majority of new clothing, produce toxic chemicals. Even when materials are natural, like cotton, the pesticides used pollute the environment. All of that is avoided by shopping second hand, which also reduces the amount of waste going into landfill.
Thrift shops, once stigmatised for selling second-hand products, are now at the centre of a culture that values reuse over waste. A study by YPulse recently found that 56% of Gen Y shoppers saw thrift shops as a great way to find cheap and unique clothing. Clothes are often better made than modern clothing and are incredibly unique because of the amount of vintage product around. If that isn’t enough, there is also evidence that wearing second-hand clothes relieves stress by inducing nostalgic memories of younger, carefree days.
Although not quite as widespread as thrift shopping, DIY is fast becoming a popular way for shoppers to sustainably keep their wardrobe up to date: around 22% of Gen Y shoppers modify or embellish their clothing in some way. Reflecting the worry around money that follows those who experienced the economic crisis, shoppers can keep up with changing trends and adapt their style without having to buy and throw out countless items of expensive designer clothing.
By Kate Oatley