“May I pet you?” Exploring the meaning of consuming sustainable fashion for Finnish individuals
School of Business | Master's thesis
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AbstractResearch has defined the ecological ceiling for maintaining the earth as a safe and just place for sustainable living (Raworth, 2017), illustrated by the Planetary Boundaries framework in nine crucially critical boundaries supporting the stability of the earth’s living systems (Steffen et al., 2015). Currently, these boundaries, including the level of climate change, are threatened to breach due to harmful human-led industrial activity (IPCC, 2021). Researchers have estimated the fashion industry as the second most polluting industry globally, following aviation, contributing up to 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions globally (Niinimäki et al., 2020). Since the beginning of the fast fashion phenomenon in the early 1990s, the issues resulting from the overproduction of cheap, poor-quality clothing have been on the rise (Bick et al., 2018). Estimates state that over half of fast fashion items are discarded in less than a year, accumulating 92 million tonnes of textile waste per year dumped in landfills or burnt (Remy et al., 2016). Design is proposed as a high-potential approach to addressing sustainability issues across all levels of society, from technical material development to socio-technical systems (Ceschin and Gaziulusoy, 2020). Sustainability issues spread across multiple systemic levels also in the fashion industry. Circular economy principles are introduced as better practices in the textile economy to minimize harmful substances, wasteful use of clothing and discarded textiles, and maximize the use of renewables in the cycle (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). While sustainability interventions are needed across the fashion industry, understanding what makes individuals choose to behave sustainably is crucial, as consumer behavior plays an essential role in developing a sustainable future (Wintschnig, 2021). Research has widely recognized a gap between consumers’ positive intentions toward sustainable consumption and the realized behavior in the fashion context, indicating that underlying motivations for fashion consumption are yet to be explored (Rausch and Kopplin, 2020). As clothes are recognized to play an important role in nonverbal communication, the meaning of clothes is anticipated to extend beyond aspects related to function and materiality (Fowles, 1974). This research applies Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to consumer research to explore sustainable fashion consumption as a lived experience on an in-depth individual level as encouraged by research (Mukendi et al., 2020). The findings illustrate the complexity and multidimensionality of clothing as a part of individuals’ lives, potentially elaborating the persistence of the intention-behavior gap in sustainable fashion consumption. The experience of consuming sustainable fashion is characterized by an individual’s existing ideas of sustainability, the first encounter with a brand or a garment, and the integration of the garment as a part of everyday life. The research findings are discussed from various perspectives viewing sustainable fashion as a part of identity communication, as a physical product, and as a form of consumption. The findings suggest further in-depth research around the experience of sustainable fashion consumption in different contextual environments to expand the understanding of factors affecting the consistency of sustainable consumption.
Thesis advisorSahimaa, Olli
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), intention–behavior gap, sustainable fashion, design for sustainability, repurposing