The ever-changing identity: Investigating consumer identity in the fast fashion industry

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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This study looks at fast fashion consumers’ identity projects, while taking a sustainability perspective. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate how fast fashion influences consumers’ identity projects and how sustainability plays a role in this. Fast fashion is characterized by low prices and quickly changing trendy clothing. The fast fashion context provides an interesting perspective from other fashion forms due to its ephemeral nature, as well as the possible insights it can give on sustainability values. The study is qualitative and interpretive in nature, using semi-structured in-depth interviews of young consumers to gain insights into their fashion consumption behaviours and the role of sustainability in their identity projects. The findings showcase the complex nature of consumer identity projects. Fast fashion was found to be used in identity projects as a way for self-expression, fitting in, and navigating changing identity boundaries. The findings also provide a deeper understanding of contemporary sustainable consumers. Sustainability has become an increasingly important value for the average consumer, reflecting a broader societal shift towards more eco-conscious and socially responsible ideologies. Consumers are not however ignoring other values, such as aesthetic ones. This study highlights the complex and often contradictory nature of fast fashion consumption, where aesthetic values and sustainability concerns coexist and sometimes conflict. The findings also suggest a novel take on fast fashion and liquid consumption, suggesting placing fast fashion as more liquid on the spectrum compared to other forms of fashion. This is mainly due to how it connects with the consumer’s self, as well as the nature of the relationship with the consumer. This study adds to our understanding of fast fashion consumers, as well as contemporary sustainability value bases. It contributes to Consumer Culture Theory by extending the understanding of consumer identity in the fast fashion context and suggests avenues for future research, including the examination of temporary identities and liquid consumption. Finally, theoretical and managerial findings are presented, as well as limitations and additional further research is discussed.
Thesis advisor
Nanni, Anastasia
fast fashion, consumer identity, sustainability, consumer culture
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