Recent Guest Posts

I’ve had a few guest posts published recently –

Giving UK Ethical Fashion the Celebrity Treatment – La Leaf

La Leaf is a Berlin-based ethical fashion site. I was approached by the lovely Sarah, co-founder and editor of the site, to write about an aspect of ethical fashion from my UK-based perspective. Drawing on my recent trip to Zandra’s Rhodes penthouse for the launch of her latest collaborative collection with People Tree, I wrote about the rise of the celebrity in eco-fashion and what we can learn from the food industry.

Crossing Disciplines – From Fashion Undergrad to Geography PhD – PhD2Published

PhD2Published was set up in 2010 by Charlotte Frost as a resource for helping early career researchers to get their first academic book published. It now provides all sorts of advice for PhD students and ECRs. I wrote this blog to share my experiences of moving into social science from a strong background in fashion.

PhD Publishing Strategies – Which Journal? – is the University of Southampton Geography blog for our own postgrads to contribute too and which I edit. I wrote this post to explain my thoughts on academic publishing and the strategy I’m using to help myself move across to sociology.

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Writing About Consumption

“The single main problem with conventional writing about consumption is that it seems to consist largely of authors who wish to claim that they are deep by trying to show how everyone else is shallow.” (Miller 2012, p. 107)

This is my new favourite quote. I don’t want to divulge my key findings, nor do I have time to get into a debate about this now but it’s a nice reminder of subjectivity and the self-importance of researchers, because rightly or wrongly I definitely could have fallen into this trap.

My PhD is all about consumption of material goods. Very early on, I had to make the distinction between consumption and consumerism. Consumption is a crucial element of social life and should be addressed as such. More than simply an act of purchase, consumption is a continuous process of consuming/partaking in/using up a good or service. It is intrinsic to everyday life and a way in which we construct meaning, assert identities and practice acts of love. Consumerism has more negative connotations. It is defined by the ‘desire’ rhetoric rather than ‘need’ and is a fundamental part of the postmodern era I view as distinguished by choice.

I’ve been rewriting my thesis literature review recently and it has been great to go back and see how all of the existing knowledge fits together, and how my studies add to the debates. Without exception humans require some level of consumption in order to survive and to meet basic physiological needs, but consumption over and above this has sparked widespread interest amongst scholars as an avenue for exploring identity construction, socialisation, social class and the relationship between people and material things. I find all of this fascinating, and my approach to the literature review is so different to 2.5 years ago when I started drafting review documents. I can now critique it and discuss it, drawing on historical, sociological and geographical literature to provide a basis for my empirical work.

Consumption and its Consequences by Daniel Miller, 2012

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Fashion Talk at Intimacies, Families and Practices of Consumption

Last Friday, the 1st February 2013, I attended and presented at the British Sociological Association (BSA) conference Intimacies, Families and Practices of Consumption. It was a combined meeting of the British Sociological Association’s Families and Relationships and Leisure and Recreation study groups, neither of which I had been involved with before, but both of which I hope to be involved with in the future. I talked about my PhD work, focusing on my qualitative findings to date on the rationalisations of mothers buying second-hand baby things; how they balance the risks of buying used items with their pre-inscribed biographies, against the financial gain.

The presentations were diverse as everyone interpreted the theme in different ways, yet all were equally fascinating making for a highly stimulating day. I particularly enjoyed the papers which focused on social mobility and social capital, something which fascinates me in academia (and real life – indeed social capital IS real life) but is too complex to go into here. A couple of papers touched on fashion, one more explicitly than the other.

Sophie Woodward, University of Manchester, presented her paper ‘Cupboards, Lofts and Shelves: The Hidden Lives of Domestic Things’. Going into people’s homes and getting them to talk about their things, Sophie realised the distinction between things which are ‘unused’ and things which are ‘dormant’ or ‘at rest’. We might not use something for years, it isn’t useful in our daily lives, yet we hang onto it for its potential use. Sophie states that our belongings have three states: active, inactive and dormant. Dormant items have a value and place in the home, other than use. This is why we hang onto clothes we haven’t worn for years, because one day they might be wanted again. They have the potential to come back into fashion, to fit, to be loved once more.

Another particularly emotive paper was presented by Katherine Appleford, University of the Arts London, whose title was ‘Shop with Mother: Class Distinctions in Mother-Daughter Fashion Consumption and Fashion Tastes’. Now, I love my mum, and I love fashion, and the two together hold a number of memories. The trips to MK One as a child, the first high heels I bought and how mum thought they made me look too old but still let me wear them, the birthday outfits and Christmas outfits and matching outfits (we both had very similar sheep jumpers at one point).

Through ethnography and interviews, Katherine explored this relationship for her PhD project, using fashion as a route to consider deeper mother/daughter relationships, ties and tensions. Focusing on class differences, she found that working-class mothers work in a collaborative way and often share clothes, whilst middle-class mothers take on more of a gate-keepers role, being more deeply concerned with how their daughter’s are perceived in the world. She also touched upon issues to do with body confidence and hang-ups, putting the limelight on the fact that fashion is never just about clothes, but about identity, portrayal and self-assurance.

All in all a great day, followed by a trip to meet the Rtister team, but I’ll save that story for another day.

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