The research I have been working on for the last year is aiming to identify how fashion companies are currently trying to communicate ethical/sustainable attributes to the customer at point of sale. It came from the idea that when we buy a bag of crisps, for example, we are given detailed knowledge of the ingredients, nutritional information, and even perhaps the type of potato used so we can make an informed choice whether to buy it. When buying a t-shirt however, we’ll get the fibre content communicated to us, and maybe the country of origin (this, by the way, is almost meaningless, does it mean where the cotton came from? Where the t-shirt was manufactured? Or perhaps where the label was sewn in?) but precious little else. We, at the University, wanted to find a way of letting the customer see exactly where their garment had come from, what chemicals and processes were used, and its carbon footprint, all before making the decision whether to buy.
A study by Defra found that people acquire the information that influences their clothing decisions during the activity of shopping itself, as well as from conventional media. I think this is unexplored potential. The last year has involved studying the literature, approaching ethical fashion companies, and considering different research methods. For my MPhil work I have focused the work on two case study companies, and a consumer survey. The biggest issue for me, before developing any kind of point of sale communication, was finding out what the average consumer actually knows about the fashion supply chain. This brings me to the point I’m at now; developing a survey study. Surveys seemed so simple at school, but when faced with the need to produce a rigorous methodology and research design, I have realised the problems that could occur if the design isn’t just right. Preparation is everything! I’ll update my progress as it happens.