Clothing research at the ESA Sociology of Consumption Conference

Last week SIFO hosted a conference for The European Sociological Association (ESA)’s Research Network of Sociology of Consumption. The theme for the conference was “Consumption, justice and futures: Where do we go from here? (oslomet.no)“. 146 participants from all over Europe gathered for the event and most of SIFO’s clothing researchers were among them.

The clothing research group’s Vilde Haugrønning presented her work in the i CHANGE project and discussed the preliminary findings and method development on the basis of the pilot study carried out in Norway o, Uruguay and Portugal. The title for the presentation was: «Occasions and clothing volumes: wardrobe pilots in Norway, Portugal and Uruguay». You can read the abstract using this link (conftool.org).

Clothing as part of the thematic

The conference contributed new insights and as one of the large areas of consumption, clothing was mentioned in many contexts. In the form of fashion, it was only natural that clothing was used as the major example and how consumers are primed for getting a «taste for variety» in Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier’s keynote presentation: «Why do we consume so much? Exploring the lock-ins of affluent consumption».

Julie Madon’s presentation «To make or not to make objects last? Consumers between prosumption and the desire for simplicity», was closely related to the theme in our Lasting project and examined several product groups. An important point from the presentation was how subjective the judgement of when something is used up is – for some, holes in the shoes are acceptable, as the shoe itself can still be used, but for others would throw them away at any visible sign of use. You can read the abstract from the presentation here (confrool.org).

In the same session, Victoire Sessego presented «Do-It-Yourself practices throughout generations: the effects of digitalisation». She pointed out that even though her presentation was part of a “Sustainable Consumption”-session, many of her informants’ DIY practices were highly unsustainable. You can read the abstract here (confrool.org).

Clothing as the main research topic

In addition to these presentations and others that included clothing and textiles as a part of the scope, several were also focused specifically on clothing.

Reka Ines Tölg presented her PhD work at Lund University, about the circulation of responsibility between consumers and producers of clothing. The title of her presentation was «Consume with care and responsibility! The material-semiotic making and distribution of responsibilities in green marketing». We, in the clothing research group, noted in particular that a story of the fragility of clothing was being told by the clothing producers and how this transferred responsibility onto the consumer if the clothing should break. Our question would then be if the producers shouldn’t instead make clothes of better quality to begin with? You can read the abstract by following this link (conftool.org).

In the same session, Gabriella Wulff from the University of Gothenburg presented her work on discount practices: «The Future of Discounting Practices? Materials, meanings, and competences in the Swedish Fashion Retail Sector». From our perspective, it was particularly interesting how the sector itself sees these practices as a necessary evil in a business model based on economy of scale and large advance order quantities. Simultaneously, they do attempt to “activate” garments in different ways to avoid reducing prices as much. The findings point to other aspects of the overproduction that is rampant in the clothing industry. You can read the abstract here (conftool.org).

Consumption of second-hand clothing was also discussed when Ariela Mortara talked about her research on the users of the Vinted App in Italy in the presentation «Second-hand clothing between savings and sustainability: Vinted case history». You can read the abstract via this link (conftool.org).

Product lifetime in European and Norwegian policies

Nina Heidenstrøm, Pål Strandbakken, Vilde Haugrønning and Kirsi Laitala

Abstract

The objective in this report is to better understand how the increased product lifetime option has been positioned in policies over
the past twenty years. By means of policy document analysis, we explore product lifetime positioning in the EU’s circular economy
policies, Norwegian political party programs and official documents, environmental NGO documents, consumer organisation policies
and product policies. Overall, we find little focus on product lifetime between 2000-2015, however, there has been a massive
increase over the past five years. There is still a long way to go in developing appropriate policy instruments to address product
lifetime.

Click here to find the full report (oda.oslomet.no).