Sofía Beuchat, journalist at El Mercurio, the national newspaper of Chile, asked me why consumers in Chile buy so many clothes. Well, they’re not alone. Peoople around the world are buying more fashion items than they were a decade ago.
Several factors contribute to this trend, including increased disposable income, e-commerce, and the influence of social media constantly showcasing new trends and styles often as a result of the “fast fashion” industry’s rapid turnover of trends. This encourages consumers to make increasingly frequent purchases to feel they are staying current. This is exacerbated with the influence of social media, easy access to online shopping and the convenience of e-commerce platforms make it simpler to acquire new items and the perpetuate the idea that we must present a ‘curated image’. Together these factors can lead consumers to buy ever more clothing.
Historically, women have been more likely to purchase and own a larger number of clothing items than men. This trend was driven by various factors, including societal expectations, the broader range of clothing options available to women, and the influence of fashion marketing and media. However, such gender differences are not universal, and they are evolving. In recent years, there has been a growth in menswear brands and assortments and a growing movement towards gender-neutral and gender-inclusive fashion. Also, changing cultural norms and shifts in how gender is perceived and expressed can influence how people of all genders approach fashion and clothing consumption.
Similarities lie in the emotional and self-expression aspects of shopping for non-necessities such clothing and accessories For all these categories, personal identity and self-image play a significant role in purchase decisions. Consumers often seek products that align with their lifestyle, values, and desired image, but differences stem from the unique functional and aesthetic factors associated with each category of clothing.
When buying technology, functionality, performance, and features are prominent considerations. Car purchases involve practical considerations like safety, reliability, and transportation needs, as well as elements of status, design and personal taste. While shopping for decor we might be more interested in aesthetics, personal style, and home ambiance. Yet shopping for clothing often combines functionality, aesthetics and sensory aspects with personal expression, making it a more complex blend of practical and emotional factors compared to other categories. In addition, we buy clothing more often than these other items which is reflected in the dynamic nature of fashion.
The enduring popularity of fast fashion despite the growing movement toward sustainability can be attributed to various factors including the human desire for novelty, the fundamental desire for belonging and a fear of missing out (FOMO). The rapid turnover of styles and affordable pricing make fast fashion attractive and easily accessible to consumers seeking frequent wardrobe updates for little money, and this is amplified on social media.
Despite the environmental and ethical concerns, associated with fast fashion, often voiced by fashion consumers, their immediate gratification, desire for affordability, and social pressures to keep up with trends, can outweigh the longer-term sustainability considerations associated with the environment and labour conditions, making fast fashion appear as the more attractive option to many consumers.
Price is highly relevant when buying new clothes, as it is a crucial factor in the decision-making process for most consumers. The price of clothing often intersects with individual budgets, financial constraints, cultural and personal priorities, and many consumers weigh the perceived ‘value’ of a clothing item against its cost, and this assessment can heavily influence their choices. While some consumers prioritize quality and are willing to spend more on expensive, more durable pieces, others may opt for more affordable options, especially when considering trendy or short-term fashion. Bargain hunters may prioritize sales and discounts, and alternatives to buying brand new items such as recycling, upcycling, renting, swapping, and buying 2nd hand, while those who view clothing as an investment may place a higher value on costlier, high-quality items.
The interview was published in El Mercurio on Tuesday 14th November 2023. You can see read the 4 page article in Spanish here.