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  • Isha King

Health, Morality, & Sustainable Fashion: In Conversation with Tash Pears

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Today we’re focusing on the attitude-behaviour gap and sustainable fashion’s relationship with morality, with special insight from Tash Pears!

Tash is a postgrad researcher in fashion marketing at London College of Fashion (& a friend of BADLANDS <3 ) who specializes in studying sustainable fashion and our related shopping behaviours from a philosophical perspective. Tash says, “I always knew from the get-go that I wanted to focus on sustainability. The way things are in the fashion industry at the moment, I think it’d almost be naïve to ignore it”.

This is where the interest in the attitude-behaviour gap comes in. For those who aren’t big into reading fashion research reports, the ‘attitude-behaviour gap’ refers to the pattern wherein shoppers’ stated values don’t align with their actual purchasing behaviours.

Tash is a fashion researcher & sustainability queen

Basically, people say that they believe that shopping sustainably is the right thing to do, but they buy fast fashion anyway.

So why does this happen? More importantly, how can sustainable fashion brands curb this behaviour?

That’s what Tash set to find out with her final MA dissertation. Using her undergraduate background in politics & philosophy, she began by looking at sustainable shopping behaviours from a moral standpoint.

Why is there a discrepancy between what people say & the way they behave in relation to their fashion consumption habits? Why, despite the recent increase in interest in sustainability and increasing climate concern, do shoppers’ behaviours not align with this?

Another particular angle of Tash’s research involved the relationship between sustainability and our access to information regarding fashion’s health impacts.

Not just the health of the garment workers being directly impacted by the industry, but also the health of our global water systems and our own personal health as individuals who are wearing clothes!

As Tash points out – organic food is a good example to set a perspective. Look at how careful people are about what they’re eating and what they're putting into their bodies - and yet somehow aren’t paying any attention to the health impacts of what they’re putting on their bodies.

It doesn’t really make much sense – but Tash attributes this in part to consumers having a lack of information about what they’re purchasing. Would we care more about sustainable fashion if the personal health implications of fast fashion and unsustainable materials were more immediately clear to us? I certainly think so.

Access to information is without a doubt a major contributor to the attitude-behaviour gap and is why many fashion consumers don’t feel that they know how to properly shop for sustainable fashion.

Philosophically, Tash has found that people do tend to have ingrained moral considerations when they shop for fashion. Despite not necessarily viewing traditional consumption explicitly as morally dubious, people seem to know, to an extent, that purchasing fashion has certain negative implications from a perspective of morality.

So – from Tash’s perspective as a fashion marketer, here’s what fashion brands need to do in order to minimize the attitude-behaviour gap and get more people on board with sustainable fashion purchasing:

  • Fashion brands need to appeal to peoples’ moral norms. Consumers need to know what the implications of their purchases are. But don’t just stop there! Tell people how to shop sustainably with clear and honest information.

  • Fashion brands need to address the health implications of their processes and materials from the ground up. That means disclosing their impacts on garment workers, eco & water systems, and on fashion consumers, thus allowing people to better understand the relationship between sustainable fashion and health.

So: Take notes, fashion brands. Honest communication, morality, and addressing health. Isn’t research fun?

Are you interested in more sustainability discourse? You can listen to Tash talk about all of this and more in her interview with Dr. Stine Hedegaard as part of LCF’s Fashion Means Business 2020 event.

The full interview is available below, on Youtube, and on the LCF event website.

You can also keep up with Tash by following her curated sustainable fashion feed on Instagram at @philosophyofashion!

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