MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals is the first course in the world to apply psychology to fashion. Shakaila Forbes-Bell is among the first cohort of students to have completed the postgraduate course.
LCF News caught up with Shakalia who is currently working a writer and researcher, publishing for All Walks Beyond The Catwalk and has completed an internship with designer Lulu Guinness. According to Shakalia, fashion is psychology, find out why below.
What course did you before MA Psychology, and what made you want to study psychology?
I studied Psychology at University College London before starting my MA at LCF. Psychology was one of my favourite subjects at A-Level, mostly because I performed really well in the exams, one time getting 98/100! I felt like the subject really came naturally to me and it slowly grew into something that I would read up on outside of class and study time. There was only a small group of us on the course at sixth form so I was able to get a lot of one on one time with my teacher. This enabled her to discuss topics in psychology with me that went beyond the syllabus and that really piqued my interest further.
Why did you want to study a postgraduate degree?
With psychology there are just so many avenues you can take with it. For example, for my undergraduate thesis I studied the effects of clothing on racial profiling. I have always been passionate about fashion and my thesis really opened me up to the various ways both fashion and psychology intertwine. I was keen to continue my research and luckily I came across the Psychology for Fashion Professionals course at LCF which almost felt like it was made just for me!
Do you believe the clothes you wear express your true personality?
I believe that the relationship between clothing and personality is extremely complex. Yes, we do often wear clothes that we feel are reflective of our culture and our personal characteristics. However, studies show that the clothes themselves can also shape an individual’s personality traits. For example, wearing a doctor’s coat may make one more conscientious, wearing a formal suit may make you feel more astute. Moreover, the judgements individuals’ make of you based on your clothing can affect the way they interact with you which in turn can affect your response and as such, your state characteristics (temporary personality characteristics). So as you can see there are numerous variables to consider when discussing clothing and personality as the concept of a ‘true personality’ alone is also quite extensive.
Can you tell us a little bit about your final year project, and what you researched?
For my final year project I studied the impact of racial inclusivity in advertising and its effects on consumer behaviour. As a black woman, I have always found the lack of racial and cultural diversity within fashion to be incredibly damaging on a social level. For my project, I wanted to use psychology to discover the effects of this phenomenon at a business/financial level. I conducted a quantitative psychological experiment and found that black consumers are more likely to purchase a product and will spend more money on said product if it is endorsed by a fellow black model. So in essence, contrary to popular belief, black models do sell.
Do clothes and fashion have the power to change our minds, does dress/fashion effect behaviour?
I believe that fashion is an incredibly powerful force, not only in the way it can change our behaviour as mentioned before, but also in the way it fosters positive societal changes. For example, if you look at the lingerie industry alone you have the brand Nubian Skin which is challenging the concept of the colour ‘Nude’ which alienates women with darker skin tones. Similarly, you have the brand Play Out who along with a few other brands are introducing genderless underwear. These two brands are just a few examples of the way fashion can revolutionise the way we view not only ourselves but each other, celebrating our differences whilst remaining united in acceptance.
Why is it important for more people to study the psychology of fashion?
It’s important for people to study psychology of fashion because fashion is psychology! The fashion industry is so pervasive in our modern lives that it is almost crazy to think that the psychological impact of the industry on the global population is being overlooked. The concept of ‘retail therapy’, vanity sizing, brand loyalty etc. are just a few examples of the way that fashion impacts upon our behaviours and cognitions.
What have you been doing since graduating?
Since finishing my course I have obtained a PR and Marketing internship at Lulu Guinness. I believe that my masters has given me a whole host of invaluable and unique skills that facilitated me throughout my internship.
What area of fashion, behaviour or society would you dream of researching in the future?
I would love to research multicultural marketing. It is a subject very dear to me as I have researched the relationship between race and fashion in both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The global population is becoming increasingly culturally and racially diverse and I believe that brands should be embracing this and utilising psychology to ensure that all consumers are being appropriately engaged with.
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