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images
representing sustainability, and five indicative of luxury. Participants
were
encouraged to source their images from online sites,
print
advertisements, photo albums, magazines, and the like, and to
consider
the implications of their respective choices. At follow-up
meetings,
each participant offered a personal narrative describing why
they
chose specific images, and what meaning they attached to each
image.
We also asked informants to sort their respective images into
three
relevant categories of their own devising (e.g. industry-related
activities,
advertising, and luxury-defining locations such as Parisian
landmarks).
Participants then described how any two of their categories
were
more similar to each other than to the third. We conducted
this
triad task to probe for deeper meanings and values associated
Table
2 provides a list of images that participants provided. Spiggle
(1994),
as well as Thompson (1996), provide a detailed analysis of this
approach,
including categorization, abstraction of categories, comparison
of
instances within data, and discernment of emergent themes.
Various
techniques have been proposed to tap into the subconscious,
where
most decisions are made. Heisley and Levy (1991) describe the
importance
of visual elicitation techniques, as does Zaltman (1997),
the
developer of ZMET. According to Zaltman (1997) 95 percent of
what
consumers think and feel is never expressed verbally; mechanisms
that
elicit responses are needed. Our participants’ respective responses
to
images of their choosing revealed subtle assumptions, desires, and
beliefs;
their self-selected and self-interpreted images served their purpose
well.
Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of
Luxury Brands
279
Table 1
List of participants.
Roxanne
Canada 20 Student
Lynn
Hong Kong 31 Homemaker
Linda
Hong Kong 21 Student
Rita
Hong Kong 35 Homemaker
Dave
Canada 35 Merchandiser
Wendy
Hong Kong 20 Student
Nora
Canada 32 Shop assistant
Brendan
Canada 30 Sales clerk
Eva
Hong Kong 35 Consultant
Leticia
Hong Kong 33 Office worker
Alexa
Hong Kong 35 Teacher
Catherine
Canada 32 Office worker
Rita
Canada 20 Student
Cynthia
Hong Kong 32 Lawyer
Cathy
Hong Kong 33 Office worker
Sheena
Canada 30 Shop assistant
Jenny
Hong Kong 20 Student
Henry
Canada 21 Student
Alicia
Canada 25 Grocery store worker
Tania
Canada 20 Student
Andrew
Hong Kong 20 Student
Ellen
Hong Kong 31 Sales assistant
Joanne
Hong Kong 20 Student
Melissa
Canada 22 Student
Linda
Hong Kong 25 Student
Paula
Canada 30 Homemaker
Tom
Canada 30 Fashion store manager
John
Canada 30 Sales manager
Tim
Hong Kong 32 Financial officer
Eric
Hong Kong 30 Bank teller
280 Annamma
Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
Our
overarching finding is that consumers from both Hong Kong
and
Canada, while concerned about the environmental and social impact
of
their non-fashion purchasing decisions, did not apply such principles
to
their consumption of fashion. They talked in general terms of
saving
the environment, were committed to recycling, and expressed
dedication
to organic food. In the strict fashion context, ethical fashion
refers
to “the positive impact of a designer, a consumer choice, a method
of
production as experienced by workers, consumers, animals, society,
and
the environment” (Thomas 2008: 525). Yet, these very same consumers
routinely
availed themselves of trend-led fashionable clothing
that
was cheap: i.e. low cost to them, but high cost in environmental
and
societal terms. They also exhibited relatively little guilt about fast
fashion’s
disposability, seeing little discrepancy between their attitudes
toward
sustainability and their fashion choices.
Our
finding is unsurprising; other studies have similarly documented
irrational
consumer choices that are poorly connected to, or completely
disconnected
from, consumer values (Moisander and Personen 1991).
The
moral-norm activation theory of altruism proposed by Schwartz
(1973)
states that environmental quality is a collective good, and therefore
will
motivate consumers to embrace environmentalism in all aspects
of
life. The rapid rise of fast fashion implies otherwise. Schwartz’ theory
presumes
that consumers will thoughtfully evaluate the life cycle of different
products,
and will then select whichever product has the least
environmental
load. However, in our study, participants had little overlap
with
the “ethical hard liners” (those living entirely in line with their
commitment
to sustainability, and thus purchasing only eco-fashion)
discussed
by Niinimaki (2010: 152) in her study of eco-fashion in Finland.
Solomon
and Rabolt (2004) argue that sustainability is simply not
an
attribute that most consumers consider when purchasing clothing.
Table 2

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