Fashion psychology is a mission

Is psychology the last saviour for the fashion industry?

Pak Chiu knows the answers. He is a fashion psychologist and co-founder of the online fashion magazine “HAJINSKY”. In this interview, we talk about fashion psychology which is commercially not very well-known yet and how it should become an essential part of the industry in order to make it more human and purpose driven.


Alice Weber: “Why did you decide to combine your profession as a psychologist with the creative world of the fashion industry?”

Pak Chiu:” It always came from a place of being different. Originally, I came from Hong Kong, but I moved to a very small town in England with my family. We were the only Chinese people there, slightly different, having a different point of view, culture, language. I developed an interest in what fashion actually means to men; their relationship with clothes is actually quite narrow. The image we can create with an outfit is definitely not as diverse as the current state of gender equality or diversity. Even though clothes have actually a huge representation of who you are. I wanted to get to know the idea of purpose and value behind clothes. That is why all combined together through understanding that actually being different, portraying yourself with fashion equally is broad but restrictive at the same time.
This is what let me combine understanding fashion and people together.”

Pak Chiu is convinced that fashion psychology will be the future of fashion.

“How would you explain ‘fashion psychology’?”

“It is very new and at the beginning stage. The benefit is that we can define ourselves what we want it to be but the mission for us is to inspire culture change within fashion. We want to help fashion to be a force for good, by caring about the value it adds and the purpose it brings to people.” 

“So, do people have certain prejudices about what fashion psychology is?”

“Colour psychology is a good example. People think for instance that it is about colours creating a certain feeling and that colours influence your mood. But fashion psychology is bigger than that! If you wear yellow because it is true that it will actually make people feel happier, then what is the end value of that? Do you want people to buy more or do you want people to generally feel happier? Or do you want brand engagement? A certain outcome is needed, we also talk about culture change. Putting humans at the centre of what we do; it is more than just giving consultancy knowledge. Putting humans at the centre of what we do; it is more than just giving consultancy knowledge”

“You are the research director and co-founder of the digital fashion magazine ‘Hajinsky’. What or who inspired you to start this project and why did you start it?”

“There was definitely a need. My co-founder and I thought that we cannot just finish our degree, go out there, knock on the door of rising companies and say ‘hey, we are fashion psychologists and do xyz’. We wanted to create a dialogue first, explaining what areas fashion psychology covers, what the needs in the fashion industry are, how fashion psychology could fit in. Also, fashion magazines were always kind of a portal to a new world, a world with a future, a world with experiments to me.”

Understanding the needs of consumers is key in fashion psychology.

“How does Hajinsky stand out from other online fashion magazines?”

“It is not a traditional magazine; it is still based on a real-life problem that the industry and consumers are facing. Also, I was inspired to be on that cuff of what fashion can be, not always being on the commercial side.”

“Which worries, or thoughts come to your mind when you think about today’s fashion industry?”

“Having more of a balance at the moment. There is a count which is very much about “fashion is a business” and another fight of the argument is that sustainability is more important. Meaning fashion for good where you innovate and produce not at an extend of the environment etc. Currently, people would either take the left side or right side of fashion and little negotiation stays in between. Brands which are having the sustainability initiative are growing, doing well. On the other hand, brands that remain fast fashion, specifically like ‘Primark’ or ‘Bohoo’ have all issues with unethical work etc. but still they also do really well.”

“Meaning that the communication plays a particularly important role?”

“It is about being aware; how can we connect all together instead of people being polarized. The ‘cancel culture’ is popular at the moment but it is important to have that dialogue in between people. If we really want to achieve sustainability, we need to have more voices in it. Voices from people that are not just from the middle class.”

“So, you mean that especially people from higher positions should talk more about the different aspects of sustainability?”

“It is about the fact that we want everyone to be able to take part of this discussion, we don’t want to exclude anyone. How do we widen the consumer groups of these sustainability brands? They should be much more diverse, including not just race but also age and affordability. American brand Reformation for instance has a very tight consumer group which is middle class white women and they are thinking about how to diversify their customer group.”

“And why is particularly psychology in the fashion industry so important?”

“It helps introducing things that maybe beat the conventional traditional system that we think about. The only way customers are seen at the moment is either made up through the mood board or data or brand association on Instagram through influencers. Brands don’t really find out what the needs and intentions to buy are. Understanding this experience of actually just holding on to possessions or letting go of possessions or understanding what makes this ring different from the ring I have.”

“In how far is psychology able to achieve a real positive transformation of the industry in terms of a more humane and sustainable industry, and which limitations are there?“

“I was able to participate in a Kering project. We asked the sustainability executives:’if we say fashion psychology, what goes through your mind?’ and ‘why is it important to think about the psychology of people for the sustainability talk and development?’. The executive was very honest, he was scared of psychology. ‘To me it seems like you are focussing on mental health’, he said, ‘I don’t see this topic being discussed in our meeting’. This showed me that the majority of people running this site is very business oriented. Where fashion is only viewed from the point of physical products and consumption. The psychology and the sustainable relationship that we build with the act of fashion, let’s say shopping, is never really talked about in this context. Maybe people might not want products anymore, instead services and relationships, more interaction than actually products.”

“Currently, you are working on a research on ‘Theory of design thinking, which promotes empathy and a used-centred approach in fashion design’. Could you elaborate on this research a bit further? What is your goal for this research?”

“It’s about the real interest of a design team. With design thinking, the design process is led by asking ourselves which problems we want to solve for humans. Maybe people might not want products anymore, instead services and relationships, more interaction than actually products. In fact, the core is creating and innovating something that have never been there before.”

“Are there any examples for this design thinking which come to your mind?“

“Currently, we find a lot of visually attractive AI and VR in fashion. But what is the human relation to that? How can we use technology in a more meaningful way? What is it what makes us want these digital clothes? What is the point of creating things for months just to create a digital campaign? And next week something new comes along and people forget what I did and what I did isn’t important anymore. Also, here it should be something that is purposeful and stays on our minds.”

Fashion psychology is an area that is still very new and unexplored. Nevertheless, its implementation is definitely powerful enough to impact the way how fashion will be designed, produced and perceived. Aiming to put the very nature of what makes us human in the centre in every single step. In the future, fashion psychology will play an increasingly important role as the importance of brands’ purpose becomes extremely relevant.


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Brands and Innovation         Amsterdam Fashion Institute