This study aims to explore the relationship between conspicuous consumption and ethical production of clothing within the fashion industry. Many consumers are unaware of ethical production or are turning a blind eye to it. The current economic climate and recession may be reason to suggests that consumers have less disposable income and are less willing to spend the little money they do have on ethical clothing as the majority of the time this can be more expensive.
Conspicuous consumption and consumer shopping behaviour will be identified to observe whether or not there is a relationship between the two and if they relate to the consumers awareness of ethical production. The author aims to observe consumer shopping to gain an insight into their shopping patterns and awareness of ethical production. Exploration into fast fashion and luxury brands will be carried out, with research into previous ethical fashion campaigns highlighting those brands which are supporting the cause and those which are unaware of unethical fashion practices or who are unwilling to do anything about it. Market research was carried out to gather a wide range of feedback, showing how aware consumers are of ethical production and to see if this is affecting their shopping patterns
Liva Firth and Elizabeth Laskar are front runners for their involvement within the ethical production movement, both have worked on projects such as the ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ and ‘Eco-Age’ which have helped to change the consumers perception of ethical production, helping them to become more aware of the topic.
These recent examples of Ethical Fashion movements demonstrate the importance of the topic to be discussed by the author and throughout the following chapter’s conspicuous consumption, globalisation and the current economic climate will be explored and contextualised in relation to fast fashion and ethical production.
Chapter 1 will thoroughly research the idea of conspicuous consumption and relate previous theories (Veblen, 1998) to the current consumer shopping patterns and the economic climate (Hartnoll, 2011). The idea of fast fashion will be explored and contextualised in relation to globalisation, looking at how ethical production and consumer behaviour may have been affected by the global market.
Chapter 2 aims to thoroughly research ethical production and look at previous campaigns to highlight which brands are following ethical practices and which are unaware or have been under fire in the press for following unethical procedures. The implications of conspicuous consumption will be explored in relation to how aware conspicuous shoppers are of ethical production and if there is any relation between the two (Rath, 2008; Pignataro, 2007).
The final chapter will explore consumer behaviour and their awareness of ethical production. Thorough market research (Appendix 2, figure 1) was carried out to gain a broad understanding of consumer’s opinions on the topic being discussed. From this research the author will be able to develop the discussion further, exploring consumer behaviour (Blythe, 2008) and to establish how conscious consumers are whilst shopping and if the theory of conspicuous consumption is still affecting consumer behaviour today.
Chapter 1 - Conspicuous consumption versus the conscious consumer
“Unproductive consumption of goods is honourable, primarily as a mark of prowess and a perquisite of human dignity”. (Veblen, 1998:p69) These are the words of Thorstein Veblen, the Norwegian theorist who introduced the now classic concept of ‘conspicuous consumption’. Veblen suggested that rich people are more likely to buy highly conspicuous goods in order to show their wealth, hoping to gain social status. Ericksen and Mason stated that “individuals who engage in conspicuous consumption often do so in order to emulate the consumption patterns of the…