After studying an Art and Design Foundation and a BA in History, Catriona decided to combine her interests through MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion at London College of Fashion. Her studies at LCF confirmed her interest in working within sustainability an she now works as a sustainability and social impact researcher.
Did you always know you wanted to work in sustainability?
My professional choices all share the ambition of contributing to a better world environmentally and socially and I have always held a very strong interest in implementing my understanding of human behaviour to encourage and empower people to build a better future. Completing the MSc at LCF cemented my desire to work in sustainability and, through exploring the relevance of psychology to business constructs and strategy, my path in this area has become much clearer.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
I have explored identity and behaviour through the prism of multiple creative and academic subjects. Prior to starting at LCF, I had completed an Art and Design Foundation specialising in Womenswear fashion design, where I began to comprehend the hugely detrimental impacts of the fashion industry, and a BA in History, where I focussed on the influence of social, cultural, political and economic change on behavioural patterns and shifts across different periods in time. The MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion course offered by LCF is unique and brought together these seemingly disparate topics in a holistic and exciting way. While instilling scientific rigour in my work, the MSc provided an open and creative space for me to conduct innovative and experimental research looking at the construction of sustainable identities, ethical consumer behaviour and the circular economy.
My desire to apply psychology to fashion as a vehicle to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live aligned with the Better Lives initiative that is central to LCF’s values and opened the door to me completing this Masters as a scholarship student.
What key skills did you learn during the course that you still use as a freelancer?
Through completing specialist modules in quantitative and qualitative research methods, I gained a strong and invaluable set of technical skills in research and data analysis as well as having access to experiment with emerging technologies, such as eye tracking software. My knowledge on the range of research methodologies, approaches and tools available to address different topics/ questions and generate valuable insights is essential when working on projects across multiple industries. I also gained equally important skills in communication, presentation and project management. Freelancing as a researcher, data analyst and business strategist regularly requires me to manage multiple and varied projects and set realistic expectations and deliverables to ensure that the resulting work meets client expectations.
Which of the projects you've worked on are you most proud of?
I worked with the Social Responsibility team and artist Lucy Orta at the London College of Fashion on an artwork in prisons project. The project celebrated the centenary of the Representation of the People’s Act, paying homage to the 1,000 suffragettes who were imprisoned during the struggle to obtain the right to vote. Based at HMP Downview Prison, the aims were to give a voice to under-represented women, increase inmate wellbeing and aid the rehabilitative journey. I advised on research and data collection methods to assess the impact of the project, developing and conducting focus groups with the inmates and volunteers. Through identifying positive changes in participants’ outlook and wellbeing as a result of taking part, future funding for similar initiatives will be more easily secured.
Between research, analyst and strategist, where do you enjoy working the most?
For me, working as a researcher, analyst and strategist are not mutually exclusive but are all dependent on each other. I enjoy being a part of the research process from the initial conception of an idea, right through to the research transferral process, using the insights to shape meaningful strategy.
You've only been working in the industry for 1 year since graduating, but what is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Presenting my research looking at the impact of wearing sustainable clothing on emotion as part of a symposium on the societal impact of sustainable behaviour at the British Psychological Society conference in 2019. The BPS is the representative body for psychology in the UK, and is responsible for the promotion of excellence in the science, education, and application of the discipline, so having my work selected and recognised by them was a big highlight for me. This enabled me to disseminate my findings to a wider audience and increase awareness in the field of psychology, sustainability and fashion.
What do you love most about your profession?
One of the things I love most about the work I do is communicating my findings in ways that deepen awareness and motivate change; seeing the fascination and excitement that my research brings to others. Making people more aware of their own, often subconscious, actions can be really empowering and help people to observe and change their behaviour.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I’m excited to be starting a PhD funded by Procter & Gamble with the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London in October 2019. The outputs of this research will help define new circular models for the supply chain of fast moving consumer goods, providing manufacturers with a range of new transformative scenarios for FMCGs development and a smarter use of resources. Building on work that I have already done, FMCGs, produced, consumed and disposed of cheaply and quickly, are a major area of consumption and pose a big, high impact opportunity to understand how to tackle sustainability and successfully implement circular solutions.
What plans do you have for your career?
Broadly speaking, I would like to use my skills and experiences to push boundaries and help drive positive change for a more nature and humanity centred future. However, allowing my path to evolve naturally and approaching my career with a sense of fluidity has brought me to where I am today and will continue to guide me going forward.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sustainability?
To stay optimistic. It’s really easy to feel defeated by the scale of the problem when working in this field but even small changes can make a big difference!