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London College of Fashion

Judith 
        Achumba-Wöllenstein

Judith Achumba-Wöllenstein

Profession
Editorial director and co-founder of Hajinsky
College
London College of Fashion
Person Type
Alumni
Judith  Achumba-Wöllenstein

Biography

Judith completed the MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals (now MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion) in 2017. She’s the editorial director of Hajinsky, a fashion psychology consultancy and magazine co-founded by her and LCF alumna Pak Chiu, who graduated from the same course.

Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey before enrolling at LCF?

My undergraduate was in politics, law and economics and after a stint working for the European Union, I realised I needed to work in a more creative field. Over the next couple years, I interned in several communication agencies until I finally ended up working as a creative strategist and communication consultant for fashion brands; I was running my own business at the same time, a platform selling last season’s designer stock through storytelling as a way of reducing wastefulness.

Psychology applied to fashion still seems quite an unknown area for some students. Why did you decide to further your studies in this field?

While I think the sustainable aspect of the industry and its future is important, I was also really interested in the human side of fashion. I learned about the course when I accidentally came across an interview with Alexa Chung and former course leader Professor Carolyn Mair for Vogue. Hearing Carolyn speak about all the things that I was always talking about made me feel like I had finally found like-minded people.

What is Fashion Psychology for you?

Fashion is much more than clothes, it’s a vast industry including many different sectors and disciplines. In the same way, psychology is broad and includes anything from cognitive psychology to behavioural psychology and many more.

"For me, psychology is a tool that I can use to point to, explain and possible resolve some of the human challenges that the industry is facing."

What did you find attracting about this field?

The fact that I could combine both my professional background in branding and communication and my interest in cognitive psychology, looking at how the brand messages we communicate influence people’s behaviour through the embodiment of the clothes they wear. I believe that brands and their messages are powerful influencers of culture and identity and, therefore, have the privilege and opportunity to take responsibility over how they shape both.

Can you tell us a bit about your research focus for your Final Major Project?

My research was based on a psychological concept called ‘enclothed cognition’, which is the systematic influence that the symbolic meaning of an item of clothing can have on the wearer’s cognitive processes, that is: their thinking, acting and feeling. I wanted to find out whether brand stories can influence the symbolic meaning of clothes and if so, how that influence informed the wearer’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. My hope is that more fashion brands will use the opportunity they have to influence people’s lives for the better by connecting their clothes with stories that are empowering and releasing people’s potential.

Let’s talk about Hajinsky: How did you come up with the idea of launching a Fashion Psychology magazine?

Being on the course was very inspiring, it gave me a full year away from work to just research and think about things from an intellectual point of view and question the status quo. With the course being so new and the field being quite undefined, fashion psychologist wasn’t exactly a job description that companies were putting out and looking for.

"I knew I had to create my own path and I started by educating people about what fashion psychology is and why it is relevant to the industry."

We felt that, while there were a few fashion psychology magazines out there, none of them represented the discipline in the way we saw it. We wanted to create something that could be used as a resource by individuals within the industry, empowering them to become agents for positive change in their sphere of influence.

And how did you find the process of setting up your own business?

Considering that Hajinsky wasn’t my first business, the challenge for me was convincing myself to take the risk again. Starting a business, whether magazine or otherwise, is an all or nothing kind of venture, and it means being ok with little security and often having no idea how to do things. I think what pushed me to try again was being surrounded with people who shared the same values and had strengths that I didn’t have. Pak Chiu, my business partner, and Susan Jean, who helped to set it up and is still a contributor to the magazine, were absolutely instrumental and I couldn’t have done it without them. And my husband, who is a product designer for apps and web developer, is honestly my greatest asset. Being surrounded by people who believe in you and the vision that you carry is the most important thing.

Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?

We are currently working on a number of workshops that will launch in summer, which I’m very excited about. We are also in conversation with other creatives working in the industry and planning a series of interactive exhibitions. I’m very passionate about bringing fashion, storytelling, technology and human interaction into actual physical spaces and using these occasions to positively shaping cultural norms.

Where would you like to see yourself professionally in the next few years?

My dream is to eventually run a creative studio with my husband, providing expert services in technology, fashion psychology and design.

"Of course, I would love for Hajinsky to be known as a platform that empowers the fashion industry to place value on people and positively shape culture"

whether we turn it into a full magazine publication, grow the consultancy arm of what we do or even become a publication house for other people to publish books that align with our values. For me, it’s a matter of staying true to my values and beliefs, while navigating the opportunities that open up to us.

For those interested in psychology applied to fashion, would you encourage them to apply for the MSc?

I think it’s important to know what you are getting into and what you can expect. I encourage people to think about what they want to learn and how they intend to make the best of the year before starting.

"It is a course that really requires people to take self initiative, to bring their passion, to think for themselves and to delve into unknown territories."

If you come from a fashion background, be prepared to dig into all the areas of psychology and go beyond the lectures to learn all that you can learn. If your background is in psychology, you may find the lectures repetitive so you'd have to take make the most of the university's extra-curricular activities and connections so you can really dive into the world of fashion and know how to connect both areas. The course is new and taking shape as it develops, so as a student you have to come with a willingness to make it work for you and what you want to do.

Image credits: Lara Angelil (Photographer), Julie Liu (Stylist), Veronika Tran (Assistant Stylist), Mireia Ludevid (Assistant Photographer), Taeko Suda (Hair Stylist), Asuka Fukuda (MUA), Sanna (Grey Model Agency), Ellie May (Storm Model Management)

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