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LCF Panel Debate discusses Positive Psychology in Fashion

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Published date
02 March 2015

London College of Fashion’s Better Lives series drew to a close on last week, with a panel discussion on the positive psychology in fashion.

Chaired by Dr Phil Sams, the panel included; Dr Carolyn Mair (Reader in Psychology at LCF); Prof. Frances Corner (Head of LCF), Dr Tom Lomas (Lecturer at UEL, MSc Applied Positive Psychology); Dr Itai Ivtzan (Program Leader at UEL, MSc Applied Positive Psychology); and Zowie Broach (Head of Fashion at the Royal Academy of Art, founder of Boudicca fashion house). Dr Phil Sams introduced the debate with a definition of positive psychology:

“It’s widely regarded in psychology that we have a base line of “ok-ness”, most psychology focuses on those who are below the base line, and attempting to get them up to the “ok” line. Positive psychology says there is a world beyond this, and this series has focused on how fashion can get us there.”

Tim Lomas followed on from Sams, explaining:

“There is a strong link between mental well being and whether society enables or hinders our self expression”

Fashion, as Tim described, is an important tool for self-expression:

“Fashion can allow us to find a sense of meaning by expressing ourselves through our clothing, and, therefore, can positively impact our well being.”

Frances Corner elaborated on fashion’s role within positive psychology, explaining, clothing can be used as a tool for tackling problems with which the fashion industry is often associated:

“Everyone has to wear clothes, and everyone is entitles to wear beautiful clothes whatever their size or ability, we could use the fun and frivolous side of fashion to take on, and develop solutions to, ethical problems within the fashion industry.”

Zowie Broach agreed with Corner’s statement and, after showing the political short film, ‘Nonlinear War’, by Adam Curtis, stated:

“We need to believe in the wonder and beauty of fashion, not just in capitalism.”

Itai Ivtzan described how one of the ways fashion can become multi-dimensional to the wearer, and transcend capitalism, is through spirituality and mediation:

“Meditation can pierce through the value of the things we think we need, if we step back from the immediate desire of ‘stuff’, which meditation can allow us to do, we can move away from this constant need to temporarily satisfy ourselves with new garments.”

Dr Carolyn Mair also reiterated that self-satisfying, selfish happiness was not what positive psychology encompassed:

“Positive psychology isn’t just about being happy, it’s much deeper than that. It’s about doing good for everybody, it’s not about individual selfish happiness.”

As the seminar drew to a close, Tom Lomas left the audience with his powerful statement on the power of fashion to drive change:

“The most damaging thing is to think that a situation can’t be changed or challenged, and we can challenge and change situations through fashion.”