The Psychology of Fashion: LCF Alumni Judith Achumba-Wöllenstein and Pak Chiu discuss HAJINSKY Magazine
Judith Achumba-Wöellenstein and Pak Chiu are graduates of MA Psychology For Fashion Professionals (now MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion) and co-founders of the forward thinking digital fashion psychology magazine HAJINSKY. We caught up with Judith and Pak to find out about their business and research approach.
What inspired you to create HAJINSKY?
JUDITH: 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 after I graduated. 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. I felt that, while there were a few fashion psychology magazines out there, none of them represented the discipline in the way I saw it.
I 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.
PAK: Psychology offers a huge pool of resources for creative professionals working in the fashion industry but it seems people don’t get access to it. An obvious example would be the use of psychology to address mental health problems and to look after the well-being of those working in fashion. Another would be using psychology research to achieve better insights into the meaning of fashion and our evolving identity. But what I realised was that these resources have not been made accessible to people. When Judith approached me with this idea of creating a fashion psychology magazine, it felt right as it would be the first time that Fashion Psychology is broken down and translated in a way – through creative writing and visual storytelling – that people can relate to, discuss and use for themselves.
Can you tell us about the launch process?
JUDITH: 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. Having Pak as my partner was absolutely instrumental and I couldn’t have done it without him. Being surrounded by people who believe in you and the vision that you carry is the most important thing.
PAK: It was thrilling but slightly nerve-wracking. It tested a lot of my skills and knowledge, but it also allowed me to identify the ones that I need to improve on. Fashion publications also hold a personal meaning to me. Having left Hong Kong and spent my teenage years in the quieter part of the UK, fashion magazines were my way of staying connected with my home; the speed, the buzz of cosmopolitan cities and the acceptance of diversity in terms of thoughts, social values, and identity. In my mind, this set a very high bar for what I wanted HAJINSKY to achieve.
What does "applying psychology in fashion to help creative professionals put people first – in and through their daily practice" look like?
We believe that people and their experiences are at the centre of fashion and we offer techniques to make this happen.
Through conducting psychology research, we have helped creative professionals to better understand the needs of people during the design and development process, resulting in the creation of more purposeful products.
Like many professionals we meet, we also believe that today's fashion brands have a major role in shaping culture. Another example of how we help creative professionals put people first is by applying psychology theories around storytelling to help brands understand the needs their product might be meeting with their customers and communicating more clearly around these needs.
We can help creatives understand, plan and deliver messages that are meaningful and empowering.
How does your research inform your editorial approach?
JUDITH: When it comes to our editorial approach we keep our motto “putting people first” at the forefront of our minds and we use the same cognitive psychology theories around storytelling to inform our decisions.
Rather than making us or our message central to the way we visually tell stories, we think of our audience reading an article and what problems they might be facing in their work that our editorial could give a voice to.
In our latest article on newness in fashion, we determined that our audience is predominantly fashion creatives who are familiar with the efforts taken during photoshoots to preserve the newness of an item, for example: taping the bottom of shoes, wrapping clothes in plastic, etc. We then made these efforts central to the editorial.
The key for us is about relating to our audience and helping them feel understood. We aim to give everything we create a meaning.
How did your time at LCF influence your creative ambition?
From the get-go we were encouraged to think outside of the box, applying the knowledge we were taught to answer some of the key challenges that fashion is facing, for example – environmental concerns, issues of inclusivity. This really helped us to become critical thinkers, ensuring our work stays relevant and applicable to the industry.
What topics are you most interested in covering?
JUDITH: My background is in branding and my research at LCF was around the influence of fashion brand stories on our cognitive processes. This is still the area I’m most interested in covering. I believe brands significantly shape our culture. The clothes we wear become symbolic for the stories and messages that brands communicate via various media channels and therefore influence our thinking, behaving and feeling. Thoughts and actions are what drives cultural change making fashion brands incredibly powerful agents in society.
PAK: For me, it’s the topic and techniques of applying kindness in fashion.
Kindness is not a word that is associated with or portrayed by fashion. But in a way, applying kindness through user empathy can really help with understanding the needs and values that your designs or product serve.
My thesis at LCF was based on applying kindness in the design process of a renowned Parisian label.
HAJINSKY magazine is run by Pak and Judith on a day to day basis, with the support of Judith’s husband Timothy – a User Experience Designer largely involved in driving their design language.
What advice do you have for current students looking to set up their own business?
JUDITH: In terms of practical advice, LCF Student Enterprise Team were very supportive. They guided us through the structural and legal elements that make up a business. During my last year at LCF, I was in and out of their office all the time and they were so dedicated to helping us succeed. I would also recommend students take part in the SET challenge. Obviously, the prize at the end is great but what was even more valuable was the feedback received at every stage of the process. They were really tailored to our goals and business needs.
How has the project helped foster collaboration?
PAK: An important lesson I learned from our project is to be honest and professional. All of our editorials are done through collaborations with external photographers, stylists, make-up and hair artists and their feedback has focused on these two elements.
JUDITH: We’ve also had a few written contributions from other students that studied on the course.
You also run bespoke workshops and offer consultancy - can you tell us a bit more about this?
Our workshops are very client-based and we always start with their problem or objectives first. For example, Pak has been offering workshops at AMFI in Amsterdam with the focus of improving the well-being of fashion design students and to offer ways of looking after their creativity in a professional workplace. Judith has also been working on a project with an RCA student and LandRover. We don’t want to share too much yet as it will all be revealed on HAJINSKY soon!
Are there any new projects you're working on? What do you hope to achieve in the long run and how do you see HAJINSKY growing?
JUDITH: HAJINSKY is a pretty demanding project that easily takes up all of our time. Nonetheless, when it comes to a financial reward, Pak and I are learning that we will have to play the long game, so at the moment we are doing a lot of research into different ways that we can create an income through it. I’m personally really intrigued by the idea of writing books with a publisher. In the meantime, I’m also in the process of starting a branding and interiors agency with my husband as HAJINSKY is one of many projects we have worked on together over the years.
PAK: Such a hard question to answer as there is enough going on right now to occupy my mind! I have recently moved to Amsterdam so it will be exciting to introduce what we do at HAJINSKY to the fashion industry here. I would love to see myself one day offering psychology to the world of sustainability developments.
No matter how many advancements are made with fashion and textile technologies, if it has no real emotional relevance to the users and their everyday lives, they won’t buy into it. It seems being able to connect and empathise with the audience is key.
Thanks to HAJINSKY Magazine for the images: Photography - Kyoungmin Ryu | Styling - Simon Schmidt | Styling Assistant - Yianna Hadjipanayiotou | Make-up - Sjaniel Turrell | Model - Webster at Nii Agency