"Why are 80% of the clothes we at one time loved left unworn in the closet?" This was one of the key questions raised during multinational manufacturer Procter & Gamble's Future Fabrics Forum, held last week in New York.
The event brought together leaders in the fields of fashion, textiles and human psychology to discuss how P&G is applying the latest research in cognitive science and human multisensory perception to its product innovations.
With a particular focus on combating the throwaway culture of fast fashion, P&G's wider research includes exploring the subconscious cross-sensory attributes of garments, and how they affect our fashion choices.
- US-based cognitive psychologist Dr. Lawrence Rosenblum says that advances in perceptual psychology – the study of how our brains use even the subtlest of information to perceive the world – reveal how our unconscious senses affect the "hanger appeal" of garments. In other words, our choices are not just determined by the way a garment looks, but also subconsciously by the way it smells and feels.
- Sabine Le Chatelier, deputy fashion director at international fabric trade show Première Vision, agreed, saying fabrics are more than just visual – "it's about the alchemy of look, feel and handle or behaviour".
- Margarita Bahrikeeton, research fellow for P&G Fabric Care, says that to leverage these unconscious sensory decisions, fabrics should be thought of as living, ageing materials – much like skin or hair – whose life should be prolonged, protected and enhanced. In this vein, innovations in P&G's flagship Tide and Downy laundry products are more akin to haircare. The three-step fabric care approach, called 'Fibre Science', aims to clean, protect and enhance garments – increasing their longevity and multisensory appeal.
- Le Chatelier echoed this idea, saying that a fabric's 'life' begins at point of purchase, and acts as "an interface between intimacy and the outside world".
- She further noted that in the digital age, the need for tactility and multisensory experiences is gaining traction, as people seek to "touch the virtual". Stylus has seen this in the growing number of pure e-tailers opening physical outposts – such as US menswear brand Bonobos's string of try-on-only 'guide shops', providing a tangible touchpoint for its digital offer.
For more on clothing care, see A Greener Clean and Swash 10-Minute Clothing Care. For more on multisensory fashion, see Wellness-Boosting Scented Textiles, Enhanced Retail Realities and E-tail Gets A Physical Presence.