Consumption Studies: The force of the ordinary

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala


Consumer research deals with the acquisition, use and disposal of goods and services. Our workplace, SIFO, the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, dates back to the 1930s, when home economics and testing of products were predominant. The work aimed at guiding consumers, at that time called housewives, through the ‘jungle’ of novel consumer goods. More recently, SIFO’s work combines social science and textile technology to study the social and technical aspects of consumption.

In this chapter, we ask: how can knowledge of clothing consumption contribute to the work on sustainable fashion? We will answer the question through examples from interdisciplinary projects on textiles at SIFO, as well as from consumer research. However, we will not give an overview of consumer research on clothes and sustainability. But first, an admission: fashion – the topic of this book – operates according to a different logic from our field of work. We would have posed the question differently: how can consumer research – and all the other fields of expertise covered in this book –contribute to more sustainable patterns of clothes production and consumption? Therefore, we also have to include a discussion of the concept of fashion.

This article is Chapter 12 in the book Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, edited by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham that you can find here (

Sustainable clothing design: use matters

Kirsi Laitala and Casper Boks


Many life cycle assessment studies document that the use period is the most resource-demanding phase during the clothing life cycle. In this paper, we discuss how design can help to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing. Motives behind clothing disposal, acquisition practices and maintenance habits are analysed based on two surveys, qualitative interviews of households, and examination of disposed clothing. The main reasons for clothing disposal were changes in garments, followed by size and fit issues, taste-related unsuitability, situational reasons, functional shortcomings and fashion or style changes. Several design solutions can enable the users to keep and use the clothes longer, and reduce the need for laundering, thus potentially decreasing the total environmental effects of clothing consumption.

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