This study aimed to understand the lived experiences of voluntary simplifiers in the context of apparel consumption. Moreover, this study sought to identify the specific personal motivations of voluntary simplifiers. The research questions developed to meet the research objectives were as follows: 1) What are consumers’ deeper personal motivations to pursue voluntary simplicity? 2) How do consumers practice voluntary simplicity in terms of apparel consumption? To answer these research questions, this study adopted the consumer decision process model (Blackwell, Miniard, & Engel, 2001) as a framework. This model includes a series of stages to explain the cognitive and behavioral activities of consumers: problem recognition, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision, use/care/storage, post-purchase evaluation, and disposal. This model can provide a thorough guideline for understanding the apparel consumption of voluntary simplifiers. By adopting phenomenology, the apparel consumption of voluntary simplifiers was considered a unique phenomenon and described through the common or shared experiences of the research participants. Their experiences were shared through in-depth interviews, and eight participants living in Minnesota were interviewed. Interview questions were developed based on the seven stages of the consumer decision process model, which were categorized into three bigger categories: acquisition, use, and disposal. A range of personal motivations and apparel consumption behaviors of voluntary simplifiers were revealed. The first and most common personal reason to pursue voluntary simplicity was “intergenerational transmission between the participants and their parents,” followed by “transformative life stages: trials and learning,” “toward a coherent self,” and “reducing clutter and anxiety.” The participants of this study shared that their learnings from their parents and transformative life stages helped them consider making this simple lifestyle choice, in addition to their efforts to maintain a coherent self and achieve perfection in every aspect of their lives. The common themes of apparel consumption of voluntary simplifiers were discussed according to these three categories: acquisition, use, and disposal. The findings show that voluntary simplifiers represent an empowered consumer group who pursues sustainable apparel consumption. Policymakers and consumer educators may use these findings to support the promotion of this lifestyle alternative. In addition, by understanding the needs and deeper meanings of a sustainable lifestyle from the perspective of consumers, marketers and retailers in the apparel industry would be able to apply their learning to their sustainable merchandising practices and strategies.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.July 2018. Major: Design, Housing and Apparel. Advisor: Hye-Young Kim. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 111 pages.
Understanding Apparel Consumption Behavior of Voluntary Simplifiers: A Phenomenological Approach.
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