Thinking differently: Fashionable, original

Dr Carolyn Mair (Reader in Psychology at the London College of Fashion) reports from a seminar

Image credit: Patricia Sawyer— BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles 2014. Title: Textile Development - Colour pigment Discharge on Cotton Voile

Guests – including the public, students from London College of Fashion’s new MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals and MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion, academics and practitioners from psychology, psychiatry, art and fashion – came along to this seminar to hear three speakers.

The first speaker, Dr Anna McGee, an HCPC Chartered Psychologist is currently Head of Research at Sense, the organisation that supports people who have dual sensory impairment. Anna has undertaken research over the last 30 years focusing largely on the disabilities that are associated with premature birth, including dual sensory impairment. Since joining Sense in 2010 to establish a research team, a total of 25 projects related to all aspects of dual sensory impairment across the lifespan have been established under Dr McGee’s management.

In opening her talk, Dr McGee invited the audience members to close their eyes and imagine a match being lit. This was to demonstrate the multisensory nature of perception. She argued that impairments in hearing and sight are communication problems which affect thousands of individuals in the UK. She emphasised how these problems impact self-identity, sense of belonging, and of course, well-being. However, good design can improve quality of life not only for people with dual sensory impairment, but for all of us. Anna argued for tactile design in which quality is not compromised.

The second speaker, Ninela Ivanova, a research student from Kingston University, demonstrated how tactile design can be embedded in fashion design. She is a fashion and textiles practitioner and a design research student in the Design for Body and Material Research Centre at Kingston University London. Ivanova’s PhD is positioned within a contemporary field of fashion and textiles inquiry, which is being redefined by advances in science and technology. The main focus of the research has been to further understand concepts intersecting fashion material, sensory experiences and the human body. Ninela works with Sense to support the inclusion of deafblind people in mainstream fashion and the design experience. Her talk demonstrated the value of co-design and how fashion textiles could be tailored to the objectives of people with dual sensory impairment, particularly deafness and blindness. She demonstrated how communication problems encountered by this group can be isolating. However, using several case studies, Ninela clearly showed the resilience of the individuals involved and the pleasure they derived through involvement in the entire design process and choice of textile. 

The notion of resilience also featured in the talk by Professor Joan Freeman, CPsychol, FBPSs, and BPS Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with the gifted and talented. Professor Freeman has a private practice in London for potentially gifted children, appears in the media and works for the development of human abilities to their highest levels. Her most recent book, Gifted Lives (2010), describes some of the gifted and non-gifted people she compared over 35 years, most now in their 40s. Joan presented her concern with Creativity versus Academic Excellence, discovered in her intimate 2013 study of 210 children their families and schools, each of the target 70 gifted children matched with two control children. At the end of a long interview, she had asked all the children a final uplifting question, 'What gives you most pleasure?'. 24 per cent said they found it in achievement though only 7 per cent found it in creativity.  Looking further at the accumulated data with regard to this highly signifcant finding, Freeman identified the family and school pressure to achieve academically and the low importance given to creative pursuits. She provided some moving case studies of sample adults who had been identified as gifted as children and thus pressured to pursue academic careers, to the detriment of their creative talents in music and art. 

A lively audience discussion followed the talks and the inspirational evening closed with refreshments. In sum, this was a truly inspirational seminar in which three very different speakers demonstrated how an understanding of human behaviour can contribute to well-being in many different ways.

 - The next Thinking Differently event will take place on 14th May 2015. For more information please contact [email protected].



BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber


Thanks Carolyn. Joy and pleasure seem to be the missing elements in state school learning with teachers forced to leverage fear of failure as an incentive. Psychological authority on the pleasure and importance of content rich information which can be amplified through positive emotional engagement is much needed.