When I started working with a brand consultant for my company, I was prompted to find other journalists and influencers out there who might be like me. While I didn’t find too many that were exactly like me, I ended up finding someone far more intriguing than I was expecting. Enter, Anabel Maldonado, creator of the Psychology of Fashion.
A fellow Canuck, Ms. Maldonado hails from Toronto but has since found her place in London. After following quite an unconventional path, Anabel found her stride in the intersection of her two passions: fashion and psychology. Since moving across the pond, she’s found herself in the world of fashion, and more recently, sustainable fashion. With a novel idea, a great mentor and a healthy dose of ambition, Ms. Maldonado has carved her own space in an otherwise exclusive industry. Her website covers a variety of topics from op-eds to analytical pieces to interviews, all from a thought-provoking viewpoint. And despite a generally academic approach to her writing, she remains frank in her opinions and topical with her subject matter.
If you’re bored with the mainstream, often simplistic take on fashion, you’ve just found your saving grace. I was fortunate enough to snag an interview with this increasingly busy lady and found out she’s as interesting as she is cool. Check out what she had to say below on crazy career paths, guilty pleasures and how we can approach sustainability from a psychological standpoint.
What sparked your switch from psych to fashion?
Although the two fields may seem disparate, the motivation that drew me to both was the same: the desire to help others fulfil their potential – be that through an internal or external impetus. Before I made the switch in London, I was working in an NHS diagnostic team that carried out assessments and treatment to children with developmental delays. There was a lot more paperwork than there was clinical work in that job, and I didn’t feel I was making the difference on a grand scale that I sought to. Also, e-commerce, blogs, fashion on social media and Tumblr – all of that was becoming a thing, and the exposure made me realize that I couldn’t deny that I liked and grasped fashion a lot more than the average person, and cared way more about grammar than the average person, so I thought I’d see what happens with fashion writing. The rest happened naturally.
Tell me about The Psychology of Fashion.
As I progressed through my fashion career, I was always frustrated by the lack of depth around how fashion is portrayed, consumed, and understood. People think it’s frivolous because of the way that we present it. I wanted us to start thinking beyond pointless cyclical trends and develop a framework to help us be aware of why we wear what we wear and the relationship between clothes and our mood, emotions and personality. The Psychology of Fashion, which spans research, media, and commerce, is the first real fashion psychology platform attempting to develop this framework.
How do you find starting your own business different from going freelance?
It’s completely different in terms of your sense of risk and security. When you’re freelance, if you’re good at what you do, you always have new work coming in, and as such you’re not completely reliant on any one client. It’s also finite, so even if a particular project is not too much fun, you know it will eventually end. When it’s your own business, it’s an indefinite commitment, it’s a huge risk, and it can be scary to think it may not work out.
What’s been the hardest part of your career so far?
The first few years in the fashion industry – due to not being paid or severely underpaid, and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world without any family nearby. Other figures in the industry are thankfully increasingly shedding light on this issue, but we need to keep talking about it. Not only are workers being exploited, but the fact that there are so few paid jobs in fashion creates a huge barrier to entry for many talented people.
What’s something about your job that people might not know?
I don’t think people realize how much hustle is actually involved. Social media actually makes this worse as we all see each others’ highlight reels and assume many fashion personalities are always living the dream, with endless new outfits and lavish vacations. This isn’t the whole picture, it’s not reality. We’re editors or content creators for a reason – we make very good highlight reels – but most of us have tolerated an untold hell at one point or another.
What led you to London to start your career?
It was after a conversation I had with my mentor, a psychiatrist and clinic director where I was a research assistant in Toronto. He had convinced me that I was selling myself short in many ways and that I ought to travel.The next day, I decided that I would go to London on a total whim. I had only planned to stay 6-8 months, gain some international work experience, and then return to Toronto and apply to grad school in New York. Ten years later, I am still here, but I definitely think that was meant to happen. All that said, much like I came full circle with fashion and psychology, I wouldn’t be surprised if that also happened geographically.
I see you’re dabbling in ethical fashion. What sparked that interest?
Another inspiring mentor I am lucky to have – Carmen Busquets. I’ve been working with her over five years, and she has taught me a lot about the importance of sustainability. The turning point was a sustainability-focused trip we took to Costa Rica as part of a group earlier this year. We met with many Latin American artisans, ethical entrepreneurs, and leaders in the sustainability movement such as Paul Hawken and Gisele Bündchen. Also, just being in Costa Rica, which is one of the most sustainable countries in the world, was really eye-opening.
From a psychology point of view, is there a way we can make the shift to sustainable faster either through brands or consumers?
We have to make people care and understand. We’ll change consumer behaviour when the perceived reward of buying better and less is greater than the appeal of a new piece or a bargain. Unless they really understand the consequences, they can’t care enough for this shift in dynamic to take place. As such, we need to talk about sustainability to the non-converted in a way that they grasp. The eco-aware creators of fashion-sustainability content are generally eco-aware and well-versed in all the jargon. As a result, much of the informative content ends up being long-winded, poorly summarized and full of sustainability buzzwords that make the average person tune-out. We need to educate differently. For example, I used to wave-off sustainable fashion and always opt for high street, like many of us, because it’s more affordable and leaves more disposable income for other things. But knowing what I know now about the impact that fast-fashion has on people and the environment, I started feeling a bit icky buying and wearing it and wondering if I really can’t afford to buy better.
How do you choose which brands to work with?
I like to work with strong, focused brands that I feel have the potential to go somewhere, that fill an untapped niche in the market, and where the founder has a clear vision and isn’t afraid to do something new. The worst for me is a fearful founder who just wants to do what others have done, and shies away from anything which actually may be impactful or interesting for fear that someone may not understand it. I always say that if you try to appeal to everybody, you appeal to no one deeply.
What does a typical Monday look like for you?
Coffee, lots of coffee. Catching up on emails. Some writing. Client work. Social media. A workout. I don’t do social things on a weeknight, so I would likely watch a show and order food once my fiancé comes home. We tend to order poke and are currently watching Silicon Valley to nurture my tech-entrepreneur side.
Guilty fashion pleasure? Or just guilty pleasure?
Guilty fashion pleasure is wearing athleisure all the time. As I work from a mix of home, cafes and the gym, there is little need for a proper outfit. I’ve started to feel like an overgrown teenager. Regular guilty pleasure…carbs in any form.
When you’re not hustling, what are some of your other hobbies?
Fitness – I like spinning, TRX for core and working with resistance bands for glutes. Reading – I like everything from chick lit and trashy beach reads to books on entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence. I also quite enjoy cooking, especially devising recipes of healthy versions of my favourite things. The latest was quite an elaborate sort of naked burrito bowl.
*All photos courtesy of Anabel Maldonado.