Vogue Education Presents: Shakaila Forbes-Bell 

Vogue Education Presents: Shakaila Forbes-Bell 

Shakaila Forbes-Bell

Vogue Education Presents welcomed the esteemed fashion psychologist, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, for a workshop into the psychological motivations behind consumer behaviour in fashion and beauty. 


About Shakaila Forbes-Bell


Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a pioneer in the fashion psychology space, consulting brands around the globe on best practices to gain consumer attention through the power of the mind. Forbes-Bell has worked with brands such as Next, Tu Clothing, Afterpay, among others, to provide data-backed insights into topics of representation, sustainability, trends, and psychology focused PR and marketing. She is the founder and CEO of Fashion is Psychology, the author of Big Dress Energy, and the host of the Big Dress Energy podcast. Her innovative work has been recognised by Vogue, Marie Claire, i-D, The Times, Grazia, Who What Wear, CNN, and many more. 



In 2016, Forbes-Bell made history as the first Black person in the world to obtain a Master’s Degree in fashion psychology. Though  her love for fashion has been life-long, her interest in fashion psychology began when studying Psychology at UCL. In her third year, she wanted to delve further into the social implications of fashion psychology by studying racial biases around clothing. This followed the tragedy of a young Black man by the name of Trayvon Martin being murdered for wearing a hoodie. She created her own experiment called The Hoodie Project, which looked at the differences in reaction time and responses of people wearing a hoodie, versus not, depending on their race. 

The Hoodie Project by Shakaila Forbes-Bell. Source: University of Arts London 

Hoodie Project by Shakaila Forbes-Bell


I wanted to investigate the intersection between race, clothing, and impression formation. I absolutely loved it.”  – Shakaila Forbes-Bell 


This momentum carried through to her Master’s degree at the London College of Fashion, where her research focused on empirically proving that diversity in fashion advertising is effective in increasing consumer behaviour. Through discovering fashion psychology, she has harmoniously merged her love of research and data with her the aesthetics and creativity of the fashion industry. The next challenge for Forbes-Bell was to take all the less-accessible academic research on fashion psychology and bring it to the masses. 


As society, we can’t only see one representation of beauty. Not only does it damage the self-concept of ethnic minorities, it doesn’t make good business sense. I proved that diversity actually does sell.” – Shakaila Forbes-Bell 


Key Takeaways from Shakaila’s Fashion Psychology Workshop


Forbes-Bell covered topics such as: The psychology of impression formation, shopping, “wearapy”, scents, beauty, and more. Here are five key takeaways from the workshop: 


  1. Our style impacts different ways we view ourselves. This is the person we hope to be, the person we fear to be, and the person we are most of the time. The goal is to have clothes that reflect who you are most of the time, as well as some clothes for the person you hope to be. This helps us get to the next level in life. It was found that 96 percent of people report a change in emotional state with a change of style. 



2. The way we dress speaks to our sense of self and who we are, as well as our social identity and the groups that we affiliate with. Through the ‘Social Identity Theory’, we can use clothing as a form of communication to signal our affiliation with like-minded people. 


3. Colour psychology is not an exploration of aesthetic decisions, but rather psychological, emotion, and cultural, linguistic, and personal associations with colour. Ecological Valence Theory states that everyone makes similar colour associations, but we must account for cultural and personal associations. Choosing a colour to wear will look different for everyone based on their personal associations with the particular colour.  


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A post shared by Shakaila Forbes-Bell (@shakailaelise)

We use clothing as this paradoxical combination of camouflage and self-revelation, a shield for and stripping out our basic humanity” – Maria Popova, writer and founder of the Marginalian 


4. Scents have an immense impact on the way that we act and consume. A study found that people remember 35 percent of what they smell, but only five percent of what they see. In the same way clothing does, scents have a proven influence on perceptions of personality and identity. When people are similar in scent, they are more likely to be similar in personality. Scent alone has the power to trigger product information, improve cognitive process, and enhance mood. 


5. Beauty psychology proves that acts of skincare and cosmetics impact the mind and body through the senses of touch, light, and smell. Because of this, makeup holds great power to induce sensory and psychological pleasure. Although make-up has the power to damage self-esteem, studies have shown that there are proven, healthy ways to engage with cosmetics. One, change the content one is consuming to be more natural and make-up free. Two, to practise mirror meditation with a bare face. Both of these practices set up the mind and body to receive beauty with more self-love. 


Shakaila’s insights and research left the audience educated, inspired, and ready to implement practices of fashion psychology to enhance daily practices. She is truly a wealth of knowledge and a trailblazer in the industry. Shakaila’s dynamic and exciting work can be followed along through the Fashion is Psychology social page, and the Big Dress Energy book and podcast. 


By Chloé Janssen, MA Luxury Brand Strategy & Business