Procter and Gamble brought a fashion show, technology talk and a discussion about peoples’ relationship to their clothes to New York last week, to spotlight its FiberSCIENCE research. It’s all about how to keep the love alive between a person and their wardrobe through “the cognitive science of human perception.” The tie-in is to products like Tide and Downy, and P&G’s R&D around fiber research toward making your wardrobe more…lovable.
The question P&G is hoping to solve: why people fall out of love with their clothes and “How their relationship with clothes changes over time” (How about how to achieve relationships between two people? If they can figure that out with fibers instead of couples counseling, someone’s getting a Nobel Prize.)
I wasn’t at the event, I’ll say that right up front. But a release about it says that FiberSCIENCE’s tripartite focus is Cleaning, Protection and Enhancement. That makes sense, but may I suggest a fourth pillar? Self-folding. I’m a man and, therefore, cannot fold a shirt. They didn't teach that in the Scouts. They taught knots. So, instead of folding, I tie my shirts into knots and then throw them at the closet like skeeballs. My relationships all end up that way, though. Refer to R.D. Laing for an explanation.
Procter & Gamble explains that the three-step focus is toward “prolonging and improving the multi-sensorial fabric properties that influence people's perception of their clothes: the look, the feel and the scent.” The company says the problem is that the lifecycle of one’s clothes is often cut short because these qualities are not cared for properly.
Now I realize this is about promoting P&G fabric-care brands that may soon be able to enhance these qualities more effectively. But let me just say, in all seriousness, that what actually cuts short the lifecycle of clothes, at least mine, is a missing button. Because I'm a man, as I mentioned above, and have no idea how to sew a button. I tried to sew a button back on my shirt once and ended up in the emergency room with a needle through my nose. Then I went home and burned the shirt. I burned it in front of my entire wardrobe as a warning to my clothes: do not f*^k with me.
Back to P&G: Margarita Bahrikeeton, research fellow at Cincinnati-based company’s Fabric Care division, said “Our closets are full of clothes, yet 80% of the time we wear only 20% of them.” This confuses me. The only people I know who wear only 20% of their clothes are those kids who walk around with their pants below their boxer shorts. But even that is only like 40%. Twenty percent would be around the knees.
At the event there was, apparently, a presentation on fashion as a multi-sensorial experience by cognitive psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum. He said, I quote the release, “New perceptual psychology research has given rise to a ‘multi-sensory revolution,’ showing that our senses are always influencing one another and impacting our preferences and moods.” No shit. I want his job. P&G said that, in essence, it is using this research to develop products that work on the fibers rather than the stains.
I will close with this observation of another of my sartorial sentiments. I have a shirt that I have kept for years and years even though, at this point, it is literally falling apart at the fibers. I cannot part with it. I don’t use fancy stain removers on it, don’t enhance the smell or futz with the feel. It is just a shirt I can’t part with. I’m wearing it right now, in fact. Why can’t I part with it? The neurobiological reductionist research like the above could explain the pieces, I guess, but I don’t believe the pieces explain the whole. Is it the color? partly. The feel? Yes, sure. But really, honestly? It’s the buttons. They’re still on. And the next time P&G does this event, I'm bringing my laundry. Because I can’t figure out my washing machine, either. Another thing they don’t teach in the Scouts.