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The role of access-based apparel in processes of consumer identity construction

Niklas Sörum (Center for Consumer Science (CFK), School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden) (Department of Business Administration and Textile Management, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden)
Marcus Gianneschi (Department of Business Administration and Textile Management, University of Borås, Borås, Sweden)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 1 February 2022

Issue publication date: 25 January 2023




The aim of the study is to analyse negotiations about ownership and style in access-based apparel related to processes of identity construction.


The study applies a qualitative and interpretative method and relies on semi-structured depth interviews and focus group interviews with clothing library users as the main data source. The conceptual context of this paper is that of consumer culture theory approaches to consumer identity construction and the role of object ownership in consumer identity projects.


The empirical analysis highlights how processes of consumer identity construction related to symbolic values of clothing and self-possession mechanisms related to ownership are negotiated in encounters with access-based types of fashion consumption with effects on potential consumer adoption of access-based forms of consumption. The findings are structured in six analytical themes.

Social implications

There are several aspects of this research which are of relevance to the sustainability agenda and which have societal implications. Identity has been identified, in previous research, as a key conceptual tool for exploring, predicting and deepening the understanding of pro-environmental and sustainable behaviours. As such, if the aim is to strengthen the commitment of societies to environmental and sustainable behaviours, then this will require greater knowledge of consumers' identities and meaning-making processes. This is a challenge, not least in terms of recognizing the barriers identified in this study as relating to issues of consumer identity construction.


This study reveals multiple possibilities as well as barriers for implementing collaborative apparel consumption schemes in a fashion and apparel context. Some of the barriers might be explained by clothing's emotional character and close relationship to identity formation. Furthermore, the participants questioned whether access and renting services could substitute the meanings of owning. In conclusion, the authors argue that clothing may be a challenging type of goods to integrate in liquid forms of consumption and findings point out complexities amongst fashion-conscious consumers regarding meaning and identity values of collaborative apparel consumption. Theoretical contributions of an interpretative consumer identity approach for understanding barriers as well as possibilities for consumer adoption of access-based fashion are developed in the concluding sections of the article.



This research was supported and financed by the research project Sharing Cities Sweden (2017–02473).


Sörum, N. and Gianneschi, M. (2023), "The role of access-based apparel in processes of consumer identity construction", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 61-79.



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