Research Excellence Award winner Seoha Min studies how aesthetics and emotions impact whether we keep or dispose of our clothes.
When Seoha Min was earning her PhD at the University of Minnesota, she attended an international conference in her field—clothing and textiles. It was there, in Philadelphia, where she learned about the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies at UNCG.
“The CARS department really stood out at that conference,” she recalls. “The faculty there were some of the lead presenters, and it was obvious that they were very passionate and worked together very well. I wanted to be a part of that department.”
And now, she is. Seoha was hired as an assistant professor in 2013, and last semester she earned the Bryan School’s Junior Research Excellence Award.
The Bryan School also awards research grants for junior faculty. Seoha earned one in her first year. The fund helped her conduct a pilot study for work that she is deep into at the moment. She is studying the impact that aesthetics and emotions have in whether or not we hold onto clothing. Her research is aimed at determining how we, as apparel consumers, can have a more sustainable approach to our clothing—hanging on to valued pieces rather than over-purchasing and over-discarding apparel. It also could have implications for clothing designers by helping them better understand what aesthetic properties endear consumers to a piece. Or, how retailers and marketers might present apparel in their stores and advertisements.
“Texture, color and silhouette influence our attachment to clothing because we feel good wearing it. These properties also help determine whether we will throw something away or carry it with us for a long time,” she says. “If we can understand this better, perhaps we can decrease the amount of garment disposal that we have as a society.”
Another notable factor is the memory we associate with the clothing that we wear. As part of her research, Seoha interviews subjects—mostly from the Baby Boomer generation—about their favorite pieces of clothing, which they bring along to the interview.
“Garments represent their life. It might be a business suit they wore before retirement or a wedding gown, or something they were given as a gift. It’s about family, community, identity.”
One woman brought a scarf that she purchased in Sweden. Her son lives there, and the scarf reminds her of him and of the love they share.
Seoha has clothing that brings back memories of home. In 2010, she left South Korea to pursue her PhD. She is now married, and she and her husband recently welcomed a baby girl. Add to this her strong start at UNCG, and Seoha’s star is on the rise.
“The Bryan School is very supportive in my growth as a professor and researcher. I can tell that they really want me to succeed here, and I appreciate that so much. Tenured faculty members have mentored me and helped me to achieve a good balance between teaching and research. They’ve also set a great example by publishing in highly regarded journals and they inspire me to aspire to their level. I feel myself blessed and honored being part of this wonderful community.”