The Future of Fashion Psychology [Interview][Transcript]

Dawnn_Karen_Fashion_Psychology_human_behaviorGuest: Dawnn Karen
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dawnn Karen is a New York City-based professional, Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the pioneering mind behind the global field of Fashion Psychology™. Years ago, while pursuing an M.A. in counseling psychology at Columbia University, she received the inspiration to create the dynamic field of Fashion Psychology™. Fashion Psychology™ is a newly applied academic discipline focused on the study and treatment of color and fashion and its effects on human behavior while addressing cultural sensitivities and cultural norms.

Segment overview: Dawnn Karen talks about the future of using psychology in fashion.


Health Professional Radio – Fashion Psychology

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, so happy that you could join us today. Our guest in studio is a Fashion Psychologist, Ms. Dawnn Karen. Based out of New York, she’s the pioneering mind behind the global field of Fashion Psychology specializing in styling people from the inside out as she says by bridging that gap between perception and reality. She’s opened the Fashion Psychology Institute offering her theories and techniques both online and…as well as Fashion Psychology Success where she offers her professional services as a Fashion Psychologist and we’re here today to discuss the future of this brand new emerging field of Fashion Psychology. How are you doing this afternoon?

Dwann Karen I’m doing very well.

N: Thank you. Thank you for returning with us and lending us more of your time. As a fashion Psychologist, you’ve opened the Fashion Psychology Institute, you’re also offering professional services as a Fashion Psychologist through Fashion Psychology Success. Talk about styling someone from the inside out, we’re not talking about make-over are we?

D: No, not at all. Actually to debunk the make-over theory just because makeovers when you it on TV, it has a damaging effect to the psyche if someone says you suck, you don’t look interesting or you look ugly today. It actually takes you down and then they attempted to back up by changing your parents but the rhetorical question will be is how long is that goanna last and how damaging that could be to the psyche. So what we do at the styling, at the Fashion Psychology Institute, styling from the inside out, is I teach my students that counseling comes first. There’s a counseling based that comes first, talk therapy get to the root of some issues and provide the client with some insight. It’s not necessarily you’re providing them with advise or coaching and telling them what to do but you kind of just guiding them, so to speak, so you’re guiding them and leading them to some insights about how their past experience, their current experience, how it has effected, how they present themselves to the world. Their dress, their body language, speech, etc. so that’s what we do.

N: I mentioned and you set me correct on the makeover, the makeover implies negativity. It implies that you’re going to be made better. When it comes to Fashion Psychology, is a change always better or is it sometimes simply different?

D: Yeah, we don’t want to say better we just want to say different because who you were in that present moment was who you are meant to be in that moment, it’s not good or bad. It’s just who you are and it’s not my job to put you down and say and very judgmental, we’re taught as Psychologists to leave the judgement at the door and so, again that’s why this is different from image consulting or fashion styling because we don’t judge the client and we’re really coming from it from a psychological point of view or we’re not coaching you as an image consultant, we’re actually just guiding you as a psychologist would, so hence the term Fashion Psychologist.

N: You mentioned consulting and sometimes consulting get a bad rep, when it comes to consulting, what type of a person becomes a client of the fashion psychologist? Are we talking someone that’s having a fashion disasters on a daily basis or are we talking about someone, well you tell me because I have no idea?

D: Yes, so I’ve had clients where it’s a disaster but more so it’s clients who want to, they have goals in mind. So we’re trying to reach, get them to a certain goal, making a different tax bracket, maybe it’s a cultural thing where they want to dress this way when they’re in their native country but when they go abroad they want to dress another way. How do you navigate that without seeming, or feeling, without the keyword feeling, without feeling fake or just really phony, how do you be true to that, be true to one’s self? So yeah, it’s made of things and mostly what all the clients have in common is they’re curious, they’re curious and they’re visionaries because they can see the Fashion Psychology field before I put a book out, they can understand it by reading a media interview. So they’re curious and then they’re also a visionary, they can see the Fashion Psychology field and how it could be applied to them. Maybe not all of the theories but they, sort of kind of get it, so yeah.

N: In your information, it’s indicated that you’ve done quite a bit of travelling abroad. When you’re in another country, I’m gonna date myself here and talk about when in Rome, is it not as simple as when in Rome simply do with the Romans do? I mean say you go to Hawaii, you get there, everyone who doesn’t live in Hawaii, they’ve got a Hawaiian shirt. How do you land some place and affectively and respectfully wear the garb of the culture?

D: Yeah. You want to know not just deal with the Romans, you want to know why. Why? Why? Get to learn more so about the foundation, the history of that culture, why do they dress in a particular way and what are their rules or their requirements to what would they like for foreigners to do? Sometimes, if you’re in the Middle East they would want you to wear an abaya or a hijab when you’re going to visit the mosque in Abu Dhabi. But in Dubai maybe it’s don’t wear a tank top but you’re gonna wear sleeves on your shirt. So it’s subtle things you just want to know why and just very simple for them, that’s when Fashion Psychology comes into play and if you can’t handle that, or respect the rules, then things happen. If you threw a gum on the train in Dubai or you go unto your woman and you go inside the male portion of the train, if you can’t respect the rules, there’s certain consequences. When people travel they like to think, especially Americans, I’m American, nothing will happen to me, if something happens to me my country will save me. It’s this very egocentric mentality. In Fashion Psychology, we kind of show you, like I’ve done workshops where we show you what’s appropriate to wear and why and get you over that egocentric pinpoint.

N: What about Fashion Psychology across industries? Obviously being a Fashion Psychologist, you will deal in the entertainment industry, I can’t imagine you’re not. With huge demand in the entertainment industry, so when it comes to other industries, say law enforcement or first responding or the medical industry, once again I’m gonna date myself, my mother was a nurse, she’s retired now, but I can remember growing up and it was nothing but white uniforms, skirts when I was little boy and then they’re allowed to wear some pants but they always have that nurse’s cap on that had to be starched and had to put the bluing in it to make sure whiter that white. Now you’ve got scrubs that are everything from design to look like jeans to camouflage to everything. What’s going on as far as, is that part of Fashion Psychology and are you involved in that at all?

D: Well I happen really dealt but what I can say is I can add some commentary to say that you can see with the advancement of always liken this to…with the advancement of technology, fashion evolves as well. They kind of go hand in hand and I always find correlations, parallels. So what you’re seeing is that, back in the days it was the … uniform, now it’s more so we need to be comfortable, everyone knows the work of that a nurse or anyone in the medical field has to endure. So it’s more of the level of being comfortable as well as being expressing yourself. So maybe you’re gonna wear some pink scrubs today or like you said camouflage scrub, but how will that affect the patient when you see them? Will those colors make them happy or just make them feel better just seeing, because when you would see the nurse back in the days, it’s like dooms day because that probably signifies bad news but maybe if you see a bright colorful nurse and her demeanor’s bright maybe you’re gonna think “Okay, this is gonna make me feel better, maybe I’ll have some good news”. So it’s similarly how it could play a role, yeah.

N: Now as we wrap up, talk about the future of using of Psychology in fashion. Do you have a vision of being more involved with the design industry and maybe changing the look of the runway?

D: Yes. What the vision is like I said I’m just establishing the education piece of it, I’ve done a bunch of media interviews to spread the word and now the foundation is the education. So I am trying to roll out the course, a Fashion Psychology course and a bunch of Universities in New York, I’m also doing workshops, I’m also hoping to roll out the course in Universities in the US and perhaps abroad, but in the mean time I have it in a few colleges in New York and then I have the Fashion Psychology Institute for international students. I’m also writing a book, so I won’t reveal the title but maybe when I do publish the book I will come back on your show, it’ll be my third time so that’ll be great but the book and then once I established the foundation of education, then we can dip into the reality TV shows, clothing, accessories, how an accessory could affect your mood and what not. So that’s the plan.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio talking with Professor Dawnn Karen, the youngest professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and she’s a Fashion Psychologist, a pioneering mind behind the field of Fashion Psychology, opening the Fashion Psychology Institute as well as Fashion Psychology Success where she offers her professional services across industries as a Fashion Psychologist. We’ve been here discussing the future of Fashion Psychology and the role that Professor Karen will be playing in it. It’s been great having you here with us today.

D: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

N: Thank you. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe through our podcast on iTunes.

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