Monday, September 28, 2020

Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Current Trends in Clinical & Medical Sciences | A Century of Training in Preventive Medicine in Latvia?

 


Authored by Jānis Indulis Dundurs*

Opinion

This year we will mark the centenary since the beginning of studies in higher education in Latvia. On February 2, 1920, the first lecture on anatomy was read. After a year, the Hygiene Institute was established at the Faculty of Medicine of the Higher School of Latvia and the Department of Hygiene was founded on August 15, which can be considered as the predecessor of the present RSU Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Our goal was to collect and track the changes that have taken place in the training of new medical and healthcare professionals in hygiene in our department for almost a hundred years.

The first Head of the Department was German professor Ernest Friedrich Alexander Fermann, who had worked in the cities of the Russian Empire for many years. During the years of the pre-war independence of Latvia, student training in the Department was carried out according to the research and findings of the time that had been developed in 19th century by most notable German and Russian hygienists.

From 1928, lectures in the Department were also given of science related to hygiene-microbiology, general and special epidemiology. During World War II, the Head of the Department was Professor Victor Mīlenbahs, the youngest colleague of Professor E Fermann.

In the first years of post-war Soviet occupation, several months ago, the head of the Department was Professor Janis Maizīte, and from 1947 the chair was headed by hygienists sent from the Russian Federal Soviet Republic, first by Assistent Professor Alexander Anisimov and later by Assistent Professor Mikhail Garbarenko. The training took place in the framework of the unified programs developed in the Soviet Union, which included courses in Health Care Organization and Military Hygiene.

Since 1962, Professor Zinaida Lindberg has taken over the Chair of the Department, which first provided quality training for the students of the Latvian flow in their native language. However, until the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia, only minor changes were made to the study programs:

• interrupted course in Military hygiene.

• new Department of the same name has been created for the presentation of the course of the Health Care Organization.

• textbooks written by the Department’s lecturers outline only the theoretical and practical aspects of the various Hygiene sectors recognized by the Soviet Union

With the restoration of our country’s independence, the Hygiene Department underwent significant changes.

1990 Hygiene department began to drive by professor of occupational specialty M. Eglīte and training also included occupational courses, but the Department of the name until 1993 was-Hygiene and Occupational Diseases Department.

Scientific and technical development, by extending the ecological range of environmental factors, has led to a loss of balance between the biological characteristics of man and his ability to adapt to the new technogenic factors of the environment in a timely manner. Due to global environmental pollution, the mutual, complementary and influential role of hygiene and human ecology has grown rapidly.

Both human ecology and hygiene have a common basis, a common goal in addressing the global crisis of the ecosystem. The science sector - human ecology - gained a greater and deeper meaning in training. From 1993 to 1996, the Department was called the Department of Human Ecology and Occupational Diseases.

In the medical education system, hygiene and human ecology were complementary subjects within a short period of time when there was no special study program and methodological study material.

Since 1997, the Department has been named the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Environmental and Occupational Health and Medicine is the main subject of the medical preventive course, emphasizing the specifics of the students’ future work environment.

Environmental health training is based on the socio-hygienic and medical biological regularities in the system environmenthuman - society. The holistic view is decisive - health is equally affected by lifestyle and living conditions.

In order to provide high quality training, several lecturers at the department completed special courses in occupational and environmental medicine at Uppsala University in Sweden. Completely new study programs were developed for all faculties of medical direction of Riga Stradiņš University.

Department lecturers with a lot of research and practical work experience led studies of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Rehabilitation, Dentistry and Public Health faculties. Training is provided with teaching aids written by the lecturers of the department - textbooks, booklets, video collections, modern equipment for practical classes (luxometers, hot wire anemometers, infrared thermometers, conductometers, noise level meters, ultraviolet intensity meters, electromagnetic field meters, infrared spectrometer, etc.).

Teachers have written several books and chapters on environmental and work environment risk factors, hazards, identification, recognition, anticipation, measurement, evaluation, management and control. Professor M Eglīte’s book on occupational medicine has been published twice.

Ten years ago, students received a new, extensive textbook on environmental health, in which separate chapters were written by our lecturers and specialists in teaching. And now the team is committed to updating this learning tool with the latest insights and research on environmental pollution problems.

The lecturers of the Department constantly improve their knowledge by participating in various seminars, courses, conferences all in Latvia and abroad. The fact that the chair of the department’s management is in safe hands is evidenced by the award of the State Star of Three Stars to the Head of the department, Professor M Eglīte.

Conclusion

In the past twenty years, significant improvements have been made in hygiene training on the way to developing a European single higher education system and quality assurance. The Department of Hygiene was renamed, and the main subject has become environmental and occupational health. The principle of teaching environmental and occupational health is to find out the relationship between human and medical biological and social hygiene factors. Research is based on theoretical part and practical work that allows students to acquire knowledge and skills for future work.

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Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Current Trends in Clinical & Medical Sciences | Which Invasive Electrode to Implant in Humans for Prosthetic use?

 



Authored by Philip Kennedy*

Opinion

It has long been maintained that tine type electrodes are adequate for long-term prosthetic command signals. Even Elon Musk has developed an electrode that is claimed to record 3072 single units [1]. He further claims it can be used for long-term prosthetic devices. The tine type Utah array (Blackrockmicro Inc.) has been championed as the savior of long-term prosthetic control. However, even the researchers admit that its lifetime is limited because it loses 85% of single units within three years [2]. It suffers the fate of all foreign bodies, namely, scarring at the electrode tip. This will obviously occur with all metal and tine type electrodes that pierce the cortex. So move over Blackrock, move over Elon, there is another way to do it.

The other way has been in development since 1986. It turns the approach on its head by growing the brain neuropil into the electrode tip. A tiny glass cone is inserted into the cortex with a magic sauce inside, namely, nerve growth factors. These factors induce growth into and through the tip. In addition, the recording wires are 2 mil 99.999% gold with Teflon insulation, and these are glued inside the glass cone. Moreover, they are coiled for strain relief so there is no strain on the tip. All components are biocompatible. Here is an illustration (Figure 1).

Of course, the criticism is that it destroys cortex into which it is inserted. But so, what? This cortex, though still viable, is useless to someone who is paralyzed and mute. Another criticism is that it must cause lots of scarring and the signals will be lost. First, no data has ever shown scarring, whether in rats [3], monkeys [3] or humans [4]. The latest human subject revealed no postmortem scarring after 13 years of implantation [4]. Moreover, the histology demonstrated myelinated neurafilaments adjacent to the recording wires [4].

So the criticism is that the recorded signal have changed and died away just like the tine type electrodes. Not so. Single units are stable even as long as 10 years in the above subject [4] who was too ill to continue recording after 10 years. Conditioning studies at the end of the decade demonstrated functional single units [5,6]. Other long-term humans had functional signals at four years [7]. These studies cement its position as the long-term recording electrode.

So why is it not being used more often? It is FDA approved for use in humans (IDE 960032). I imagine it is too difficult to implant. Some have tried and failed. It requires a trained and skilled neurosurgeon for human implantation. The main reason, perhaps, is because it is not sexy enough, it looks awful, it takes a few hours to make by hand, so it is out of fashion. Millions of dollars has been spent on the tine type electrodes and no one wants to see an investment rendered useless. Indeed, the tine types have been proven extremely useful in shorter term studies (months and years) [8]. But data is data. And the data is now irrefutable for longterm studies [4-6]

Conclusion

It should be used in human prosthetic work where long-term recordings are required.


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Friday, September 25, 2020

Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Current Trends in Civil & Structural Engineering | Compaction and Strength Behaviour of an Expansive Clay Modified by Lime and Quarry Dust

 


Authored by BR Phanikumar*

Abstract

Expansive soils have a tendency to undergo volumetric changes corresponding to changes in water content. As a result, civil engineering structures founded in these soils are severely distressed. This has caused a huge financial loss, it is, therefore, necessary to reduce volumetric changes of these soils by physical and chemical alteration. This paper presents experimental results on a remolded expansive clay blended with varied amounts of quarry dust and lime. Compaction characteristics, stress-strain characteristics, unconfined compressive strength (UCS) were studied.

Keywords: Expansive soils; Physical alteration; Chemical alteration; Quarry dust and lime

Introduction

Introduction

Expansive soils are highly problematic because of their tendency to undergo risky volumetric changes consequent upon changes in water content [1]. These volumetric changes happen in alternate seasons of winters and summers. These alternate swelling or volume increase and shrinkage or volume reduction cause damage to lightly loaded structures founded in them such as foundations, retaining walls, pavements, airports, sidewalks, canal beds and linings [1,2]. To address the problems posed by expansive soils, various innovative foundation practices have been devised which can be broadly classified as (i) avoiding expansive material, (ii) mechanical, physical or chemical alteration and (iii) adopting special foundation techniques. In physical alteration technique, granular material is mixed with expansive clay to minimize heave [3-5]. In chemical alteration, addition of chemicals to expansive clay alters the nature of clay minerals thereby reducing heave. Of all chemicals tried, lime has been found to be most effective and economical additive. This paper presents an experimental work on a remolded expansive clay blended with quarry dust (QD) and lime in varied amounts. The effect of quarry dust and lime on the compaction characteristics and stress-strain behavior was studied. The values of unconfined compressive strength (UCS) were reported.

Experimental Investigation

A remoulded expansive clay of free swell index (FSI) 120% was used in testing. Table 1 shows the index properties of the clay. Further, quarry dust and lime were also used as blend materials. Quarry dust was varied as 0%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25% and 30% by dry weight of the soil; and lime was varied as 0%, 1%, 2%, 4% and 6%, it may be mentioned here that lime was added in different quantities to the blend of expansive soil and 30% quarry dust gave the highest MDD. The tests conducted were standard Proctor compaction tests and the unconfined compression tests. The standard proctor compaction tests on the unblended expansive clay and the clay blended with quarry dust and lime were performed accordingly to ASTM 2000 D698 a. The unconfined compressive strength tests were performed on the unblended clay and the clay blended with quarry dust and lime were performed accordingly to ASTM 2000, D2166 on cylindrical samples of length 76mm and Diameter 38mm. The effect of curing period on UCS were also studied (Table 1).

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Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Current Trends in Civil & Structural Engineering | Prediction of Lateral Confinement Stress for Concrete Filled Steel Tube Column

 



Authored by Abdulrahman Abdulaziz Helmi*

Abstract

Structural columns that are made up of two or more different materials are known as composite columns. Studying composite structures is beneficial since it is a new and modern way to build structures and benefit from materials in a different way. Concrete- filled steel tubular structures makes the composite column a very stiff, more ductile, cost effective (as compared to reinforced concrete structures) and consequently a structurally efficient member in building and bridge constructions. In this study a numerical simulation of a circular composite column was conducted. In order to achieve the study objectives, Finite Element Method (FEM) based software (ABAQUS) was used due to many advantages including saving time of the calculation and providing a simulation of the behavior of the member. A load-deflection curve of a circular composite column was plotted by considering the stress-strain curve of normal concrete and compared with the experimental results. It was found that the load capacity was less than that of experimental results. The reason of this underestimation was the confinement effect. A correction factor for lateral confining pressure of 1.5 was found for circular sections since the equation used for confining pressure obtain from literature was applicable to square composite columns.

Introduction

Concrete-filled steel tubular columns (CFT) are effective in earthquake- resistance, structures subjected to impact, and highrise buildings columns. Due to the increasing use of composite columns, various researches have been carried out in recent years. In 1998, Schneider SPE [1] conducted an experimental and analytical study on the behavior of short, concrete-filled steel tube columns concentrically loaded in compression to failure. In 2003 Shosuke Morino & Keigo Tsuda [2] introduced the structural system and discuss advantages, research findings, and recent construction trends of the CFT column systems in Japan. The paper also described design recommendations for the design of compression members, beam-columns, and beam-to-column connections in the CFT column system. In 2014, Hsuan-Teh Hu et al. [3] proposed and verified proper material constitutive models for (CFT) columns. In 2014 Ananya John et al. [4] presented analytical study on stress-strain behavior of reinforced concrete column by modelling concrete and steel part separately. In this paper an analytical study on stress- strain behavior of CFT column was conducted. The finite element-based software used to conduct the analytical study was ABAQUS. The results were validated using the available experimental data.

Material Properties and Constitutive Models

The cross section of the CFT column in this study is modeled the same way it was used in the experimental study. The geometry and material properties are shown in Table 1. To predict the load– deformation relationships of CFT columns, an accurate constitutive model for steel and confined concrete is needed.

Constitutive model for Steel tube

The steel properties are shown in Table 1. The stress-strain curve used for the steel tube is assumed to be elastic-perfectly plastic.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Advances in Cancer Research & Clinical Imaging | Benefits of Losartan in the Presence of Ovarian Cáncer

 


Authored by Mirta D Ambra*

Mini Review

Losartan is an antihypertensive drug that acts on the tumor extracellular matrix. Its use can improve the arrival and action of chemotherapists in the presence of ovarian cáncer.

Introduction and Objectives

In most cases, the initial treatment of ovarian cancer patients consists of cytoreduction surgery and, subsequently, the application of chemotherapy with carboplatin or cisplatin and paclitaxel or docetaxel. Despite the initial response to treatment, many patients will have relapses and resistance. Due to the low rates of response to treatment, it is necessary to have alternatives. Drugs used in cancer patients must reach cancer cells; This can take place through the bloodstream and the subsequent passage of drugs through the vessel wall and interstitial tissue to reach the tumor. In desmoplastic malignant carcinomas there is a high level of solid stress caused by tumor and stromal cells and the fibrotic extracellular matrix. Solid stress is a physical force that compresses tumor blood vessels, with the consequent reduction in blood flow. This hinders the distribution of drugs and the effectiveness of treatment, in addition to generating resistance due to local hypoxia. The renin-angiotensin system (ARS) participates in the maintenance of cardiovascular homeostasis and hydroelectrolytic balance. In patients with ovarian carcinoma, an increase in the serum level of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (RCT), responsible for the generation of bioactive angiotensin II, was observed. An association was also found between the increased expression of angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1) and unfavorable evolution, and an inverse correlation between the level of tumor fibrosis and patient survival. Losartan is an antihypertensive drug that blocks the AT1 receptor. As found in experimental animals, the drug decreases intratumoral expression of thrombospondin-1(THBS-1), an activator of fibrinogenic beta (TGF-beta) tumor growth factor. This is associated with decreased collagen and intratumoral hyaluronan. As a result, reduction of solid stress and vessel compression, and increased vascular perfusion were observed. This resulted in a decrease in tumor hypoxia and an increase in the distribution and efficacy of drugs. The authors of the present study evaluated whether the administration of losartan, by reducing fibrosis of tumor tissue in patients with ovarian cancer, improves the distribution and efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs administered by different routes.

Methods

The effect of losartan was retrospectively evaluated in two orthotopic ovarian cancer models, in stages IIIC or IV. Tumor cells were implanted in the peritoneal cavity of mice. Tumor growth was assessed by genetic analysis. Then, the mice were divided to receive losartan or to integrate the control group.

Result

Losartan treatment was associated with a significant decrease in extracellular matrix content in ovarian tumors. Specifically, a decrease in collagen and hyaluronan levels and fibrogenic fibroblast levels was observed. There was also a reduction in the expression of matrix molecules, although the expression of the main fibrogenic genes did not decrease significantly. Through antifibrotic effects, drug exposure was associated with the decompression of the vessels by decreasing solid stress and stiffness of the extracellular matrix. Losartan treatment was also correlated with improved perfusion and decreased tumor hypoxia. The modification of vessel density was not observed, but the proportion of perfused vessels increased and, consequently, hypoxia of viable tissue significantly decreased. The administration of losartan increased the distribution of chemotherapeutics to tumor tissue, thanks to the decompression of the vessels and increased perfusion. The quantitative analysis carried out allowed confirming that losartan significantly increased the level of intratumoral doxorubicin. Likewise, the application of a mathematical model allowed us to observe an increase in the distribution of the drug and an improvement in the efficacy chemotherapy in combination with losartan. According to the results of the applied model, treatment with losartan decreases the pressure of the interstitial fluid, increases the distribution of oxygen and improves the intratumoral distribution of chemotherapeutic drugs. This generates a decrease in tumor volume. Furthermore, it was observed that the increase in the diffusion of the drug or the decrease in solid stress increases the intratumoral distribution of the drug considerably. In ovarian cancer models, treatment with losartan increased the effectiveness of chemotherapeutics by modifying the extracellular matrix and blood vessels. This was observed when comparing treatment with losartan, paclitaxel, both drugs or placebo.

In addition, the complementary use of losartan was associated with a decrease in the incidence and level of ascites. Another effect of losartan was the accentuation of the decrease in proliferating and apoptotic tumor cells generated by paclitaxel. Losartan use was linked to the decrease in collagen content and normalization of the tumor lymphatic network. This suggests the reduction of solid stress. Another effect of losartan was the improvement of the function of the lymphatic vessels, reflected in the drainage and the clearance of a liquid with contrast. The induction of antifibrotic microRNA expression by losartan was also observed. In this sense, there was an increase in the expression of the miR-133 factor, which binds to the gene that codes for collagen type I ColIA1, with the decrease in the level of type I collagen in ovarian cancer cells. The use of an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker was associated with increased survival in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Retrospective analysis of women with stage IIIC or IV ovarian cancer treated at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) indicated a median survival of 63 months before complementary treatment with these drugs. In contrast, women who did not receive such treatment had a median survival of 33 months. In addition, therapy with an ACE inhibitor was superior, compared to the use of an angiotensin receptor blocker.

Discussion

The treatment of patients with ovarian cancer involves difficulties related to diagnosis in advanced stages and resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. The results obtained indicate that blocking AT1 receptors limits extrinsic chemoresistance, controls ascites and increases survival. In addition, the analysis of fibrogenic microRNAs can serve as an indicator of chemotherapy resistance in patients with ovarian cancer. The findings indicated that the AT1 block decreases solid stress and improves the distribution of drugs to tumor tissue. The use of losartan and other angiotensin II type 1 receptor blockers is common in hypertensive patients. Losartan has good distribution and tissue penetration. Although this drug had no antitumor effects, it improved the distribution of chemotherapeutics by reducing solid stress and extracellular matrix content. These mechanisms indicate the importance of the evaluation of the clinical use of losartan to improve the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents. Ascites is common in patients with stage II or IV ovarian cancer. So far, there are no effective treatments for the lasting control of ascites. Losartan reduced ascites by decreasing the tumor content of extracellular matrix. This could translate into improved quality of life. It is necessary to have additional studies in this regard. Treatment with an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker was associated with an average survival increase of 30 months. However, the use of an angiotensin receptor blocker was superior. It should be considered that the analysis was retrospective, with which there are confounding factors that limit the reliability of the results. In any case, the findings obtained justify the performance of additional studies that allow corroborating the benefits of the treatment [1].

Conclusion

The results obtained in the present study allowed us to demonstrate that the decrease in the extracellular matrix in ovarian cancer models is associated with an improvement in the efficacy of chemotherapy and a decrease in the level of ascites. content and normalization of the tumor lymphatic network. This suggests the reduction of solid stress. Another effect of losartan was the improvement of the function of the lymphatic vessels, reflected in the drainage and the clearance of a liquid with contrast. The induction of antifibrotic microRNA expression by losartan was also observed. In this sense, there was an increase in the expression of the miR-133 factor, which binds to the gene that codes for collagen type I ColIA1, with the decrease in the level of type I collagen in ovarian cancer cells. The use of an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker was associated with increased survival in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Retrospective analysis of women with stage IIIC or IV ovarian cancer treated at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) indicated a median survival of 63 months before complementary treatment with these drugs. In contrast, women who did not receive such treatment had a median survival of 33 months. In addition, therapy with an ACE inhibitor was superior, compared to the use of an angiotensin receptor blocker.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Textile Science & Fashion Technology | MAT_er.LAB, the Interdisciplinary Playground Where Science Means Personal Growth

 


Abstract

The fashion industry reacts to the current coronavirus pandemic highlighting a failing system lacking humanity. Large corporations are refusing to pay for orders that they have placed leaving the most vulnerable within the production chain paying the price. This raises the urgent question; how and when will the industry step up and change for the better? Therefore, it needs to be asked in which areas Higher Education can tackle the existing lack of responsibility and how a collaborative and social mind-set can be ignited. How can an environment where students aim to work collectively and interdisciplinary be created? MAT_er.LAB, an initiative developed by academics and technicians from the Faculty of Art, Design and Media at Birmingham City University (BCU), offers an experimental environment for students of all year groups and all courses to cross pollinate their overall learning outcome through engagement with the unknown. Detached from the curriculum, the laboratory creates a playful approach to investigate, challenge and explore whilst social skills and circular mind-sets are enhanced. Brought back into regular modules these attributes help to shape a new generation of creatives valuing a more inclusive and sharing way of working.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary Learning; Circular economy; Design thinking; Biodesign

Background of the Study

April 2020. The world is in a state of shock, everything currently seems upside down. Yet, we don’t know how the fashion industry and all linked sectors will react to the global outbreak of the coronavirus in the long run. With more weeks of lockdown to come, everyone, including Higher Education, is offered time to reflect on teaching, develop visions for an ever-changing future and fill an almost blank page of concepts with what we align to our core values for life. The disruption of what we called normality is an opportunity to slow down and create a new substantial base for a healthy society in which fashion does play a role but becomes an expression of inclusivity and collaboration on multidimensional levels, spanning mindful structures around the globe.

Current global developments differ from country to country, from society to society. Looking at the manufacturing and even disposal situation in Asia or Africa the heart of our fashion industry is already run on minimal wages and poor living conditions. Facing the dramatic consequences from this pandemic, it is likely this will extend further. So much of the vulnerability of these structures relies on how we value fashion and textiles as educators, brands and consumers. It painfully reveals how isolated parts of the supply chain still are and how detached from the processes of designing, making and dispose we remain when linear structures are followed, and the value of humans is neglected. The change in the fashion industry inevitably has to happen. If not now, then when? Disconnection from the supply chain can only be bridged with awareness for existing problems and adopting holistic approaches to find solutions on a broader scale. Taking into account that change is also driven by knowledge we need to consider where we missed chances in educating fashion design, fashion business and textile student’s year on year, acknowledging the current system is also a reflection of what we have taught them.

In 2018 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published the Learning Compass, their vision for the future of education in 2030. The OECD report [1] defines knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that learners need to fulfil their potential and contribute to the well-being of their communities and the planet. In detail, skills workers need to succeed rely heavily on their uniquely (so far) human capacity for creativity, responsibility and the ability to “learn to learn“ throughout their life. Further soft skills such as empathy, self-awareness, respect for others and the ability to communicate are seen as essential, with classrooms and workplaces becoming more diverse in many ways.

How can a learning environment enhance these skills, aiming to educate for a labour market that will value the well-being of communities and the planet? What opportunities do we have to react to long-lasting challenges that come with uncertainty, at the same time addressing the potential negative mental impact students may experience within the current situation? How can a different type of teaching, one that embraces a future-forward mind-set help students to transfer a positive learning outcome into their own work? Obviously, curriculum content plays a major role in how students evaluate materials, concepts and design strategies. But above all stands the open mind-set Higher Education should be able to build, creating empowered individuals with the capacity to benefit societies all over the world. This leaves educational institutions with the challenge to ignite a holistic paradigm shift through embracing new frameworks and educational practice.

Laboratory Structure Enhancing Circular Mind-Sets

In autumn 2019 a group of academics and technicians at the Institute of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham City University (BCU) developed MAT_er.LAB, an interdisciplinary project within the Faculty of Art, Design and Media, aiming to facilitate and accelerate collaborative learning. Instead of just being a laboratory as the name might indicate, this initiative is far more. It is an unconventional playground aiming to explore not only materials, but also collective design and personal growth.

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Iris Publishers- Open access Journal of Textile Science & Fashion Technology | Reconnecting With Customers through Culture – Revisiting the Concept of Cultural Diversity in Luxury Fashion Brands

 


Authored by Jenny Ma*

Opinion

After Prada began manufacturing masks and LVMH started producing hand sanitizer in some of their perfume factories , most of us realised that the Covid-19 pandemic would not only force many businesses to adapt to the unprecedented and challenging new situation, but also lead to a change in our consumption activities. For example, it has been suggested that consumers might reconsider certain luxury consumption activities as the global pandemic may encourage consumers to take on a new set of values when spending money [1]. Therefore, the key challenges facing luxury brands after this pandemic will be to prove the value of their brands to their target customers and to attempt to reconnect with them. Continuing to embrace the concepts of sustainability and diversity will thus still remain the central brand strategy for luxury fashion brands.

Promoting diversity is not a new concept in luxury fashion. From the perspectives of brand management, customer relationship and corporate social responsibility (CSR), cultural diversity has been frequently mentioned in the fashion news. However, there are still areas in which brands can improve. Firstly, diversity is not merely a “box-ticking” exercise. It seems to be accepted in the field that diversity should be achieved simply by reaching a target figure, whereas in fact it is the quality of their approach to diversity that can truly make an impact on a brand. For instance, this is how the “diversity” of Paris Fashion Week was observed [2]: “Although Paris has been slow to adapt to calls for more diversity on runways, a few labels made efforts. Chanel featured a couple of real-bodied models, and Miu walked several black models, a year after its sister brand Prada suffered withering criticism for selling monkey charms that evoked blackface and formed a diversity council to address the issue.” From this report, neither the meaning of diversity nor how the issue of diversity specifically links to the brands and their collections are made clear. We only see a superficial sense of diversity, perhaps an understanding of “diversity” that has its roots in trendy conversations on social media. According to scholars, this is a “globally circulating rhetoric of diversity” [3], and while it may have helped to promote the institutional inclusion of more models from other ethnic backgrounds and lead brand managers to believe that their customers viewed their brands as socially progressive, this is obviously not a holistic approach. The use of certain ethnic minority models, as reported during Paris Fashion Week, may not in fact resonate for a large proportion of the brands’ customer base, such as customers from Asia and the Middle East. One could almost argue that such “diversity” is based on the perspective of the Western world, as has been the case with similar issues in other forms of marketing communications. Many brands now focus on representing certain groups that were previously discriminated against in Western society while still excluding other cultures.

This is understandable. There will always be an ethnic group that a casting agency fails to include, and after all, customers are unlikely to remember how many “diverse” models are used in the show. The key point is whether this form of brand communication is effective in making the target customers feel closer to the brand. Arguably, this approach seems to have little impact on whether consumers perceive the brand to be truly diverse or not. Furthermore, studies have also shown that the way in which consumers respond to the choice of models may differ depending on the context, and preexisting perceptions of the brands influences how consumers respond to the use of diverse models in advertising [4,5].

Therefore, luxury fashion brands must rethink their strategy with regards to diversity. They must first address consumer perceptions of their brands and how culturally sensitive they are perceived to be, in order to add value and increase the effectiveness of their diversity practices. As mentioned above, brand managers must carefully consider an appropriate context for their brands models from different ethnic backgrounds. Culture itself is a context, in which people have their shared memories of language, rituals and customs. We must understand our customers’ cultures in order to effectively communicate with them through our shared memories. In recent years, another popular practice through which luxury brands have sought to address the issue diversity is to hire chief diversity officers, such as Fiona Pargeter from Chanel, and Renée E Tirado from Gucci. Similar to the use of models, this effort to address diversity, while laudable, is not the only way to achieve a holistic approach. If we can consider a culture as a context, we must acknowledge that we one manager cannot possibly understand all contexts. The brands must seek help from their customers to guide them and inspire them in how to embrace local cultures while retaining their existing brand image. Consumer value co-creation is a useful concept here. Luxury fashion brands already have experience of collaborating with local artists, but consumer value co-creation will be more effective in terms of understanding cultural contexts and forging an emotional connection with customers.

The notorious D&G campaign in China in 2019 is an example of the box-ticking approach to tackling diversity. The campaign did feature a Chinese model and include details of Chinese culture (or what they thought were typical of Chinese culture) by depicting a woman using chopsticks. However, a lack of understanding of the target consumer in the context led a disastrously failed attempt at humour. The advertisement, which featured a model eating pizza with chopsticks, was supposed to demonstrate the integration of two cultures. However, this is not how luxury brand consumers in China want to be seen, preferring to be seen as trendy global consumers who are sophisticated enough to embrace other cultures.

Finally, it is important for the brand to truly understand the meaning of “diversity” and “luxury fashion” in different cultures, so that the brand can start to successfully manage its brand identity to combine these two elements. Of course, part of the appeal of luxury fashion lies in the products’ cultural independence and their ability to reflect a globally shared desire for prestige, inspiration and highquality. Nevertheless, we should also keep in mind that the reasons for purchasing luxury fashion items are already diverse, such as a desire for discreet status symbols, not wishing to lose face, social conformity or self-rewarding. Making the brand’s identity truly meaningful to a wide range of luxury customers while at the same time maintaining its authenticity is the true definition of diversity. Brand managers must develop a long-term strategy for diversity in order to establish a significant emotional connection with local customers in different cultural contexts. Focusing on numbers alone may be trendy, but being merely trendy is never enough for luxury fashion brands – they must aim to be inspirational.

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