Thoughts on Consumerism
Hi friends! I have been loving hearing from so many of you through email, Instagram, here in the comments, and on Facebook as we start to slowly delve into the questions it seems so many of us are grappling with when it comes to fashion. Please keep it coming. I am so enjoying getting to know each of you.
Unpacking the hefty and mysterious box that is my relationship with fashion, I'm always looking for the treasure- the bright spots, the rays of hope, the ways in which fashion can enrich our human experience and connect us to our authentic selves. But I'm also a realist (I'm actually like 98% dreamer with just a splash of realist for flavor!) who, when unpacking said box, faces a scary, dark, potentially spider-infested corner in which my deepest, darkest fashion fears lurk. Namely, that fashion is ultimately a consumerist industry designed to fuel profit and growth by making us feel alternatively inadequate, frenzied, disempowered, and incomplete. This fashion buzz kill is right at the very heart of why it's taken me so long to come to terms with the fact that I love fashion. And I have to admit, when that consumerist monster rears its head, I sometimes find it hard to nip its nefarious spewings in the bud. I want to be thoughtful and open and honest about this question: how can a fashion-lover defend loving fashion in the face of its consumerist culture?
Until I can answer this question (don't hold your breath), here are a few thoughts on consumerism to get us considering our respective relationships with fashion, with what we buy, why we buy it, and the repercussions of that consumption. Chime in! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
“But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer's anxiety that he is missing out on what is "in." In this state of total consumerism - which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves - all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.”
― Wendell Berry in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
“When we black people commit ourselves to living simply as a political action, as a way of breaking the stress caused by unrelenting hedonistic desire for material objects that are not needed for survival, or essential to well-being...We will be out in the streets demanding that the public schools have enough teachers so that all kids, cross color, can read and write in standard English and in Spanish too.”
Implications for Self-Fulfillment
“In many cases, you are not buying a product, but an "identity enhancer." Designer labels are primarily collective identities that you buy into. They are expensive and therefore "exclusive." If everybody could buy them, they would lose their psychological value and all you would be left with would be their material value, which likely amounts to a fraction of what you paid. What keeps the so-called consumer society going is the fact that trying to find yourself through things doesn't work. The ego satisfaction is short-lived, and so you keep looking for more; you keep buying and keep consuming.”
― Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
Implications for Self-Fulfillment II
“In the marketing society, we seek fulfillment but settle for abundance. Prisoners of plenty, we have the freedom to consume in stead of our freedom to find our place in the world.”
― Clive Hamilton, Growth Fetish
ps...with respect to the feature image, I never intend to point the finger (neither at the subject of the image, nor the creatives and editors who produced it; it is in fact a striking image) but while we're on the subject of consumption, I was struck by human being on conveyor belt- is the takeaway here that we ourselves are consumable? Photo credit Alexi Lubomirski for Harper's Bazaar.