We live in a disposable society.
Stuff is cheap to buy, which seems great because we can toss it out tomorrow and update with the new latest trend.
It’s a concept that kind of suggests that there’s some all mighty guru that we have to keep in tune with. Heaven forbid we don’t update in time or everyone will know that we’re just not ‘in’.
I want to ridicule the idea of that, but it’s pretty much exactly how it works.
There’s several illusions at the heart of this but the one that saddens me the most is the idea that keeping up with ‘the trends’ helps us to reflect our own identity and uniqueness.
We’re chasing being ‘different’ by all doing it the same. Limited to pretty much the same few styles of garments we wore last year, but maybe now in a slightly different shade. Or with an extra button.
Who are we trying to kid that there’ll ever be a style of mass produced shoe that could be so unique or exciting that we need it just because it’s different. But of course if that isn’t the case, then we’re going to realise that the same variety could serve year on year. It’s at this point we’re going to recognise that what we’ve bought isn’t really fit for the purpose they’re made for. If they’re not ‘special’ then they’re just cheap, falling to pieces bits of garbage. They won’t last if you put them through their paces.
Fortunately, not all we buy is that extreme. Though it does seem to be the direction that we’re heading in and, whilst I do like variety and choice, I think it’s time to stop and question what’s really driving this.
If we want to buy something that represents who we are, then something spewed out at mass quantity hardly seems fitting.
And if we want to buy something simply to fill a purpose, then wouldn’t it be great if it actually served it well?
Fast fashion need not apply only to the stuff we wear either. It spreads right through our houses and gardens and workplaces, and the VOC-filled explosion of tat makes my skin crawl.
Items Worth Connecting With.
Many of us are not remotely interested in being fashionable. But the stuff we find on the shelf largely offers the same standards regardless. The premise of fast fashion bleeds throughout manufacturing, as producers flail to out compete one another by the approach of a lower price.
Quantity not quality has become the motto.
But what are we missing out on by indulging in this rapid exchange of possessions?
I for one would like to get to know the items I buy before they fall apart on me. I want clothes that fit well, and boots that I look forward to seeing next year when I get them back out of the cupboard. In fact I want to feel sorrow at realising that those boots have finally reached the day where they’ve met their limit, many many years after I first wore them. Followed by the glee of learning that they can be given a brand new lease of life.
Items built to last, from materials that are durable, age beautifully. They weather, they get worn and they take on a character of their own. There is no reason that even the most mundane items in our life could not bring us joy to be around.
But we’ve reached a place where such items aren’t that easy to come by. Craftsmanship has been discouraged as a career path for all too long; poor financial prospects and zero job security make it the exception rather than the rule. Though maybe it’s time for that to shift.
Technology has gifted us with ways that make it ever more accessible to run our own business, giving us the means to promote and sell our wares to a broader audience with greater and greater ease. And in many ways I think the desire for a ‘better made’ world has rarely been stronger.
Right now there’s something else going on too.
High-streets that are littered with boarded up shops.
The Changing Face Of Buying.
For a long time we’ve seen the same large brands dominate our towns so that wherever we travel the exact same stuff is on offer. And it’s not recent news that these giants have been struggling. Bankruptcies, buyouts and closures have been a growing trend for years. A symptom of an online world perhaps. Or just a readiness for change.
If our high-streets were becoming ghost towns before 2020, then Covid has done a pretty good job at putting the final nail in the coffin. So while we’ve become accustomed to keeping our distance and having deliveries turn up at our doors, it may be the time to dare to dream what might be born from the fertile ashes.
I have a vivid imagination.
I see grey neglected facades transformed and coloured with the wares and enthusiasm of local makers. A shopping experience with the wander of a treasure hunt, with friends and family meeting up to delight at what they can find, rather than moaning at the weather.
I’d walk into a shop that had the intrigue and atmosphere of ‘Ollivanders’ on ‘Diagon Alley’. Inside I’d be greeted by a maker so in love with his work that he’d taken on the essence of the items he makes. On explaining what I’m looking for he’d jump straight out with the knowledge of the materials that would suit the job best, whilst weighing me up sidewards with silent understanding. That would be a purchase of uniqueness and self expression.
Perhaps I’m getting a little carried away. Or maybe your vision is even grander?
My point is that things are changing. If we want buying options that extend beyond a quick add to basket from our one remaining online giant, then now’s a good time to consider what we might like instead.
‘Made With Passion’ goes far beyond the sustainability concerns of excessive material consumption. This series also places significance on human interaction within the web of the items we use. An aspect of the series which affects us all.
Of Subtlety and Being Valued.
There’s a connection between the stuff that surrounds us and its origins in life.
Material choices that are toxic to the environment can often bring toxicity into our homes too. And to our bodies.
As another example, items that are made with care and attention can support our needs for a long duration.
And items that are made with passion can offer a joy to our days through a subtlety that is unmistakable yet barely quantifiable. An impact that’s left through pride, nurture, hands and knowledge. Uniquely characterised by the irregularities left by a makers’ touch.
Perhaps the most important connection of all though is how our ability to value other peoples’ work has an impact upon ourselves.
It’s not an obvious connection so bear with me.
Fast fashion is a symptom of a disconnected world. We barely give gratitude to the items we buy, let alone a thought for whichever nameless person was involved in their creation.
Apparently it’s not uncommon today for a child to not know that a vegetable is grown in the ground. And in a similar display of detachment it would hardly surprise me if there are some people who consider that clothes and cookware grow on trees. Because we have created a system that allows for that level of ignorance.
That may all seem harmless enough on the surface, but not when you recognise the cycle.
If you want to be valued, then value those around you.
If we continue to grow this mindset of detachment, then we can expect the appreciation for our own work to continue to go downhill. Bosses, friends and offspring who expect things to be done, but only take notice when they’re not done right. The less we recognise the human input behind our items, the more we treat everything as though it were the action of a machine. And the more each of us becomes seen as nothing more than a cog.
At first glance ‘Made With Passion’ focuses on craftsmen. People who make beautiful things.
But I’m expanding it much beyond this.
I realise that once we can find the importance in valuing anothers’ work then that can apply to the work carried out by each of us. Whether we are a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a parent. Whether we are building a product or offering a service. Supporting our household or a community.
It is not the detail of what we do that distinguishes the lives we build, but the energy behind how we approach it.
If we connect to our work and our actions with passion, then it is recognised, felt and valued. And when others value our work we take greater pride in it too.
It’s a cycle that can lead in either direction, and it really is up to us to choose.
So How Do We Switch Direction?
It’s easy to consider that living well is a privilege for the rich. To buy beautifully made items is low down on the priorities of many of us struggling to cover the bills. But this numbers-based approach misses the point. I could explain the maths of why buying well can be cheaper in the long run, but that’s not what I mean. A mindset of gratitude is free. So too are those moments we might take to give consideration to our choices. We’re in the midst of a consumerist world with the wheels well and truly turning in one direction. I know it’s not an easy fix to stop and go the other way.
But there’s a lot to be said for taking a second to acknowledge how odd it is for things to carry on the way they do.
Like with each introduction I’m not seeking to give answers right here, only to set out the tone of what this series will be exploring.
And something I’ve recognised while writing these is how easily it could be interpreted as me pushing you to feel guilty. I’m not. Not even slightly, but I do understand that it’s difficult to take account of these issues without some discomfort creeping in.
Any shifts we’re each able to make in our lives, no matter how small, are fantastic and go an incredibly long way. But we all have to be gentle with ourselves. It’s the bigger picture that seems to be kinked and not any of us as individuals.
I think one of the most powerful things we can do is to recognise that we desire to do it differently. I’d say that’s the first stage in any kind of design.
It’s also incredibly useful to take a look at our current situation with fresh eyes.
It’s actually quite extraordinary what we’ve achieved.
We have set up an economy that makes all manner of stuff not only affordable to the masses, but disposable to us.
Huge volumes of any item you could hope for are just a click away. And I’m not knocking that part. But to make it possible these items have been travelling back and forth across the globe, through various stages of manufacture and distribution.
So many steps and so much travel. Such an indirect and complex supply chain. And yet stuff remains cheap.
If it’s cheaper to buy, throw away and buy again. Repeatedly. Than to buy once from someone local who’s made it well, then shouldn’t we be asking what’s going wrong? And who’s losing out?
Joining The Dots Throughout Our Lives
This is now the fifth series introduction that I’ve written and I’m going to make no apology for how the topics are starting to cross over and even repeat. That’s a huge part of why I’ve planned the series out in this way. We can’t improve one area of our lives without it impacting another.
When we begin to take awareness of how our world works, it first seems mind-bogglingly complex and impossible for any one of us to have an impact. But when we take this even further, it seems that the complexity melts into a handful of obvious flaws. Flawed approaches which we’ve become blind to because they’re ‘normal’, but which don’t require technical innovation to fix. For the most part they are social and economical issues, where adjustments in the right direction by everyday people could cause improvements to ripple. It all crosses over, and I find that so beautiful. These series are my way of expressing to you how I feel the complicated issues in our world are connected, and they require a shift in the mindset that we bring to them.
I want to blur the line between work and play, and aim instead to start building lives that are Made with Passion.
‘Made With Passion’ is one of six series that will be explored through Winglewood. All of the content belonging to this series will start to be displayed here.
I’ve designed the series structure to help us identify the connections between the issues within our lives, rather than segregate everything in to boxes. You can find an overview of each of the series with further details here.
And if you’ve missed my recent video update you can have a watch of that instead. I’ve started to gain a lot of clarity of how I want to bring all of the ideas at Winglewood together, so I’ve used this video to share some of my thoughts.