Even before I vowed on this blog, not to buy any new clothes for the whole of 2010, Oxford Street, central London was not somewhere I was drawn to hanging out! Masses of frenzied shoppers, bombarded with advertising, saturated in plastic bags! AAaaaggggaagghh!
On Monday I spent a significant part of my day wondering up and down Oxford street, observing the madness! Tourists, office workers, yummy mummies and students cramming in as much shopping as they could, but what is this pursuit of more really about?
It's business, creating needs and desires that don't exist, in order to sell us more 'stuff'. 'Stuff' with no soul, no history, purpose or longevity. I'm glad not to be part of this system of simulated greed any more! I understand it's a leisure activity, something we do to reward ourselves and treat our friends, we deserve it right? But is this the nicest way of rewarding ourselves? We are lining the pockets of the already rich, and investing in things that I don't think we even value!
I saw a group of four female shoppers, who had so many full carrier bags of new clothes, that one of them had to stand outside of a shop looking after the bags, whilst the others went inside to look around, then the others came out carrying new bags, to relieve the bag-sitter allowing her to go and shop for more! What were they buying? what could they possibly need? Were they satisfied with their purchases? why did they need more?
After this experience, and more wondering around endless department stores crammed with 'quirkily' packaged plastic merchandise, I had to question myself as a designer-maker; do I want to add to a market that is saturated with mediocre, mass-produced things that we don't need? How can I survive in a market like this? How will my work and products survive?!
They will survive because they are different! The experience of buying them is different. They have spirit, history and a story!
Every time we shop, we vote with our wallets! We can say no to un-fair trade, to pollutant plastics, to over-packaging, we can say yes to our local artisans, yes to clever use of materials and yes to spoiling ourselves rotten because 'we are worth it'! Consumerism doesn't have to be bad, it can be wonderful! Heck-if we all stopped shopping the economy would grind to a halt! But I feel that we deserve better! Real luxury doesn't have to come at a cost, it can come in the form of a pleasant experience, a market, a one-off, calling a designer and asking to visit their studio, building a relationship with the products you choose to buy will ensure a long and happy relationship with that product and act as an end to our mindless fast-fashion and throw away culture.
Start a revolution, vote with your wallet!