Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Trends and Slowness

Jenny at Little Green Notebook has started a compelling discussion on her blog, about how being a design blogger (or a devoted blog reader) makes one hypersensitive to whether an interior design trend is 'over' before it has even hit the mainstream:

I had so many thoughts on this that I couldn't summarize them in a pithy tweet or one-paragraph comment.

When you blog daily about a topic, you put yourself under pressure to create original content (or original images), and you become a trendhunter, whether you mean to or not. There is nothing wrong with being on the cutting edge of knowledge in a field. There is nothing wrong with being aware of your average readers' (or clients', or audience's, or friends') level of literacy and expectations about a topic. However, you should never let that awareness alter your writing (or decorating, or fashion sense) so that what you produce isn't an authentic reflection of who you are. Your best work will always be a showcase for your personality, your artistic voice, and your expertise.

Of course that is much easier said than done. Most of us are still finding our voices, aren't we? That's part of why we blog, or keep journals and sketchbooks and portfolios of our student projects. And it can mean we're unduly influenced by trends.

For me, part of finding my authentic voice and design vision is exploring the slow movement. It can be really tricky to incorporate the principles of the slow movement into the parts of your life that tend to be trend-driven. The worlds of fashion and decor are ruled by novelty, consumerism, and marketing; if they weren't, we wouldn't give a sweet damn what colours the industry experts have forecast, or whether our shoes have round or pointy toes. Furthermore, marketers are speaking to our deepest desires when they craft their messages for consumers. Our clothes are a marker for the tribe we belong to, or the tribe we want to belong to; we don't just buy fabric to cover our bodies, we buy our identities and our aspirations (Kristy at One Dress Protest has recently done a genius post about the blurry line between fashion and tribal uniform.). We tell ourselves a story about the life we wish we lived, and we shop for housing and furniture accordingly. We aspire to be slim and healthy, and we buy exercise equipment that gets used mostly as a clothing rack. We want to appear worldly, so we buy a ceramic replica Buddha statue and put it on the fireplace mantle or in a garden bed. We want to appear well-read, so we buy classic literature and glossy art history books and display them prominently on our shelves and coffee tables. We want to be stoic and cheerful about the Current Economic Uncertainty so we buy posters and coffee mugs emblazoned with World War Two propaganda.

Source. Yeah, I own one too.

Don't get me wrong: this is no anti-consumerist rant. There's nothing wrong with expressing ourselves and manifesting our desires through our purchases, or with craving novelty, provided that we do so in moderation. Those are universal impulses. However, these realities can make choosing or blogging about slow fashion or slow decor a delicate balancing act. How do you keep your home and wardrobe current enough to keep them from feeling stale, without treating their contents as disposable? How do you present interesting new trends without becoming a pawn in a corporate marketing strategy, or broadcasting aspirations that conflict with the whole point of the slow movement?

The slow movement isn't about the self-deprivation of buying nothing; it's about becoming a mindful consumer. It can mean being more self-aware and thinking hard about why you want to buy an item and whether you'll really use it. It can mean buying fewer, higher-quality items (and the different sort of abundance that brings into your life); buying locally-made and sustainable items; buying handmade or custom-made; choosing timeless or durable styles; or buying vintage or antique (Hopefully more than one of these criteria will fit your purchase!). It might mean choosing easy-to-live-with neutrals for your home and wardrobe, and bringing in trends through thoughtfully-chosen accessories - or it might mean fearlessly embracing your signature style and your favorite colours, and only buying what you truly love.

(I'll be posting specifically about applying those ideas to my wardrobe in the coming week.)

So, back to those overexposed trends in blog-land... As I've already confessed, I have a Keep Calm knockoff coffee mug. Yup. That poster design has become ridiculously ubiquitous, but my grandparents met in London during The Blitz - and my Dad was born there. For me, it has a special resonance, and it doesn't matter that it's So Over. I bought it because I love it and it's meaningful.

So for me, a Keep Calm mug is the perfect object to represent both overdone trends and slow design principles. What trend that's So Over has become a cherished object in your life?

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