Wellness is swallowing the fashion industry whole. Should I switch camps? – The Guardian, 23 March 2019, Jess Cartner-Morley
Stepping off the catwalk
“It’s time for me to jump ship because wellness is killing fashion. To be fair, it has had a good innings. For a hundred years, it has made billions of pounds out of selling us stuff that boosts our self-esteem/makes us feel more attractive/makes us appear richer and more successful. Stuff, though – that’s the problem. Fashion is stuff and stuff is, like, so 20th century. No one wants stuff any more. We want glowing skin and a 110-minute half-marathon time and inner peace and Michelin-starred kombucha instead. That’s what aspirational looks like in 2019. Wellness does exactly what fashion used to do, which is sell you a dream version of you, only it’s better for you and doesn’t create landfill. Game over.”
Through the WI lens
This Guardian piece puts its finger cleverly on a shift in the zeitgeist: how wellness is fulfilling needs and aspirations that were previously fulfilled by shopping for new clothes (and other material goods). The emptiness of rampant consumerism has been laid bare, and Millennials have shown the rest of us that there is more satisfaction to be gained from experience, and from nurturing our bodies and our minds, than from feeding the insatiable desire for more wardrobe fillers.
Where it comes up short is in portraying wellness in the faddish, frivolous and elitist terms that critics love to deploy. Goop’s scented candles, clean-eating regimes and £6,000 Chanel yoga mats all exist but they do not sum up a sector that has potential to change people’s lives in much deeper and more varied ways. As Jess Cartner-Morley acknowledges, “every bit of culture has its freakstore fringes”; but wellness should never be seen as “strangely regressive”. The journey from fast fashion to spirited wellbeing is more about enlightenment than it is about plucking items from the wellness shelf. Practitioners can nevertheless usefully view the shortcomings of the frock business and its false promise as the territory that is being left behind.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”