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.
“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.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.