How Fashion Faltered

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.

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