Monday, April 4, 2011

Yep. We sure love to manipulate our appearance - many of us will happily (or obsessively) putter about it, or spend much time excitedly concocting our next ensemble, which we will wear with aplomb. Any why not? Our attire is definitely the most in-your-face way of communicating that which we wish to present to the world - who we think we are, who we want to be, our roles, our ruts, our aspirations. That, or a way of editing or hiding what we dislike. The value of clothing as a social, personal, creative, or vocational barometer clearly eclipses its primary function of physical discretion.

However, what do you suppose the percentage is, of us who honestly communicate our own essence? I mean, it's easy enough to be a dropout, and then throw on a few well-ironed corporate pieces and project an image vastly different to the true status. Or, it's just as easy for a anyone to don an outfit conforming to any given subculture and present themselves as hip. (Hell, some even use it to conform to supposed non-conformist subcultures, but that's another story). But here, I'm not solely referring to this matter in regards to the projecting of an inauthentic image - it's more so about the beautiful, unique essence each individual has, which sometimes gets hidden, distorted, or neglected underneath layers of rejection, negation, self-doubt, the judgment of others, and even mass-marketed trends. How many brands out there do you see encouraging customers to retain true independence? If I had a dollar for each one, I'd be on a sweatshop employee's weekly budget. It's not really in the fashion industry's interest to encourage such independence, for profits mainly rely on the insecurities and fantasies of consumers. Who cares who you really are? When making you feel inadequate or somehow incorrect can compel you to hand over the dollars in immense and ever-increasing proportions. Even if we're talking competitively low prices found at the fast-fashion chains, it's still based on compelling customers via fears, fantasies, and impulse.

Here's an interesting exercise, which I will also do: head over to your wardrobe and take a thoughtful look through its contents. What were you hoping to achieve with each item as you purchased it?

How many of the garments really make you feel like yourself, and how many items remain by reluctance to admit they are a bit of a stretch?

Did you select each item with independent thought, or did you feel led into the purchase by either pressure, need, runaway ideas, or insecurity?

How many did you consciously choose to hide or downplay a part of yourself, and how many did you purchase to truly honour and validate a part of yourself?

How many items did you purchase because you felt an instant connection, or caught a glimpse of something you can't quite describe but really adore?

How many - and which ones - would you rid yourself of, if given an allowance to purchase what you truly, really resonated with?

The whole point is this: the more conscious, independent, self-aware consumers who are making CONSCIOUS purchasing decisions means a few things: less landfill, less debt, less ravaging of natural resources, less money wasted, less insecurity and less power in the hands of companies whose interests are not in the wellbeing of individuals let alone the planet. The more conscious, empowered decisions you make as a consumer, and the more consumers acting as such, means a shift in the power balance.

While fashion and appearance won't save the world from its disastrous trajectory, being your authentic self, embracing and sharing that with others, and making conscious empowered decisions will ultimately create the kind of innate sense of peace that increases levels of happiness. And more happy, empowered, conscious, independent, peaceful people is one of the things this world needs.