A contributed perspectives piece by C.A. Mills
In 2001 Julia Roberts wore a black and white iconic Valentino gown to the Academy awards.
The recent Kardashian misstep of aping the turn of curated old gowns for high profile celebrity events by wearing Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday song” dress aside, the threads that have been coming together for twenty years to create the current moment in all things design and living are finally coalescing into a collective consciousness.
Nick Offerman and his wood shop, community gardens, the bloom of cooking and crafts shows, and even bread baking during lock down have all contributed. Earlier this spring Iris Apfel auctioned a portion of her clothing, jewelry and housewares collected over the past century and found a giddy audience. Even my own fascination with all metal sewing machines is not an eccentricity anymore.
Craft (big C and little c) is back baby, and it is back in a big way. It all is part of a “sustainable” mind set; from curating your yard for food, healthcare, and pollinators to knowing how to use tools and do things yourself- the world is changing, and it is now cool to be a part of it. The Japanese “old lady style” of collecting well-made thrift store finds into a look, and sentimentalizing objects as a way to ground identity and community all play a part.
It’s all coming together as a formal mainstream reality that will not fade quickly as the pressures from climate change, food and supply chain collapse, global economic instability, and other forces continue to shape society. The phrase to capture this might be “curate yourself” or “curate your life”. In high end real estate, the wealthy are divesting themselves of multiple homes, some out of societal collapse panic (those bunkers are still being built out west at a rapid rate and yachts to live on have wait-lists) and some out of the now cool ethos of downsizing and carefully curating living spaces.
As Jeff Bezos found, time is really the ultimate luxury- not just what you do with it, but how much of it you have, and that is something no amount of extreme athletics, fasting, or fantasies with cryogenics changes. As I said recently to someone I met after seeing her home work space, “I like how you spend your time” is the new big compliment. Not just what you do for a living, but literally how you spend your time both in necessary and discretionary activities.
How one spends money is still a metric we all use to judge ourselves and others, but how one spends TIME is a much more forward metric now. Not just an indicator of taste, but of moral and ethical value.
The 80’s glorification of “he who dies with the most toys” (and literally HE, as women were and often still are considered objects of possession to a certain sector of society) is over for younger generations. A gender plural “Those who can look back on what they have done”, how they have spent their time, is the new (and not so new) ethos.
We should not be surprised that people are opting out of a hamster wheel of consumption and money chasing employment. They know all too well the stresses of looming various apocalypse (apocali?); how valuable doing things that offer a sense of purpose as well as pleasure beyond dominating, possessing, and “winning” can be.
They are the generations beyond deconstruction, they know how to analyze systems and see outcomes. And they can say “no”. The rise of Craft and choosing life- real living, not the term as it exists as the perverse cudgel-based power games of religion- is here.
C.A. Mills lives in Harrisonburg.