According to JWT’s September 2012 Trend Report (slideshare), “American Dream in the Balance,” it seems Americans are shifting values from Faith & Family to Fame & Fortune, moving away from Tradition towards Materialism and quantity. (via)
4 in 10 respondents say factors like family and community better fit what the American Dream meant in the past… ‘Money is what everybody is after,” wrote a 33-year-old female respondent. ‘Values and beliefs are kind of left behind.’
The report is very insightful and is really worth reading the blurbs and Takeaways, especially the political themes. The highlight on Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign since 2009 is definitely relevant.
Interestingly, the (oft expressed) sentiment that (young) people are increasingly lacking in Heart & Soul was shared by Yohji Yamamoto in his recent WWD interview before the Y-3 SP2013 runway show in Paris.
What was different for you when you were starting out as a designer?
Japanese young designers’ creation has become like stylists’ creation. I don’t feel envy.…It’s luck of the power of creativity, because they graduate from university. They get nourished about very academic creativity, but they don’t have creativity from here [gestures to his heart]…soulful.
And you think that is a particular issue with the Japanese designers?
No, not only Japanese. Everybody. We are losing those young people because we have too much information by media. We can see everything at the same time, so already they are spoiled too much. So when we have talk sessions with young designers or students, I tell them: “Be bright. Your eyes have become dirty.”
After your Y-3 10th anniversary show in New York, you said that “in the world right now, fashion is s–t.” Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?
Let me talk like an old man. Young people, be careful. Beautiful things are disappearing every day. Be careful.…You don’t need to be [shopping at fast-fashion stores], especially young people. They are beautiful naturally, because they are young. So they should even wear simple jeans and a T-shirt. It’s enough. Don’t be too much fashionable.…The brand advertising is making you crazy. You don’t need to be too sexy. You are sexy enough.
However, my response (mimicing the Holy Stitch, style/substance viewpoint) is this:
How does the critical sentiment change when we look at WHY people are/seem materialistic, or devoid of depth?
Embody what is in our hearts
In the fashion/style materialism context, we covet style pieces, not merely as objects of possession, but out of a desire to accurately (and defiantly) express ourselves and to reinforce the identity that we wish to portray; We praise when a particular look speaks to our own self-identity and taste, or because we respect what the stylist/designer has accomplished (opening our eyes to a new way of looking). Style pieces are tools for the outwardly expressive, and we covet those things that we believe enable us to do and be what we are/want to be (ironic flipside: coveting things that will make us coveted).
We only wish to embody what is in our hearts, and for most of Youth, this is done via the external, via what we look like on the outside. And for most of Youth, this expression changes by the moment. Wanting new things is a reflection of moods and desires, but I believe this is always in the service of satisfying the expression of our self and our worldviews. Still, the best solution for recreating our heart’s desire is to develop innate potential into skill, such that we are confident enough in our mind and abilities to never need to rely on outward appearance.
In a world where there is a difference between What You Are and What You Look Like, we spend our lives trying to align the two (though many do the opposite, whether willingly or not). Which direction either of these sides is pulled is always different (get louder according to your brighter colors? or subdue appearance according to personality?).
All our dreams in a single bowl
Objects are merely symbols that we have assigned value to – a phenomenon going back to African fetish dolls and Christian paganism, to Ancient Egypt, and even the Stone Age. It is a pure and natural human activity borne out of sentiment and emotion. And in the end, these objects reflect our inner desires and values. Sometimes, they even evoke inspiration, externally generated feelings we didn’t previously possess, ie. “I want to be the person for which that object is essential to and pragmatic for / I want to be the person who created that.”
In the end, almost all objects now are created and refined by man/machine, and to covet such things that were products of human intellect and labor, is not such a bad thing, so long as down the line, these things drive us to also be creative, productive, and positive. Too many objects with too little meaning is a sign of imbalance.
Wealth as merely a means to an end
We don’t usually want money for money, we want money for:
1) what it can buy us, if only to obtain those things that that have actual, real value to us – be it a house, bike, clothing, a washer/dryer, that baby monitor, that new iphone, or an SLR upgrade.
2) what it represents – security, leverage, influence, status, success, equity.
Here we still encounter the dichotomy: What Something Is vs What Something Looks Like.
So when we discuss that the American people value fame and money over love and kinship, we have to look deeper at the psychology within why. And in our Capitalist, Internet society, it’s rather logical that we view money as the vehicle with which to obtain value, to see status and fame as the signal of success and validation, and to see physical objects as the only things that can easily be managed and enjoyed.
The key to draw, however, is that we are in a time of want and flux. We are in a time where transience is the new stable, where the constant that was always constant (Change) is even more pronounced: Turbulence. We are in a time where the Future is already here and we are at a loss for what the new Future stands to be because we are still trying to catch up to ourselves.
Perhaps our short-sighted-ness as a society (A.D.D. via the Internet?), is a reason for why we want material objects more than infrastructural integrity, ie. Decoration vs Longevity.
Perhaps it is our cynicism of Love and Religion and pronounced Ego-centrism that we are confused by Faith and Community and thus trust material things as much easier to manage, even though this takes away from our fortune.
At the same time, we may very well be more intuitive and smarter than we think, seeing the present and Future through a lens of suspicion, distaste, rejection.
Still, with all that, it should be said that we at Holy Stitch! reject pure materialistic desires that do not benefit our fellow man. The focus of Holy Stitch has always been on the future, on sustainability of the core aspects of human living – clothing, food, education, community, shelter. We just happen to value practicing this approach using aesthetically unique style.
In the end, the original tenet of “The American Dream” as coined in 1931 by John Truslow Adams, remains true for us, especially the idea of creating a better life for our children and a better world for our successors.
“[The American Dream]… is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable… regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (JTA, from The Epic of America)
“The Dream is more than money and material goods; it connotes and attitude and an ethos: a willingness to strive in the face of adversity, a belief in America as a land ripe with opportunities for success, a potent sense that anyone can achieve a better life, for oneself and one’s children.” (JWT)
If that’s what the Dream is, then we’re living it – fighting for it – every single, hard-fought, stress-inducing day. And we’re never going back.