by Cheri Sundra
Clearly, Ed Hardy was the harbinger of doom. An adage says that nothing has the power to tell the truth about an age quite like fashion, and still so many Americans missed the walking billboards that were advertising the end of our consumer spending culture as we know it.
Not that a skull motif on clothing was anything original, but in spring of 2009, in every venue from mainstream department stores and big box retailers, to knock-off boardwalk vendors, Ed Hardy’s skull inspired influence could not be overlooked. Didn’t we see anything more sinister lurking beneath the rhinestone studded, tattoo-esque designs beyond the New York Times proclaiming the skull as the smiley face of the 2000’s? Smiley face?! I think not. Somehow, American consumers (and “the newspaper of historic record”) failed to recognize these designs for what they really were—American consumer culture memento mori.
Throughout history, the skull has always been used to communicate “Danger!” and ruin. Obviously, skull inspired fashions were the result of our own consumer products mocking the youth obsessed culture that led so many Americans to borrow against their homes and their pensions just so they could rent a lifestyle that almost dares them to grow old.
Now times are tough, even at the top– that is if you believe Paris Hilton’s statement that she was using a BORROWED handbag when cocaine fell out of her purse while being questioned by police. Even (P) Diddy had to give up his private jet to save on gas. With people complaining about inflation, high gas prices and young hipster boys sporting hair almost as long as Shaun Cassidy’s , it’s beginning to feel like 70s déjà vu with a new millennium twist.
Our aging society, health spending and global warming all hinder economic growth. In the near future, Americans are going to suffer from what some are calling “affluence deprivation”—collectively as a nation we will still be wealthy, but we are going to feel poorer because more individual income will be spent on necessities like energy and health care costs. The rising cost of necessities is not the only issue siphoning our sluggish income gains, another factor that is redefining American spending habits is that many American families overspent their way through the beginning of the decade.
According to Experian, total credit card debt has increased by more than 50% since 2000 while personal savings has been zilch for the last several years. Many consumers have no choice but to be more frugal, but that does not mean that they are going to stop shopping.
Chris Farrell, author of “The New Frugality : How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better” says that people will stop spending to acquire “stuff” and will start spending money on “fulfillment”. This means that consumers will want to use their spending power to buy experiences or to enhance their lives or the lives of others. We will be looking for more environmentally friendly products and patronizing corporations that practice green initiatives. Green will undoubtedly be the new black!
Fashion is already in the process of defining this new age of consumerism with offerings such as clothing made with organic cotton, recycled or up-cycled materials and renewable, environmentally friendly resources such as bamboo. While fashionable skulls ushered in the end of one consumer era, the American shopper will still find a way to give consumerism a second chance at life.
Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved
Did you think I wouldn’t?! 😉