Interiors are the New Fashion
Examinations and predictions on how we view our surroundings.
(4 minute read)
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but there was a turning point late last spring when it became evident that the whole ‘stay at home’ thing would last for more than a few weeks. Like a lot of people who peg toward one end of a certain spectrum, I began to analyze and evaluate every item in my apartment with a newfound level of criticism.
I suppose I was doing some version of ‘KonMari’, Marie Kondo’s now (in)famous method for tidying one’s home without knowing, or caring, what doing it correctly would entail. Much of my understanding about ‘the magical art of tidying’ comes from Taffy Akner’s 2016 New York Times piece on ‘The Ruthless War on Stuff’, which is a fun — if slightly unnerving — read if you have the time to revisit.
“I went to a seminar on closets and pantries that I hoped would be, I don’t know, more spiritual than it was, or at the very least address the problem of the cans of beans I keep buying and not using — why do I keep buying them? Why am I not using them?”
- Taffy Akner, Marie Kondo, Tidying Up and the Ruthless War on Stuff.
Beyond the obvious activities like closet and cabinet purges, I began to ponder more specific choices: Is that shade the right shape for that lamp? How many pillows actually belong on a sofa? Do I even like that piece of art? Is that chair ‘me’?
The ‘home’ business is booming. Between March and October of last year, home spending increased by more than 30% while apparel spending declined by 25% (NPD Group). It’s easy to draw a very practical correlation between this trend and the pandemic: In a year spent at home, it’s only logical that people would allocate disposable income toward home improvement.
The question becomes: Will this continue beyond Covid?
At least one aspect of home-spending feels specific to the pandemic-era: what writer Kerry Pieri dubbed the ‘Cult of Couch’ in last month’s Harper’s Bazaar. Pieri examines the couch as the new ultimate status symbol, specifically plush 70s-inspired Italian-made sofas that ‘cost about as much as a car’. This particular trend seems tailored to influencers; less about living with the couch and more about having one’s picture taken (or taking one’s own picture) on the couch.
When the stuck-at-home influencer is no longer able to post from glamorous destinations, it becomes mission-critical to improve one’s at-home backdrop — because it’s all wrong to be clad in head-to-toe designer whilst surrounded entirely by IKEA. Clearly.
Enter the designer couch.
Thanks to Pinterest — and because we’ve developed a habit of photo-broadcasting our entire lives — it was already becoming more common to flaunt one’s interiors prowess before 2020. However, a need to share was not what motivated me to reconsider every corner of my own space. It was much less about posting about my home than about having to actually live in it.
Looking around one’s home, in a lot of ways, is like looking into a big mirror. Last year, staring at our things became yet another way of staring at ourselves (since we don’t do enough of that). Perhaps some of us were surprised to learn that the “Kinfolk-aesthetic” that defined the better part of the last decade felt notably sad. Suddenly living in a white and beige box didn’t spark as much joy as we were told it would, despite promises of ‘hygge’.
Looking forward, as we begin to evaluate what it means to create a home truly designed for life, I suspect that interiors, not fashion, will become the most important vehicle for aesthetic self-expression in the 21st century.
Breaking ties with the 20th Century.
More than ever, over the past year I’ve heard people sardonically ask: What is time?
Twenty-twenty had a way of distorting time; at once dragging on forever and blowing by. Still, this ‘Groundhog Day’ of a year might be the event that sets the tone for 21st century style. Where the 20th century managed to churn out one iconic decade after the next - separating unique design philosophies into neat ten-year chunks - it seems likely that moving forward, creativity might look more like a remix. Suddenly ‘fresh’ is seeing a mid-century modern chair next to a late 19th century table. Whatever rules about pairing existed before don’t matter anymore. Today’s designer is less a talented musician and more a great DJ.
Sustainability & Permanence
Despite the well-intentioned efforts of many in the sustainable fashion space, the elephant in the room that no one in fashion wants to talk about is that the most sustainable behavior is simply to not make or buy more new stuff. The idea of purchasing one’s way to a greener life is laced with irony. Of course there are vintage clothes, but the vintage clothing market comes with obstacles, namely limitations around size availability, styles that often feel more costume than everyday, and that no matter what, once an item smells like an old attic, that smell is never going away.
Buying secondhand furniture has a lot more upside at all price points. It’s much easier, and broad appeal, to reject new furniture than new clothing. Whether perusing Craigslist or Goodwill or combing through 1st Dibs, there are treasures to be found and oftentimes budget finds and investment pieces can harmoniously coexist. There’s an element of magic in seeing a combination of old items add up to something that feels entirely modern.
In a world that is ever-moving toward replacing life experiences with virtual counterparts, a lot of us find ourselves, to varying degrees of awareness, clinging to that which feels real. Based on conversations I’ve had with friends, we are a generation that isn’t necessarily interested in inheriting our own family’s possessions, but we are into the idea of acquiring a collection of items that might someday be worthy of passing down. We find ourselves in pursuit of the storied, layered home that most of us didn’t grow up in.
As we scoop up antiques and unique pieces, we’re not only re-writing our past but constructing a different kind of future. In the United States, it can feel as though some of us are gravitating toward sensibilities that seem more slow, more imperfect, more weary of imitations, more European. A level of comfort with that which is old suggests an unspoken understanding that our past should inform our future.
Finally, there will always be an element of fashion that is limited by our physical selves. If we spent much of our adolescence and early adulthood learning what ‘works’ for us, accepting that we will never be some way that we are not, interiors offer a refreshing version of self-expression that has nothing to do with gender or age or body-shape. With fewer limitations, the imagination is freer to roam, to create something that might outlive us all.
Have a great week!