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Sparking Joy By Design

Posted on March 04 2019

Spools of thread

SPARKING JOY BY DESIGN

Sparking Joy is all the rage. People across the country are decluttering and simplifying their lives thanks to the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Having moved a dozen times in my adult life, I fully support the idea of owning less. I've attempted to live by the William Morris quote: 

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Almost all the furniture in my home was either bought second-hand or handmade by my father, and I have a pretty firm "anti-knick-knack" stance. As it turns out, we humans don't really need a lot of stuff to survive. 

Last week I was invited to watch a showing of the documentary 'Rams' which outlines the life and design work of Dieter Rams. I'd never heard of the man, so I was surprised to find how many modern tools and appliances I own or have come in contact with were based off Rams's designs from the 60's through the 90's. In the documentary, Rams outlines his 10 Principles of Good Design. I was again surprised how many of his Principles of Design aligned with my own views. My favorites are in bold.

1 Good design is innovative
2 Good design makes a product useful
3 Good design is aesthetic
4 Good design makes a product understandable
5 Good design is unobtrusive
6 Good design is honest
7 Good design is long-lasting
8 Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9 Good design is environmentally friendly
10 Good design is as little as possible

Somehow Marie Kondo and Dieter Rams mixed together in my head yesterday while I was stitching up a hole in my son's sock. This winter has been strangely hard on socks in my house, and I could have easily tossed this pair out with the trash. And it struck me in that moment how we as a society just don't care for things the way our grandparents used to. The need to properly care for and mend our clothing (and really any household object) went out the window when fast fashion became the norm and you could buy a t-shirt for the price of a cup of coffee.

Spools of thread

So while we make a mad dash to declutter our closets and drop the remains at the local thrift shop, I can't help but wonder what happens when we don't KonMari our shopping habits as well? It's so easy for an article of clothing to spark joy in a retail setting with the perfect lighting, a pretty price tag, and a fun soundtrack playing in the background. It's much more difficult for the same item to spark joy when you've worn it once and you realize the stitching is coming undone and it's pilling under the armpits. I'd love if someone followed up with this trend of KonMari addicts 6 months or 6 years from now - will their base level of consumption really have changed?

The burden isn't only on the consumer - it's also on us as designers and manufacturers to put a thoughtfully designed product out into the world that is well-made and built to last. Something you'll want to treat with care. We can talk sustainability and earth-friendliness all day long, but if your $10 organic t-shirt from the fast-fashion-giant at the mall shrinks 2 sizes and the seams twist out of shape after one wash, is that really sustainable? (The answer, of course, is no.) It's not enough to use trendy words and flashy marketing to sell a thing if the thing ends up in a landfill 6 months after it was purchased.

At Fair Indigo, we use premium organic Pima cotton, the softest and strongest in the world. Our garments are constructed to last through years of enthusiastic use. It's a difference you will only understand by touching it, wearing it, washing it, and really using it out. I have Fair Indigo brand tees and sweaters in my closet that I bought back in 2010 when our Hilldale store in Madison, WI was still around (in fact, I'm wearing one right now and I just noticed it has a hole in the armpit seam. Time to break out the sewing machine!) 9-year-old t-shirts? Now THAT'S longevity.

My imperfectly mended jeans

If you're interested in learning more about clothing care and mending, I suggest reading this blog post REPAIR! And it you're interested at all in product design, I highly recommend the documentary 'Rams.' If you've already watched it, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Stacy Imhoff 
Style Manager, Fair Indigo


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