AltLuxe

Posts from the “Living Well” Category

Care about sustainability? Get serious about your brand.

Posted on January 23, 2018

“Brand” is one of those words – a little like “luxury”– that feels the very antithesis of “sustainability”. For many, it bespeaks glossy magazine ads, splashy parties, and a general glitz that feels gross, vulgar. And in many ways it is, as it pumps up demand for things we don’t want. But ironically, for all the importance of using sustainable materials and processes, the single most important act of sustainability is to not create more waste to begin with. In our society, waste implies that there is no market demand for a given item and that while it may have inherent value, it doesn’t have economic value. And things that lack economic value are waste. SO the imperative is to create value. One of…

Peak Curtains

Posted on March 14, 2016

It became a meme a couple of months ago, this notion of “peak curtains”. This pithy phrase came from Steve Howard, IKEA’s head of sustainability, speaking at The Guardian’s Sustainable Business debate. The full quote was, “In the West, we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings.” He said the new state of affairs could be called “peak curtains”. Now Mr. Howard went on to laud IKEA’s initiatives to take back and repair product, but what he was saying nonetheless feels true. It’s been an AltLuxe meme for a while, it’s been a nagging worry among manufacturers and retailers – the notion that people particularly millennial – want experiences, not…

Skin deep

Posted on March 14, 2016

Some days, I feel I’m drowning in imagery. It’s not just the time spent in front of my computer or phone that’s the culprit. There’s the extraordinarily good stuff on TV: Netflix and House of Cards and Game of Thrones and Empire and The Americans and Downton Abbey…There are the print magazines with which I’m obsessed …  There’s the constant design image grazing I do for work, the FOMO (as in, “Didn’t you see that great room / sofa / tile installation / wooden spoon on insta?”) and the constant battle to find the right images, get the rights, edit them, get them in … there’s even the beauty of where I live and work – the sunsets, the rain, the interiors, the products, the factory, the ironic streetscapes (or…

In praise of specificity

Posted on January 12, 2016

When I was in Japan a few years ago, I went to a place called Tokyu Hands. It blew me away: floor after floor of stuff, so much of it incredibly specific. A container to hold sliced tomatoes so they wouldn’t sit in their own juice. Teapot brushes. 15 different types of scissors for ikebana. A knife specially designed for cutting chestnuts. An those were just the things whose use I could fathom. I found it fascinating but perplexing: even if some of the products were clearly genius (I loathe soggy tomatoes) why oh why would you want all this stuff in a country where houses were so minuscule?  Would you even use it? Wasn’t it all a bit silly? Was it just another example of Japanese…

The gift of procrastination

Posted on December 10, 2015

When I think about what impedes the quality of my life, about what saps both my pleasure and my energy, it’s got to be procrastination. But not in the way you’d think. While I procrastinate a LOT, I think the problem is the quality of my procrastination, not the fact that I do it, or even do a lot of it (which I do). Google “procrastination” and you get all these ways to stop it, get around it, get beyond it. It is evil. It gets in the way of progress, moving forward, making things happen, growth, achievement. All those things that are what we (in the west) are supposed to be about. Yes of course, there’s “bad” procrastination: not getting important work done (note the word, important); putting…

Collected stories

Posted on October 11, 2015

It seems to be that if you like the finer things in life, and are far enough along to have a lot of the basics taken care of, at some point you will confront the “c” word.  As in collecting. As in being a collector. As in having a collection. I think the first time I was aware of the idea of a collector was when I was living in Hong Kong. I visited the home of a lovely man named Paul Braga, a member of one of the oldest Portuguese families there. My 7 year old self was awed by a collection of snuff bottles. I had no idea of what they were. What on earth was snuff? I was told. (Yuck, said I, the 7…

The thing about things

Posted on September 7, 2015

At long last, I’m weighing in on the unlikely book that blew the minds of publishers everywhere: a book from a little known (in the West, at least) Japanese home organization consultant. I’m of course talking about Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But I’m not that surprised. Because the book taps into a very deep craving for the values she’s espousing. The values of pleasure and joy and ruthlessness and clarity. The book is not just another self-help book (though there are some embarrassingly awesome ideas on how to organize your underwear drawer): it’s a philosophy for living and even consuming. For those who’ve been otherwise occupied, the book is nominally about de-cluttering. But it’s not it’s not the usual one about…

End of empire stuff

Posted on August 2, 2015

Despite the fact that the world is full of strife on one end and bad taste on the other,  I’m not one to let these things get me too terribly down. But there was one thing that really got me depressed and truth be told, disgusted. Entitled “Instagram: Retail’s Holy Grail” (behind the FT paywall) the piece reported that  “millennial females’ anxieties about appearing too many times in the same outfit in their internet photographs is driving fundamental changes in the way they shop.” Selfie culture is driving Millennialistas to buy cheaper, more often. Says Jamie Merman, an analyst for Sanford Bernstein, “Faster is absolutely better because part of the selfie phenomenon is that women want changing trends, and current trends, quicker.” So wrong. Vile, in fact. They sell or…

Don’t settle. When ethics are not enough.

Posted on July 9, 2015

Don’t get me wrong. I do love bunnies. I do love artisans. I do love the earth. I do love people (for the most part). But the Ethical Marketing Machine? Not so much. I used to be a big fan. I used to believe that by consuming sustainable/ethically sourced products, we could change the earth. After a good 40 years of this (it all started, slowly, in the ’60s) there may be some evidence that it’s moved the needle slightly, more in food than in any other category; maybe in packaging; and possibly – slowly – in clothing, though I’m not so sure that 10 years out from Rana Plaza there won’t be another sweatshop fire in Myanmar or Mongolia or East LA, or wherever cheap production has…

In praise of fragility

Posted on June 22, 2015

Over the last few years, the aesthetic zeitgeist has favored the sturdy and utilitarian over the fragile and fussy. You know what I mean: all those waxed cotton bags (love mine from Barbour); the embrace of the distressed-but-still-noble-industrial style; the rise of “normcore”; the resurgence of heritage brands such as Carharrt, which specialize in durable workwear; the ongoing fetishization of selvedge denim; even the interest in Japanese mingei style and ethos. Quality seems to be synonymous with “lasts forever” and ruggedness – or to paraphrase an old Timex ad campaign, to “take a licking and keep on ticking”. It’s an extension of our notion that to be modern is to embrace simple, streamlined design; that what is good is that which is pared down to the essentials. It’s also a backlash…