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…