Ja-Jmi's TOO MUCH A/W 2023 Avant Garde
It is a reflection on the current society concept that keep encouraging people to consume more and more products without concerning the actual needs and functionality which is known as consumerism.
The 8 symbols in consumer society
reflected in the aspect of humanity.
What is Consumerism?
Consumerism is an economic and social way of looking at and understanding the economy that focuses on the citizens of a particular country consuming a steady supply of goods and services. The consumption of goods and services by an individual helps drive the economic engine of a consumerist society because it creates jobs for workers and wealth for business owners. While consumerism as an ideology can exist in several different types of economic systems, it is most often associated with capitalism. Especially in modern democracies with mixed economies such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, etc., consumerism plays an important role with it. Furthermore, consumerism is an important part of the concept of market supply and consumer demands as it concerns both supplies and demands by individual consumers. To fully understand the importance of consumerism as an ideology, it is also important to understand its historical development.
History of Consumerism
Although people of many different civilizations and eras have always bought and consumed goods, the concept of modern consumerism was best understood in Europe in the late 1600s. Since then, consumerism has intensified throughout the 1700s and 1800s, becoming a major social phenomenon in which the consumption of products becomes an important task for the majority of society. As mentioned above, consumerism is often associated with the economic system of capitalism. So, as capitalism became the dominant economic system on the planet, consumerism as an ideology went hand in hand with capitalism and spread to Europe, North America, and the rest of the world. Two historical events played an important role in the early development of consumerism: the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Imperialism.
During the Great Voyage Age of the 15th to 18th centuries, European explorers "discovered" large swathes of previously unknown (European) lands, such as the Americas, Africa, Australia and parts of Asia in the Far East. This exploration by major European countries at the time eventually led to widespread colonialism throughout the newly explored area. European countries (especially Britain, France, Spain and Portugal) established colonies in these areas, often referred to as the age of imperialism. This process provided European countries with a wealth of raw materials from around the world, and in a number of ways helped increase the speed of consumerism. First, the raw materials are supplied to industrial factories in Europe, used to manufacture countless consumer goods, which are then sold around the world. Second, the vast colonies gave European countries access to huge population markets where they could then sell their products. For example, several European countries established sugar or tobacco plantations throughout the New World. These sugar and tobacco plantations then produced sugar and tobacco (often with slaves from the Atlantic slave trade) shipped back to Europe, resources that would be used to produce other products. These products would then be sold around the world in the many colonies controlled by European countries, as well as in Europe itself.
The Industrial Revolution also played an important role in the spread of consumerism. It first started in England in the 1700s and soon spread to many other countries in Europe and North America. At the heart of industrialization was the application of capitalist economic policies, which led to the creation of many different factories and mines. Thanks to the economic freedom of that period, these factories were able to mass-produce countless inventions and products. Before the start of the Industrial Revolution, goods were produced in a system known as the "imitation industry". This means that these goods are often produced on a small scale in people's homes. Due to this method, commodities often have unique properties and are not mass produced. The Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed this, instead placing factories in towns where goods could be mass-produced. The plethora of new cheap goods means that people can buy many different and affordable products. This leads to consumerism as it creates systems where people can reasonably buy a variety of goods. Likewise, the wealth accumulated by business owners at the time gave them the ability to buy more goods and helped strengthen the consumerist society of the time. (History of Consumerism, 2022).
Before and during the Industrial Revolution, societies in Europe and North America were divided by huge income disparities. That means some people, like business owners, are making big bucks, while others, like the working class, are struggling to make ends meet. As a result, many people in industrial societies are poor and cannot afford basic necessities. However, over time and with the emergence of socialist values that supported the working class, a strong middle class emerged. These middle classes can afford better housing, education and consumer goods. Consequently, many historians consider the emergence of a middle class in Europe and North America as a major contribution to the intensification of consumerism. Because of their higher income, they can afford to buy more luxury goods and thus consume more goods.
Consumerism developed further in the 20th century. For example, some consider the 1950s and 1960s the "Golden Age of Consumerism." During this period, goods became cheaper and some products were able to sell at scale thanks to effective marketing campaigns. Generally speaking, marketing refers to the advertising that a company creates to sell a product to a large audience. Marketing has always been a popular way of selling goods, but in the 20th century, marketing activities became more sophisticated. For example, many of these activities promote a sense of identity related to their products and enable people to link their social status in society to the level and quality of their consumption. This has led to an explosion in modern consumption rates, as marketing remains an important consumerist tool in the 21st century.
Another important aspect of consumerism in recent years has been the concept of outsourcing. Generally speaking, outsourcing is when companies in Western countries such as the United States and Canada move their manufacturing to other countries such as Mexico and China. Companies do this to reduce overall wage costs as they develop products, as workers in countries like China and Mexico will be paid far less than similar workers in the U.S. and Canada. Outsourcing as a concept became popular in North America and Europe throughout the 1980s and continues to this day. This is a very controversial process because some people see it as a positive while others see it as a negative. Those who view outsourcing positively believe that outsourcing can reduce the cost of goods and help companies thrive in a competitive economy. Those who view it negatively believe that outsourcing has led to the loss of manufacturing jobs in North America and Europe. In any case, outsourcing helps to strengthen consumerism around the world. First, it keeps the cost of many goods low, enabling more mass production and distribution of consumer goods. Second, it pushes other countries like China and Mexico to develop their own consumerist societies, thereby accelerating the pace of global consumerism. Today, consumerism continues to intensify with influencer marketing campaigns, outsourcing, and a cheap and steady supply of resources and goods.
(History of Consumerism, 2022)
The Strong Consumerist Culture
For decades, the purchase of goods and services has become a lifestyle in the United Kingdom and many other parts of the world. Consumer culture continues to nowadays. It encourages spending on consumer goods such as cars, clothes, shoes and gadgets instead of savings and investments. Consumers buy goods and services to keep up with fashion and trends. The quest for better products is endless. The rise of modern consumerism is evident in both developing and developed countries. This is reflected in the mass production of luxury goods. The media is also saturated with advertising. Personal debt levels are also rising globally which is an indication of more people buying goods excessively on impulse or without proper financial planning. Other evident signs of consumerism include product innovation (Scott, 2017).
Consumption distortion in capitalist profit maximisation strategy
Perhaps the most fundamental process that produces consumerism is the nature of profit-maximising competition in a capitalist economy. One of the great things about capitalism is that competition among firms puts pressure on firms to innovate, many of which increase productivity over time. Productivity refers to the amount of input required to produce a given amount of output. More specifically, increased productivity means that less labour time is required to produce a given amount of output. So when productivity increases, in principle two things can happen: we can produce the same amount of stuff with less total labour input, creating more "idle time", or we can put the same amount of labour into producing more many things. Capitalism's "consumption bias" means that productivity increases have a strong tendency to lead to increased production of goods and services rather than increased "idle time". That's probably not a bad thing for a poor country that doesn't produce enough to provide everyone with enough nutrition, housing and other basic necessities. But when a society is already very wealthy, there is no longer any inherent reason to increase the average level of consumption at the expense of increased idle time.
The profit-oriented market competition of capitalism puts enormous pressure on wealthy capitalist economies to increase aggregate output, not just productivity. From a profit perspective, if productivity in a capitalist economy doubles, which is better: double the leisure time and keep the level of consumption the same, or double the level of consumption and keep the leisure time the same? A capitalist economy thrives when capitalist companies make profits, and the profits come from selling goods and services. Consequently, competing capitalist companies are constantly trying to increase their production and sales. Substantial resources are devoted to this particular task, most notably in the form of advertising and marketing strategies, and government policies that systematically promote output expansion rather than idle time. Collectively, this means that productivity growth is channelled into the continued expansion of the market, creating a huge bias in favour of consumption growth over leisure growth.
Advertising and consumption norms
The fact that capitalist companies generally increase profits when productivity gains translate into more consumption rather than increased idle time does not lead to consumerism. People must also be motivated to pursue higher levels of consumption. One idea is that it's just a matter of human nature: we're naturally greedy and always want more when possible. In this view, consumption is like happiness itself: the more the better. Another view is that once basic needs are comfortably satisfied, people don't "naturally" gravitate towards more stuff than more free time. Therefore, a constant desire for things requires specific social institutions to foster this preference.
Defenders of advertising point out that advertising provides people with valuable information. Advertisements introduce people to new products and provide information about the advantages of one product over others. If that's what advertising is all about, it probably won't be a big part of consumerism. But advertisements are more than messages: they display and reinforce certain values, continually affirming the connection between happiness and consumption, living and shopping, sexual attraction and specific forms of consumption. These associations and images are part of the habitual culture Americans develop from childhood, making a highly consumer-oriented life seem natural.
Credit card companies make money from every transaction because merchants have to pay the credit card company, and most of their money comes from late fees and interest payments. So, in a sense, credit card companies are particularly eager to let people use their credit cards to buy more expensive things than they can actually afford, because those things are very difficult to pay off. In 2007, about half of the average monthly credit card users did not pay off their bills. According to a 2006 report by the Office of Government Accounting, credit card issuers get about 70 percent of their revenue from interest charges on unpaid balances and another 10 percent from penalties. Then save the rest until it accumulates enough to buy the wonderful forms of consumption that the consumerist lifestyle promotes. The problem, of course, is that consumerist culture fosters the desire to consume immediately. The delayed gratification of prudent savings is very bad for food. Another option is to design a system that makes it easy for people to borrow money to buy something now and pay it back over a long period of time. That's what consumer credit has achieved, and nothing drives consumer credit more than credit cards. Until the 1950s, credit cards had very limited uses, mainly in the form of cards issued by specific merchants or groups of merchants. Universal credit cards were born in 1958, when Bank of America created a card that would eventually become the Visa card. In 1966, a group of banks banded together to create Mastercard. Since then, the credit card industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and nearly everyone has access to substantial amounts of consumer credit with minimal screening.
Impacts of Consumerism
Pollution and resources depletion
Due to the demands of goods increasing, the needs to produce these goods also increased which led to more pollutant emissions, increased land-sue and deforestation and accelerated climate changes. Human is now experiencing devastating process on the planets water suppliers, as more and more water stores are used up or diverted as a part of intensive farming procedures. Waste disposal become a huge global issue and the ocean are slowly but surely will become a giant and huge waste disposal pit with the estimated that over half of the plastic produced every year is single use which mean that it is used once and then either thrown into landfill or any ways into the environment. According to the scientists, up to 12 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year, forming giant floating garbage patches all over the world (Negative Effects of Consumerism, 2020). There are more than 150 million metric tons of plastic in form of bottles, cups, straws, bags, utensils, and various types of packaging are produced each year. Discarded all those plastics are slow in process which scientists estimated that it can take 500 years or longer for plastic to completely decompose even in optimal conditions (Falde, 2018).
A series of shocking figures reflected on the huge negative impacts caused by consumerism.
Society Culture been distorted
Increasing consumerism tends to distract society from important values such as integrity. Instead, the emphasis is on materialism and competition. People tend to buy goods and services that they don't need, so they are at the same or higher level than anyone else. Besides, a behaviour or act that been “influencing” to use future money also caused personal financial issues with the increasing social debt. The number of people taking short-term loans such as payday loans to buy luxury goods is increasing rapidly. Today, many short-term loans are not used constructively. With this, it also leads to mental health issues such as stress and depression. Attempting to follow the latest trends when resources are limited can be very stressful to the mind and body. Consumerism forces people to work harder, borrow more, and spend less time with their loved ones. Consumerism is a hindrance to fruitful relationships. It has a negative impact on people's overall well-being, as studies have shown that people do not receive a valuable and lasting sense of fulfilment from materialism (Scott, 2017).
Personal Health: Obesity
According to the research that shown a close link between the rise of the modern culture of consumerism and the worrying rates of obesity we are seeing around the world. Since that consumerism implies exactly that using as much as we can, rather than as much as we need. This caused a domino effect of issues on society. With the over-consuming leads to obesity which then lead to further cultural and social problems. For instance, medical services are stretched further as the worldwide obesity rates rise. In United States, each capital medical expenses are calculated to be around US$2500 more for obese people than for people of healthy weight (The Negative Effects of Consumerism, 2016). The food industry creates “hyperpalatable” foods with high sugar, high fat and salty foods that makes people crave more of the same and uses manipulative marketing practice to sway customers, said Cargill, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Washington. Noting that Starbucks UK’s claim that it offers 87000 possible rink combinations, the professor, Cargill argued that personalization, convenience, and misleading nutritional claims are among the powerful techniques which the food industry uses to prompt consumer to pack it in more (Bach-U, 2015).
The biggest issue that caused consumerism to become worst and worst is that people do not realize this behavior is a problem which the modern society of consumerism and rampant development is destroying our world. People are consuming resources at an alarming rate and quicker than our planet which able to replenish. There are numbers of negative effects caused by our contemporary consumerist society that consumerism affect the quality of life on our planet. With this, global inequality happened. A great amount of rising in resource consumption in wealthier countries has led to an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor which as the age old saying goes, “rich get richer and poor get poorer.” According to the researched data, in 2005, about 59% of world resources were consumed by the wealthiest ten percent of population. Conversely, the poorest ten percent accounted for just 0.5% of resource utilization. Focused on this, we could observe at the trends in spending, and these money could be better used. It has been estimated that just US$6 billion would provide basic education worldwide while another US$22 billion would give every person on the planet access to clean water, basic health services and sufficient nutrition. Based on some area of spending, there will be showing how serious problem caused by our society. It is an estimated that every year, Europeans spend US$11 billion on ice-cream. This is nearly to bring education to every child on the planet, which is twice. Moreover, about US$50 billion is spent on cigarettes in Europe alone, and US$400 billion is spent on narcotic drugs around the world (Negative Effects of Consumerism, 2020).
The collection, Too Much is to create an awareness on the negative effects that brings to the environment due to consumerism. Consumer society encourage people to spend more money and consumer more products that produced by market maker and industry producers as well as brands. People nowadays are easier to influence my social media or mass media. It is good to get information from both but most of the users tend to neglect the darkness that produce in the social media or from the mass media on creating fancy and interesting propaganda to influence people consume their production and creation. Therefore, in the collection, designer would like to create the moods of “Too Much” to remind people, “we own for too much, will hurt ourselves at the end”.
In this collection, designer is discovering own knitting and knotting method to create own signature of knitting design and symbol. The knitting method that discovered by designer is using “U” shape in each knit and continuously knit until the preferred length. The “U” shape knitted between one and other which create a strong connection. Designer would like to reflect this knitting method as “locking” the wearer just like the consumer in the consumer society been trapped in the scenario that create by mass media and keep the overconsuming behavior which create a huge impact to the environment.
The collection will be designed as Avant Garde as designer wish to create in a more exaggerate and act as an art piece that bring awareness to the society. With the season Autumn Winter as there will be a lot of elements applied onto the garment, therefore, autumn winter will be more suitable to play with different fabrication and technique applied can be wider.
Design Concept & Idea Development
The collection is named as “Too Much” which reflecting that consumer or user tend to pursue things or products that are unnecessary or extra and create a mood of demand for too many things or vanity. The collection also would like to make audiences or the society aware about consumerism is corroding the human life in different aspect. It is not to refuse buying things but hope to be a more responsible consumer. Consumer should learn to shop in a more rational way and do the best to take care the environment or planet. In the collection, “symbolism” will be emphasis to show that the media advertise or create a “meaningful” packaging onto a product. Product been packed with story which encourage consumer to make purchase even they don’t need it. Designer will add in different “symbol” such as desire, self-abased into each look. Therefore, the collection will come with several “symbolism” from each look to reflect the situation of consumerism. With this, each look will come with a name that created based on symbolism, which are vanity, desire, demand, culture, greedy, compete, pursue, and influenced. The main elements of this collection will emphasis on heaviness and layering which create bold and heavy feeling on the garment. Heaviness is to show that people are demanding more and more which become over-consumed. A lot of items been neglected after one to two times usage. A huge number of useless items created a mountain of waste. With this, heaviness feeling able to emphasis and reflect the reality that happened in consumer society.
The 8 dark side and weaknesses of humanity that led to distortion of consumerism
Vanity is the things or acts that are worthless and excessive pride on appearance or accomplishments (Vanity Definition, n.d.). The symbol to reflect vanity included jewels, gold coins, purse, and figure of death (Vanity, 2022).
Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to own or have somethings which is also a feeling that created by the capitalism through the spreading of the illustrated content on internet. It can be also defined as the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state.
Demand is an action of requesting or requiring more than usually expected or thought due. Plus, known as excessive requirement occurs.
The word of culture reflected that a particular society at a particular time and place. In consumer society with the illustrated market and environment created by capitalism, the concept of “money is god” been promoted as the society culture.
Greedy is the inner feeling of wanting or demanding for things that are obviously excessive, but the person did not realize that his or her inner had distorted into excessively desirous.
Compete is an action that measuring oneself with others. With the rapid growth among the society, competing has become a common behavior to reach others’ achievement, even though it is counted as excessive to oneself and worthless.
Pursue can be defined as following and chasing as well as trying to catch up with someone walking in front of oneself. It is an action that most of the people did to take themselves as a follower of capitalism and imagine that it will bring betterment on oneself. Following make oneself lost the rationality on consuming as variety of attraction within the colored society.
Social media is a sharp tool on illustrating nice and amazing things to create a sense of desirable living. Influencers born since the sudden rise of social media. The action of triggering to consumer more become advanced with the exists of influencer. People had then get effected or contaminated by the fancy information.
Colourful social world has been a sharp tool to capitalist
Social media become the main way that consumers communicate with each other and talk about stories. From the point of consumer, social media is a way to tell own personal story and create connection with others who are similar with them. It is a field that to find humor in postings and discover localized and globalized humanity. There are many purposes of social media, one of the most important is the creation and maintaining relationships. One of the first purposes of social media was for professionals to network and build digital networks of team s and people to learn and grow from. Nowadays, social media become a place for people and brands to find their digital voice and try to become noticed, liked but most important is shared
According to research, there are 54% of social media users browse through to research products before making a purchasing decision. Consumers look for reviews and recommendations in social media which has the power to influence potential customers from the start until the stage of a purchase. Social media is a huge influence on consumers when they are attempting to build the product awareness. The aim of every business is to influence consumer behavior
With this, designer would like to use variety of sharp and solid colours to represent the fancy world that created on social media and the tons of items offered in the market. Besides, with the combination of heaviness feeling, macrame rope is used to come out the textured and 3-dimensional effect as well as bold shaped. With this, designer uses the macrame rope to produce knitting, knotting which to apply onto the garment.
Other than that, through the researching on consumer society and consumerism, designer pulls out the main key points which is “money spending”, “lot of products”, “pile up like a mountain” and “overlaying”. Those key point fully reflected the current situation on consumer society as people demand for more and neglected the essentially needs and practicality.
Moreover, designer applies the concept of fancy world with solid and sharp colors onto the design elements as colors represent things that born in human world. The colors that been chosen is according to the psychological meaning to support the mood of collection. Designer choose the solid colors included red, blue, purple, yellow, hot pink, black, and white.
Red is the color of energy, passion and action which exudes a strong and powerful masculine energy. It is a color that excite the emotions and motivates people to take actions. With the strong-willed and deep stimulation, it able to triggers people’s positive side. Moreover, red represent person’s desire and its effect on attention getting to alert people. Therefore, it will be able to triggers people to understand more about the awareness of the collection while impressed by the color and influence their emotion (The Color Red, 2021).
Blue is idealistic, enhancing self-expression and ability to communicate the needs and desire. It inspires higher ideals. A dark blue can provide the feeling of reliability and responsibility as well as calm. It is also the color of truth. But in the negative traits of blue, it included rigid, deceitful, and spiteful, depressed and sad that reflect the situation of current society which people been deeply influenced by mass media and become the follower of consumer society (The Color Blue, 2021).
Purple is the color of imagination and spirituality that is introspective which allowing people to get into deeper thoughts. Purple able to expand people’s awareness and connect with higher consciousness. Consumer society exist as people demand, producer create through imagination and dreams. With this, purple represent the creative pursuit and inspiration as well as originality through its creative endeavors. In a positive trait, purple is about unusual and creative, just like the current society with a lot of fancy idea and creation. While in a negative trait, it show “corrupt” as the consequences that claimed onto our planet due to the “contribution” from human (The Color Purple, 2021).
Yellow is the color of mind and intellect which able to inspire original thought and inquisitiveness. Besides, it also stands for creative from mental aspect and color of new ideas which help people to find new ways of doing things. Positively, yellow means to be confidence, originality, creatively and challenging. While negatively, it can be defined as impatient and being egotistical which reflect our society that consumer keeps demanding on updated items, trend, design that are unnecessary but just to fulfil own desires (The Color Yellow, 2021).
Hot pink inspires a more passionate, playful, and sensual love which exudes warmth and happiness as well as love of life. In negatively, pink can be defined as lack of will power and self-worth just like the people in consumer society, they tend to become a follower as others (The Color Pink, 2021).
Black & white
Black is defined as mysterious and protective. It also relates to the hidden, the secretive and unknown. Black is defined as the end too, but the end always implies a new beginning. When the light appears, black become white, the color of new beginnings. Too much of black can cause depression and down mood which create negative environment, The combination of black and white, it will create an argumentative atmosphere such as the collection is pulling out the awareness on consumer society that full of argument (The color Black, 2021).
Besides, spending money had become a habit for everyone in the society as people create a value onto every product. It is good to value everything but overconsuming or overdemanding are an action that destroying the planet. People create a lot of demands, necessary or unnecessary, all born in the market, then produce desire among people which encourage consuming. Receipt then becomes a super waste for every shopping. There are 3 million of trees are cut down each year to produce receipts that most consumers will throw away, but most consumers and business don’t realize that these small slips of paper are causing deforestation and costing the planet millions of trees (Diaz, 2021).
With this, designer picked the “receipt” or “billing” as the important element to include into the collection. Designer pulls out the “receipt” to make a small 3-D version with creating layering effect to fulfil the heaviness as the initial collection feeling. Instead of using normal soft fabric, designer decide to apply TPU fabric with different picked colors to create fullness effect. Besides, printing technique also been applied to emphasis the word “consumerism”. Black background and white words create strong contract effect.