Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Simple

Yesterday, GettyImages released a new white paper called ‘The Simple.’ For those of you unfamiliar with GettyImages, they are THE source for stock photography, and keep a keen eye on cultural trends, particularly those that inform advertising and media. As they note at the beginning of the white paper, “The downturn has caused people to re-evaluate their lives, their expectations of what a successful life consists of,” citing nature and family as key imagery for the new simple trend.

To those of us who have been around a few decades, ‘simple’ is hardly a new concept. Real Simple magazine started in the 1980’s and has survived the black death of magazines this past year. Chic Simple was a series of lifestyle books that Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone published in the mid nineties, and were very influential in what constituted a stylish and functional wardrobe as much as a timeless and spiritually infused home. Both of these helped to cleanse our palettes after the heady and decadent 1980’s, a particularly lucrative decade when a lot of people made a lot of money, had expensive habits and toys, and liked to show them off.

Recently, NPR did a story on Frugal Chic, claiming that it was very uncool to show up at the office without a bagged lunch, and if you have a lunch meeting at a pricey restaurant, it’s wiser not to flaunt it, making thriftiness into a virtue, not just a mere habit.

The blogosphere is full of money saving tips, recipes for leftovers, and many bloggers are on a spending hiatus, with an eye to bringing more time and meaning into their lives.

Cultural trends and hemlines have always been closely linked to the economy. With so much uncertainty in the job market, perhaps we don’t feel like making risky or extravagant purchases, either in our wardrobes or our choices of houses or cars.

For my mother, born during the Great Depression, simple is not, nor has it ever been, a trend. She never had much use for trends, but always made choices and prioritized according to her own inner voice. My mother never got back to nature or traditions because she never left them.

Perhaps this economic downturn has one positive side-effect; that of forcing us to rethink and recalibrate our priorities. Perhaps even beyond, or in spite of, this season’s trends.

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