We’re the generation that grew up on MTV, raised ourselves as latchkey kids in an era of Material Girl consumption, and turned our disaffected reputation into one of entrepreneurship and the strongest work ethic since World War II. In fact, sociologist Mike Males dubbed us “The True ‘Great Generation’” for surviving and reversing negative trends set by our predecessors. That’s why I truly believe that Gen X (especially women over 40), can help fix the fashion industry’s reputation as conscientious consumers and innovators.
Here are three ways we can do it (add your ideas to the comments section)…
BUY A STORY NOT A BRAND. Brands are status symbols that come and go. Stories are heirlooms we keep. Shop for a “feel good” conversation piece that reflects you (or the recipient’s) values. In the early 90s, I worked for a Native American jewelry store at the mall where all items were handmade and supplied directly from Indian reservations. After hearing the tribe, the symbolism, and the history of a piece, women not only bought the jewelry, they came back for birthdays, weddings, and other life events. I still wear a fetish necklace purchased in 1992!
Admittedly, these types of stories aren’t usually available at the local mall, but we have access to local boutiques and thousands of online retailers that tell stories of sustainability, ethical hiring practices, women’s causes, and more.
MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS. I mean this literally. Gen Xers confront a lot of ageism in the workplace, making it harder to find and hold onto jobs — especially in male-dominated industries like high tech. Why not turn your smarts and style into a feel-good business? The fashion industry generates $3 trillion, 3,000 billion (US) worldwide, according to Fashion United. The beauty industry generated $460 billion (US) in 2014. They’re lucrative industries. Studies show that consumers want to buy ethical brands, they just need more chic and convenient options.
Amy Campbell of Brilliant Imports left a lucrative career in wealth management to follow her passion of travel and sharing exotic luxury finds with others.
Perhaps designing and selling the end product isn’t your thing. You can broker contracts between major retailers and ethical suppliers. Or specialize in developing pay-it-forward programs (think TOMS shoes, buy one pair and a pair goes to a child in need). Or develop technology that minimizes environmental impact and lowers manufacturing costs (like THINX period underwear or The Mink 3D makeup printer). The possibilities are as vast as your imagination.
GO VIRAL. Gen Xers are now thought to be leaders and influencers who can set the tone for younger generations as well as the industry. Yes, we use social media. Yes, we actively refer brands to others. Yes, we influence 85% of purchasing decisions. Yes, we do feel better when we consume ethically. Realistically, not every purchase will meet idealistic standards but when they do, celebrate them in your #OOTD pics. Or share news that highlights major improvements in the industry. Vocally and graphically support ethical fashion brands that are leading the way—even if you haven’t purchased their products yet.
Audrey and I are women over 40 who started SheSpark to support “rising stars” and spark conversations between over-40 women about style, beauty, and wellness issues that directly affect us. Feel-good fashion is a big part of that dialogue, and we thank you for sharing your thoughts and supporting our efforts.
Signature Stylist, Co-publisher SheSpark