A helpful reframing of consumerism

Today is Black Friday, which means there’s even more messaging than usual reminding us of how much we “need” and pressuring us to buy. I’ve definitely seen a lot of ads on social media that put me into a scarcity mindset and make me feel stressed out!

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve been grappling a bit with consumerism and my place in the capitalist economy. One internal move that I’ve been trying to cultivate in response to these ads (this week and before) was to remind myself of how the products being advertised to me were just fixtures aimed at making me feel dependent on my job and thus trapping me in the loop of consumption and exploitation. However, on many levels, this wasn’t actually a helpful thought.

People have many reasons for wanting to do something. When it comes to consumption, there are external reasons (e.g., advertising, social pressures) and internal reasons. Often the external reasons will create/feed into the internal reasons, but I think the core of all the internal reasons is that: We are all suffering. And we think that buying that one thing will make our lives better and thus make us feel happier. A lot of marketing has to do with facilitating the construction of that narrative in your head for the given product, but I think there is some truth to those thoughts and no longer want to act as if materialism is a purely negative capitalist mindset.

For instance, I was talking to my friend Sofia-Jeanne about accessories and clothing when I visited New York a few weeks ago. She said something that really resonated with me, about how, for a long time, she tried to not care about her appearance, because how she looks shouldn’t matter. But she stopped resisting when she realized that, even if she wanted to believe that her external state shouldn’t affect her internal state, it did—and expressing herself through her dress contributed to her confidence and the way she carried herself.

With that in mind, I think that, while it’s true that there are many things that we don’t need that are marketed to us as though we do, there are also a lot of things that we want that we genuinely believe will make our lives better somehow. (How accurate that belief is is something that may be best learned through trial and error. Life is short! And most places offer free returns anyways.)

After identifying the internal reason(s) for why I want something, it’s been really helpful for me to think, “I’m doing this because I want to help myself.” This thought is a gentle reminder that the externally-induced scarcity mindset and anxiety are not(!!) helping me, and allows me to maintain a healthier outlook towards consumerism and my consumption.

My first Glossier experience

This post has been in my drafts for awhile… Last month, I visited New York and took a trip to the Glossier showroom, the first (out of two, now) Glossier store in the world! I had never purchased any Glossier products before, and I was not super familiar with their product line, so this was a very new experience for me.

The showroom is located in the penthouse of a building that is actually pretty close to RC. When I arrived, there was a line of about 10-ish people waiting to get in. It was somewhat deterring, but the woman in front of me told me that the line moved quickly. We were probably waiting for less than 5 minutes, and then we got ushered into an elevator and went up to the showroom together.

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The place was fairly crowded and smelled like roses. There was music playing. The interior decoration was spot on, and very on-brand, like the graphic design of the website in real life. Even though the place was crowded, the product layout made it pretty easy to try things on.

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Lots of products laid out (and multiples of many products), with adequate mirror space and sink space (not pictured) for trying on skincare.

I ended up purchasing the one item I went with the intention of trying, the Boy Brow. The checkout process is similar to the one at MAC, if I recall correctly (it’s been a long time since I’ve purchased something at a MAC store), where you go to the register and tell them what you’d like to purchase. I was surprised because I was told to wait a bit while my “purchase was being prepared,” even though I only bought one thing. But when I received my bag shortly afterwards, I found that my Boy Brow was packaged nicely in a pink makeup bag, along with a couple of samples and Glossier stickers, and I was no longer disturbed/put off by the fact that my purchase needed to be prepared.

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Beautiful (and recognizable) packaging. While walking outside afterwards, we heard someone comment, “I’ve been seeing a lot of Glossier bags!”

I feel that the most exciting part of the whole experience for me was not the actual experience of being in the store, but realizing that I had been “marketed to.” Even though I had previously read about the company and its founder (h/t Sonia ☺️) and watched videos of people applying and reviewing Glossier products, I didn’t really get the brand. But after visiting the showroom and making a purchase, I totally understood and bought into the brand’s appeal.

Unlike most other makeup companies which either seem to brand themselves as aspirational (e.g., Fenty Beauty, luxury beauty brands), more artistic (e.g., Kat Von D, MAC), or role-specific (e.g., Bobbi Brown for the professional woman, Huda Beauty for the Instagram baddie), Glossier advertises its products as bringing out the real you, but enhanced and cooler. Cool is the one word that always stays cool (I forget where I read this). Also, since Glossier is a makeup and skincare brand, their message is not only more believable, but they can also get consumers to buy in to the entire ecosystem, which is genius. The only makeup brand that I can think of that is as cool as Glossier is Pat McGrath’s line, but it’s more artistry-focused and isn’t geared towards everyday wear.

For me, someone who pretty much wears a full face of makeup whenever they wear makeup and is relatively high maintenance (people have commented on how frequently I wash my makeup brushes), the idea of becoming a “Glossier girl” was enticing. Since I’ll be traveling this summer and mostly living out of my suitcase, I knew that I didn’t want to pack a lot of brushes, and especially not my makeup sponge. If I embraced the your-beauty-but-slightly-enhanced Glossier look, then I wouldn’t have to pack any makeup brushes.

This idea was so compelling to me that I almost immediately changed my daily makeup routine, and honestly I don’t see myself changing it back even after the summer. I think the fact that the brand (which I only purchased one product from!) already made such an impact on my mindset and daily life goes to show how powerful—and craved—its message is. Glossier is definitely doing a lot of things right.

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The elevator everyone enters from. And notice the employee on the left wearing the cute pink jumpsuit that is a uniform option.
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People trying out skincare. Note the large promotional image, several of which are scattered throughout the store. This one was probably advertising their new Lidstar eyeshadow.
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Waiting/sitting area.