For a kid who grew up in an extremely frugal household - the grandchild of thrifty Italian immigrants who had no use for frivolity - the ad on the TV the other night just blew my mind! There it was, looking sleek and attractive and packaged for a youthful audience: Frugalista. I'm laughing partly because the suffix 'ista' seems to be an endearing label of our unusual times.
Why even the former Elderhostel has claimed the new name of Exploristas and ditched the elder thing. But to pair being frugal with being cool is absolutely amazing. Do not misunderstand me. I think that this is the best message to come from American business in a long time. I wish that the world of interior furnishings would hear this advertisement from the smart retailer Target loud and clear and follow their lead.
Professional designers and architects have suffered immensely during the great recession for rather obvious reasons; there is very little business for people in the residential interior design trade and one has to fight hard for what is out there these days. In the most difficult economy since the Great Depression there are few discretionary funds for buying new fabrics, sofas or dining chairs; draperies, bedding, or lamps.
The past two years have been like a great draught with some very famous and large companies failing, extremely popular magazines - such as Metropolitan Home and Southern Accents - suddenly disappearing and availability of goods hampered by cut-backs and slow downs. No construction loans mean no new building starts and the real estate market is explanatory. Many architects have not seen a new project on their boards for several years now.
We designers sell merchandise and are essentially the dream maker "middle-men" when it comes to home interiors. The issue has been that the products available in multi-line showrooms and direct from manufacturers are expensive. And I am quite sure that most people think that the designer is an elitist based solely on the fact that fine furnishings are so costly that the American public no longer is interested primarily in quality.
They cannot afford to care. Only the very, very wealthy can contemplate a $7,000 arm chair and quite frankly, most people would be embarrassed to purchase such an item in this new world economy.Think Haiti. Think total disaster in New Orleans. Think tent cities in these United States. Think $300 a yard fabric. It doesn't compute.
So I'm hoping that the producers of plumbing fixtures, lighting, furniture, carpet, fabric, tile, wood pieces, etc. will take a look at Target's simple and smart formula! Give us good design for a reasonable cost. Give regular middle class Americans some real choice. Otherwise the only thing for a cost constrained person to do when trying to spiff up the house is to seek out re-purposed furnishings and live the life of a frugalista. Perhaps considering new options at more affordable prices can help all of us.