|| Why I Can't Stomach A Kmart Bargain ||
This is a post that may find me quite unpopular, especially with my own Mother who LOVES a KMart bargain (sorry, Mum)... But before everyone picks up their pitchforks and torches, please understand that I am not questioning your sense of taste or style. I am writing this to question the trend of "fast fashion" that is no longer limited to clothes, but to interiors and events as well - especially within the KMart homewares range. So, if you're reading this, all I ask is that you read with an open mind... And for anyone that finds my thoughts offensive, I humbly apologise and would love to have an open discussion about your opinions.
My Mum is one of my style icons. Her fashion sense is always on point (except for some questionable fashion choices during the 80s, but hey - who didn't!) and her home is always perfectly blended, straddling the lines of vintage and modern, eclectic and mainstream, minimalist and maximalist. Never stagnant, it is always evolving in small ways with new (and often old) additions whilst always keeping it's heart and soul.
Every time I go to visit I look forward to seeing what changes (if any) have been made, and seeing how my Mum incorporates what she finds into the fabric of her home. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that it has been evolving a little more rapidly than it usually would, whilst still maintaining her signature style and aesthetic. An avid thrifter and bargain hunter, she is always searching through Op Shops and the many antique & vintage stores in Guildford and Midland for some one of a kind pieces that she can pick up for a steal. On one particular day I was fawning over a new item and she exclaimed proudly, "I got it from KMart! It was an absolute bargain, too - only $29!" I for one couldn't believe it. KMart? When did KMart start producing homewares that are cool and on trend? After seeing more and more KMart items pop up in Mum's home blending seamlessly with the rest of her carefully curated pieces, as well as seeing the endless stream of KMart hacks & styled images featuring KMart bargains flowing through my Instagram feed, I was ready to give them a chance and popped down to my local the next day.
However, a funny thing happened when I walked into the store... They no longer looked appealing and trendy and alluring to me. Instead, when viewed together en masse under the fluorescent lighting with everything white washed they began to look sad, a bit boring and cheap. Upon closer inspection some furniture pieces (Like the bedsides made in the Scandi/Mid Century style) looked poorly made with MDF and veneer, and without the clever styling and photography with warm natural light that I had seen all over Instagram they felt tacky. The more I wandered around perusing, the more I began to wonder. Not why people are buying this, but how it is that KMart are able to produce all of this stuff so cheaply.
They aren't a charity - KMart is a large, national corporation. They're running a business and the bottom line of any business is to turn a profit... So how is it that after the cost of materials, labour, manufacturing, shipping, insurance, rent, staffing and the many other expenses associated with running a business, they can manage to make a profit big enough to keep their share holders happy on a $29 bedside table or a 75c mug? How do they ensure ethical production at those prices? How do they ensure that they are producing quality items that can last more than a couple of months without breaking?
It is a question that left me feeling uneasy and nauseous, desperately needing to leave with empty hands. As much as I wanted those on trend pieces I had seen beautifully styled in peoples homes, once I had seen them in store they became devoid of soul with an ethical price tag much bigger than the monetary cost. Since then many items have quickly cycled out of fashion and are quickly replaced by the latest trend, and all around me people seem to be compelled to buy the latest "it" item (Say Hellooooo to the insanity over the new Scandi shoe rack for $35 or the Velvet chair for $39) leaving a lot of the old stock cast away to Perth's verges and Op Shops.
So my next question is, how far is too far? How often are we going to start cycling in and out of interior trends before we break ourselves free from the "on trend" addiction and fast fashion that is encroaching on the interior design industry? How much longer is it going to be before we start questioning the ethical and sustainable production of all of the pretty, cheap things we buy to create a picture perfect home?
I don't have all the answers... Boy, I wish I did. All I can do is try and start the conversation, and choose to buy items as ethically and sustainably as I can. For me that means trying to buy locally, buying well made items (and fixing them if they suffer minor damage), and buying things that reflect my style and bring me joy as opposed to what is cycling through the trends at the time.
What does it mean for you? Well, that's something only you can decide.