Predicting the future of urban spaces seems to be on everyone's minds nowadays. While the world population continues to grow seemingly exponentially, many simply wonder: where are those people going to live?
Pre-industrial revolution, you pretty much had two options for where to live: the city or the country. Once machines entered the picture and replaced many of those rural laborers, city populations increased. Cities were seen as a place of opportunity and technological advanced--an escape from the hard and poor life in the country. To some extent, this idea still remains. The popularization of the suburban lifestyle, which seems to be the go-to place of reference for any film set in the 1950s-1980s, in some ways seemed to be the best of both worlds. Close enough to the city to reap its technological opportunities yet far enough way to escape the stress, crime, and pollution, suburbia became the perfect place to live.
On the whole, I find that Millennials hate suburbs. To me, the reason behind this hatred is trifold. Either 1) the majority of them are frankly not ready to settle down and start that Perfect American Family (and won't be for a while -- they're getting married much later than previous generations), 2) they truly and honestly cannot afford to buy a house and settle down (and even if they are financially stable enough to buy a house, they don't want to: the risks that come with home owning are terrifying after they witnessed the trauma the recession caused our parents in the late 00s), or 3) and this one is really of my own conclusions -- they resent their own suburban upbringing and the thought of electing to live there of their own free will is akin to social and mental suicide.
With suburbs out of the picture, we're left with two places for Millennials to live: the country or the city. World Health Organization reported that in the next 30 years, the disparity between the population of those in rural spaces and those in urban spaces will increase greatly. They suspect that by 2050, 7 out of 10 people will live in urban settings. But the health risks that already come with living in cities will only worsen as these spaces become more and more overpopulated. Not only are those living in urban spaces at risk of infectious diseases because of over crowding and close-ness of urban living, but also at risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular problems or certain cancers. These are likely due to unhealthy lifestyles that are inherently tied to (or at least perceived as inherit to) urban living, such as lack of green spaces that encourage outside activity or exercise. Also, urban spaces are perceived as being more polluted as thus may cause other health problems.
However, rural spaces do not seem to offer a healthy alternative anymore, either. With the majority of people living in urban spaces in the near future, rural spaces will be left in the dust. Lacking resources such as qualified educators and health professionals will only discourage people from moving in, opting instead for the opportunity-rich yet unhealthy city life. Although a rural environment has the sense of community that is attractive for Millennials, the increasing technological advancements threaten rural lifestyle, especially farming. Millennials are starting to redefine how to farm. Recently, modern farmers like x person have invented new ways to farm that are more sustainable and recycle available resources. Getting dirt under one's fingernails and risking melanoma under the hot sun every day are no longer a necessity to create good food. Like with the industrial revolution, however, the opportunities for those in living in rural spaces are poor in comparison to in the cities. But with the projections of future urban living seeming like a death sentence akin to these historical notions of the dangers of rural living, where is the upcoming generation to turn?
This bleak outlook on healthy spaces that future generations can occupy have seemed to produce relatively productive responses. Instead of stewing in cynicism, Millennials are thinking positively, devoting themselves to environmental conservation and sustainable innovation. Collectively, the Millennial generation hears the warnings of dwindling healthy spaces and fights to change that fact, cleaning up the world for not only themselves, but for those behind them, unlike the generations before them. Others who may deem the environment too far destroyed to save or consider the prospect of unhealthy livable spaces a pill too big to swallow are turning to space. Buzz Aldrin has pushed space organizations to continue their exploration and consider settling more permanently in space, shouting out, "Get your ass to Mars!" Some cynics are counting the only hope for a future world is a colony on Mars (yes, this is a real thing that people are trying to do). Whether jetting off into space or fixing the destroyed Earth is the right move, carving out a healthy and safe future world is on every Millennial's mind.
"Luxury," in sense, can be used to describe something that is both 1) well made and 2) limited or partially inaccessible. The introduction of luxury brands to the middle-market and the industrialization of production causes both the quality and exclusivity of the item to decline. Before, luxury items were both. They were reserved for the aristocrats or the royal who required perfectly and personally made items unavailable to the lower classes. Over time, though, as the middle and upper-middle classes have grown, luxury brands have opened their doors to the less-wealthy. In doing so, however, they compromise the very essence of what makes a luxury item luxurious.
The middle-market is not privy to the same craftsmanship or attention as the aristocrats. At the height of luxury garments, items were fit for the client, "A dress or suit was built on you, taking into consideration your own shape and above all, made to make you feel comfortable and at your best" (Caron in Thomas 31). The designers decided what item was best for the customer based on the customer's activity, "Dior, Marc Bohan, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent would as you, 'What are you going to be ding in this outfit? Do you need to run or dance? Don't choose velvet if you're going to sit long hours at a gala, it makes a mark on the seat. Let's not make it tight at the seat, it wrinkles when you stand. This length is good for you, that one is not'" (ibid). The designers' expert opinion was a pinnacle part of the luxury shopping experience. When luxury brands expanded to mass production and reached other economic statuses, that part of the experience was compromised. While the items were still considered art in their design, the personal attention sacrificed the part of the luxury-buying experience that made it so luxurious--being doted on.
Luxury brands expanded their merchandise to the middle-market by introducing accessories; in addition to the magnificent ball gowns red-carpet-ready suits, and massive trunks, they offered sunglasses, everyday handbags, and fragrances. At more modest prices, these items were more accessible to the middle-market and with the luxury brand monograms, the same status stamp of approval.
However, with the distinction between what a luxury brand could offer the ultra wealthy and what it could offer the upper or middle class, the concept of "luxury" declines. The pieces that are left behind after a season are handed over to outlet malls. Discounted as much as 70%, outlet malls are, as Thomas states, the "antithesis [of] luxury itself" (Thomas 247). Instead of boasting about the price of an item, shoppers boast about the amount they saved. The price they pay at an outlet mall versus the price the luxury item is worth at full price is a crowning achievement. With the accessibility and affordability of luxury items, however, comes the diminishing of its status. While a luxury logo is still recognized as representing a certain economic standing, the opportunity to buy at such discounted prices makes luxury less exclusive.
With the expansion of luxury brands to the middle-market, this personal attention shifted as well as the status. "Big Shoppers," wealthy, frequent shoppers in luxury paradises like Las Vegas, were catered to similarly. Personal shoppers pulled items from luxury stores to present to the customer in a private fitting, with tailors on hand to make any adjustments. In a way, this is a left over part of that personal experience from decades before. Still, though, the clients lack the designers' opinion on what suits them personally.
Mass production and commercialization of luxury brands have caused them to lose the two essential parts of their definition--exclusivity and personal experience. While the status has diminished with its availability to a larger market, the status of a luxury brand still holds some significance. Commercialization and globalization, however, have completely erased the personal experience of luxury brand shopping--when a designer or expert recommends silhouettes or tailors an item specifically for the wearer. The shift from an item that is expensive but personally tailored or constructed to one that is more affordable yet generically constructed. Ultimately, the move away from personally constructed garments and commercialization of luxury brands leads clothes to become, like so much else in today's society, disposable.
Liz is a senior English major with minors in Spanish and Computer Science. Her research interests, like her areas of academic speciality, lie in the intersections between humanities and science. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and playing with dogs.