Are You Tired of “Authentic” Things?

The New York Times recently published an article in which Emily Weinstein poses the question, “have we finally reached a saturation point, where the “authentic” loses its eternal quality and becomes just another fad?” The author interviews a woman who has filled her house with vintage, handmade, and otherwise unique things. However, the woman now finds these things to be tiresome and considers them to be too much of a “design uniform” due to the growing popularity of one-of-a-kind things.

But isn’t that the case for trends? People who feel they are unique because they are among the few, loose their interest in a certain aesthetic once others also become interested. The article cites how Pottery Barn, West Elm, CB2 and other mass retailers are now selling vintage and hand crafted things.

However, there is a big distinction to be made here. “Authentic” does not always equal “meaningful.” Purchasing an antique pickling jar from Pottery Barn because it looks cool is very different than owning something that resonates with you because of its story. There are certain things in our lives that are meaningful because of how they relate to our lives, because they help us to recall memories, or because of how they make us feel. In the collection of essays, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, editor Sherry Turkle explores how things make us feel connected, and considers how certain objects can be “companions to our emotional lives or as provocation to thought.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with purchasing vintage things because you like the aesthetic. In fact, purchasing something old in place of a newly manufactured product is a great way to have a positive impact on our environment. I understand why the woman in the New York Times article finds this design style tiresome and overused. But if you look at the flip side, we now have Pottery Barn upcycling old grain sacks and turning them into pillows and CB2 recycling wood from a defunct railway in India to make toys. I would consider this a win.