Is the success of brands such as Cath Kidston, The Great British Bake off and Kirsty Allsopp promoting the idea that the comforts now available to modern women are likely to be domestic, retro and based in a shoe box sized kitchen?
Does the growing trend towards making do with second best embody a sustainable way of living, or is surviving closer to the poverty line being repackaged and sold back to us?
Living frugally is surely about being in control of the environment and its future. We should be grateful to have a roof over our heads, even if it’s a few metres squared. This is a reasonable idea, but not when statistics show that women are disproportionately affected by austerity measured compared to their male counterparts.
Female unemployment has reach record highs, paving the way for a plethora of profitable brands, tv programmes and marketing campaigns which romanticise being poor and female.
The Rachel Khoo phenomenon is at once entrepreneurial and miraculous and takes thriftiness to new heights of brilliance. In her television series, The Little Paris Kitchen, her ability to remain upbeat and sunny, despite having to wake up every morning and turn her futon into a sofa to welcome guests to her studio flat and restaurant for two, is disquieting as much as admirable.
Let’s entertain the idea that she may be donate some of the wealth created by the TV series to Shelter before she moves into a bigger home.
Kirsty Allsopp’s empire is built on the nation’s strange relationship with aprons, jam and county fairs. So why does this trend feel so forced? Maybe because it feels like a huge step backwards. A trend without a future, perhaps.
Similarly, retro clothes and homeware brand, Cath Kidston romanticises old-school thriftiness behind a cynically overpriced net curtain of nostaligia and domestic comfort. The brand capitalises on girly 50’s floral prints referring to a time when the glass ceiling faced by women in today’s board rooms, would have been replaced by a conservatory skylight perhaps.
Some may argue that the trend towards promoting female frugality is a refreshing alternative to the decadent shopping-focused lifestyle presented to women in recent decades.
On the other hand, does anyone recall seeing women on TV managing their finances effectively and planning their futures? Seeing people being sensible with money perhaps doesn’t make great TV, however I’m sure that quite a few of us aspire to more than living in a dolls house and spending our savings on shoes and cake ingredients. The very tangible trend towards female entrepreneurship is certainly evidence of this, whether our media channels will reflect this is another matter.