The Gateway to Salvation Has Opened
The alarm bells have been ringing for a long time. We had been focusing more on how we look than our health. Our products are more fashionable than to have more quality, to be outside than to be in our homes, and to our appearances than to our mental health. Coronavirus has come to our lives after all the money, time, and work we spent on our outside image. Suddenly billions of people were stuck in their homes all around the world. And without any makeups, with their PJs, with their families or maybe alone. Of course, as some went crazy on online shopping, those who prefer to go understandable and straightforward will also shape our near future. So, who will be the winner in this? Will the concepts that we built our outside images and reputations ever change? Is it possible to live on less?
Ozlem Cakir, a graduate from the New York FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and Atlanta London Image Institute, is an expert who has dedicated her life to representation, brands, and leaders as an Image and Communications Consultant. She has been the manager of the Washington DC-based Association of Image Consultants International branch of Turkey. Moreover, her foresight on how the concept of “image” will be shaped in the future, is very concerning but clear!
You have been working on the concepts of image, representation, and reputation for many years. How would you describe the right image?
A right image comes up as a result of a completion of figure -verbal and non-verbal communication skills- under the basis of confidence and modesty -knowledge, expertise, values, and intellectuality- with the touch of rationality, passion, sincerity, naturality dynamics and with the completion of analytic intelligence with emotional intelligence. An effective personal image is a voyage that individual needs to manage itself from inside out. We can get the appropriate results when this happens from inside towards the outside.
We have become slaves of some “things” in the name of the image. Where did we do wrong?
An erosion of values occurred. The actual values were overwhelmed by the brilliancy and the attractiveness of the flamboyance and appearance, in this increasingly developing visual world. Of course, there are significant differences between the cultures of the world. These things came true only for some regions. Consumerist society, imitators, those that say “I earned this, it is my right to show off and to spend”, those that envy than those that show affection have become the flag-bearers of the system, and the influencers of the social media.
Did the gates for a salvation from the consumption culture, which had enslaved us, open with our quickly changing daily routines and habits after the Coronavirus?
Yes, it did. However, we will see how many people will go through this gateway in the coming years. It feels a little romantic that many people will go through this gateway. That is because humans are bizarre creatures, with all their strengths and weaknesses. We have witnessed this during the pandemic. For example, how tough the conditions on shipping company workers were never thought of, and some still purchased things they do not need out of boredom, or things that they know they cannot consume under these circumstances. They did not see how much they burdened and occupied the shipment companies and their workers by ordering the clothes they did not need during the pandemic. The amount of ravage on the luxury brands in China as a “revenge spending”, after the pandemic ended, is also in front of our eyes. Thus, the human is a bizarre creature. Sometimes we cannot know what they will do.
Why do we not change, even after a shock like the Coronavirus pandemic?
We saw how much the people are connected to each other after the pandemic, didn’t we? How quickly did this virus spread, which started on the other side of the world and began infecting people one by one? We have seen that we can experience the same things and that our lives are on the end of a thin string. Some people lost their health and their jobs. These effects will persist even after the pandemic. We suddenly turned into ourselves. We said, “What was I doing, where was I trying to go to, I have not been seeing my family or my friends this whole time, I was not spending time with them.”. We started to revise our relationships. We started to question things. Our quests on looking for a meaning began. We started to be grateful to “have a job” and say, “But for how long, life is too short” in the meanwhile. Despite all, I think that we understood the value of our lives more than ever. Some have understood and got to know themselves; even more, they have seen their strengths and weaknesses. They have seen their adaptive capabilities. Most importantly, the whole world has understood that ecology is the economy because we have made earth that way ourselves.
Could we evolve into simplicity by buying and socializing less; since the ecological balance is actually based on an individual’s personal spaces?
Simplicity is a significant trend. It has long been here, but it became more critical during the Coronavirus period. Moreover, we have seen many professionals, famous or non-famous, rich or poor, from the top managers to the lowest level staff, simplifying and looking like as they are, and not pretending, from the messages and the posts they shared through many outlets.
We also see simplification in many areas. Fast and crowded cities, long and strict working hours, and receiving too many notifications, tears all of us down. Our minds are busy. In a world where there is too much of anything, everything having an alternative makes it hard for us humans to choose. That is why many of us now want to choose to get tired or confused. For example, there is a very famous restaurant in the UK that only has 4 meals on its menu. We also see that some clothing companies and their online catalogs now sell compact capsule wardrobe clothing, making it very easy and fast for the consumer to do online shopping. The consumer that makes its purchases from these websites tends towards capsule wardrobes, to use what they buy for over a long time. They care for nature, by preferring a sustainable fashion. We have even seen the simplicity in the packaging makes it easy for humans in decisions.
We have seen how little we can live on, during the pandemic. We have started to understand that some things were meaningless to consume if will not socialize at all. With the existence of some who are still without this awareness, the serious scales of this issue have been revealed. This issue has become more up-to-date.
What does this simplification provide us?
It provides coziness and comfort. It provides humans to be like what they are. It does not wear down the consumer. For this reason, I think that this will continue for some time. I also think that this is what determines our clothing preferences. We have already been seeing a trend towards casual clothing in the business world for quite some time. It was the Millennials who demanded this. Furthermore, we also know that companies now support casual clothing to attract the successful individuals of this generation. I have always been a part of this process myself. Formal dress codes turned into ‘smart casual’. Because the new generations complain that they were not comfortable wearing suits, and sometimes this becomes important when choosing the company, they work for. This casual dress codes were totally settled in, during the working from home period. That had a high impact on e-commerce. We have seen that the demand for these types of clothing has increased. So, how will this go from that point? From now on, companies will not apply too much pressure on their employees. Moreover, some companies that have not been turned into smart casual dress codes will adapt to this with numerous briefings and training.
Will the luxury and fashion sectors be among the sectors that passed behind the red line after the pandemic?
A regression in these sectors is expected, but I cannot answer the question of “Will fashionable and expensive dressing not be important?” with the answer, “It will not be important for sure.” That is because I think people’s consumption habits will not change that much or that fast. We especially predict that luxury brands will go under a regression. They will be stuck to large organizations such as weddings, parties, and presents on special holidays. Other than that, the new fortune-holders will emerge in this period as well. Moreover, we can also say that as long as the precious stays, a decrease is not expected in luxury spending.
I think that the fair-trade issue in fast fashion, the damage given to nature, will cause the sustainable fashion to come forth and raise the consumer’s awareness in this regard.
So, a new perception of “me” is forming now?
The latest studies show that the most magnificent luxury is to be healthy and have a proper diet. One of the latest trends is to keep our spiritual, mental, and physical health. This way, training and efforts like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises comes forth, the educations on “using our metal power” and “clearing our minds,” “how can we use our brains better”, “how can we get rid of all the junk in our minds” are made, and we look for the questions of “ “How can we keep our immunity strong?”, “What should our diets consist?”, “Which vitamins and minerals we have to take?”. Holistic approaches and functional medicine draw quite a lot of attention.
The subject of fast-fashion is really interesting in this world of consumption. That has long been thought about. We see that the most significant consumer in terms of water pollution is the textile companies. The chemicals used in the textile industry and their water consumption disrupts the nature. Moreover, some companies refuse to make good-trade. Just because of this fast-fashion, the number of fashion seasons has increased to 4 or even 6, compared to being only winter and summer seasons previously. The workers that are paid with minuscule payments, and the devastation given to nature, only to catch up with the fashion season, is unbelievable.
In 2013, a massive tragedy occurred in Rana Plaza, in Bangladesh, and 1100 people died, with 2200 more injured. That is why a new me must be more sensitive, respectful, and aware of the triangle of nature, animals, and humans, and must stop this consumption mania.
Should the responsibility be put on the consumer, in order not to get caught in this mania?
Yes, there is a group of consumers that are aware of this situation. My hope in this is again on the Generation Z. They do researches on companies that do unethical things, and they do not purchase from them. Furthermore, they will also not work for these companies either. The purchasing power of this age group is reaching 44 billion dollars. According to some studies, the Generation Z will also affect their parents’ decisions on purchases by up to 93 percent. We see that 9 out of every 10 individuals belonging to Generation Z are affiliated with the companies that care about the environmental issues. Not only as a consumer, but they also care for this when choosing the institution, they will work for. This way, they will both change the consumption habits and prevent the ecological damage given on this planet.
What about ones that live for their images and reputations? Or the business world?
After the pandemic, the qualifications that are required from the professionals have changed, especially in the business world. New qualifications came forth. First, we have seen how important the leadership skills are during this pandemic. The institutions and the leaders who sincerely maintained their relationships with foreign and domestic customers in hard times can make a social contribution, those that are sensitive and helpful in the social responsibility issues, and those that put relations management above economic gains have won. The importance of emotional intelligence in leadership was proven once again. According to both types of research of LinkedIn and World Economic Forum, “until 2023, one of the most important qualifications a person can have is the emotional intelligence”. We have seen that people who lack emotional intelligence while having a tremendous analytical intelligence cannot be qualified as leaders once again during this period.
The most desired qualifications of these times, for the professionals, could be listed as; having a good grip on spiritual, mental and physical health, showing a reliability against sudden changes and uncertainty, having a good adaptive capability, being open to learning and improvements, showing flexibility between different areas.
Who will be the losers of this period or the ones that do not learn from this period? We have seen many imitators in this period. Therefore, both the leaders, the professionals, and the institutions have to be sincere. We will also see that the brands that do not act to just save the day, that move in parallel with the NGOs, act as a collective, cooperate, show solidarity, value the nature, humans, and animals, and invest in the ecological world, being valued differently in comparison to other brands. I think that the brands caring for their consumers and keeping the communications of these values, and those having established a long-lasting emotional bond and a harmony, will keep their reputations. This brand value is also important for the individual. The staff and the leaders who care for the human rights and the ecological world that are sincere, transparent, flexible, and that feels a social responsibility will be successful, as long as they coexist meaningfully. Socrates once said, “Happiness is not physical pleasures, wealth, power, or any other physical thing. It is to live a life according to yourself, your spirit, and the common good of the society.”. With this hope, I believe that we will be able to better manage both the economy and the ecology in the world, with the people being more and more aware of the situation. Moreover, I want to hope for the positive results.
Professional Image and Communication Consultancy