Everyone has a favourite item that they can’t get rid off, it might be a concert t-shirt from a favourite artist or that perfect pair of jeans you simply cannot replace and get repaired time after time. Why is it that we form deep connections with some of our items, and other perfectly functioning pieces of clothing end up in the Atacama landfill, also known as the “fast fashion graveyard” despite not being broken or faulty?
How our stuff is “built to break”
Emotional durability refers to the desire to keep and use products for longer based on a strong emotional connection. In today's world it is increasingly harder to form personal relationships with the stuff we already have when things are ‘built to break’. Simply put, planned obsolescence is the use of various strategies to make a product seem no longer desirable and useful. New is better, discarding is the way forward.
Repair and Alterations are a missing link.
Emotional durability is about creating products that are worth keeping, but it doesn't stop there. Once you own an item, repair and alterations can be the missing link to keep it valuable over time. Replacing the chore of finding the right tailor with an easy and enjoyable experience helps beat our natural tendency to want the next new thing.
Fit for you, matters?
Alterations are the hero of emotional durability. Why? When an item is truly fit for you it is not just like any other; it can not be instantly replaced. Instead it actually holds value tailored to you. Once you something is 'fit for you' this beautiful thing happens where you establish a much more meaningful relationship with that item over longer period of time. It has become truly yours. New is no longer better, what's truly yours is best.
Why is it important?
The sustainability crisis is just as much a behavioural issue as it is one of energy and natural resources. Consumerism in a circular economy will require a shift from over consumption to conscious use. Where the challenge lies is getting consumers to value their existing products over new ones and taking the action to keep existing products at their best state through reuse, repair, upgrades, and refurbishment to avoid buying new ones.
Leading by example.
Designers and marketers can engineer emotional durability into products and brands. Take Patagonia as an example, not only do they offer free repairs but with its 'Worn Wear: Better Than New campaign', customers can purchase and sell second-hand Patagonia items, encouraging the conscious use of clothing instead of throwaway fashion culture. Patagonia’s unique marketing approach encourages customers to wear their garments over and over, until they become “better than new”. Patagonia should serve as an excellent example to brands of how emotional durability can and should be an extension of brand loyalty.