A pile of ripped paper, red and gold stars and a Santa hat torn in two. The remains of a feast, with grease-marked paper hats, joke cards and cracker bangs. A rapture of ribbons and a handful of one-joy-only plastic toys: a green yoyo in the likeness of Kermit the Frog, a brittle pink eraser, a one-laugh-wonder jelly man with sticky fingers that you throw against a wall. A whistle, blown deafeningly by the youngest child at the table and put down, never to be used again. A confectionary of Yuletide plastics that offer a momentary hit of pleasure – a puzzlement of distraction.
But at what cost? Bulging landmines and a quest for ‘cheaper’ that devalues the time, energy and materials that goes into making something…
As humans we tend to like ‘stuff’. Adding decorative touches to our homes, treating ourselves to a new outfit or replacing your worn out set of sneakers with something more on trend is a normal human phenomenon – and no one is here to shame you on that.
There’s a reason we like new stuff. And in a way it’s not as nefarious as it may seem. ‘Newness’ can also be linked to innovation; to seeking ways of adapting and accommodating to constantly changing circumstances. So yes, an energy-efficient water filtration system, or a state-of-the-art solar-powered car, might be a response to a world that is increasingly in the red when it comes to dwindling natural resources and clean water supply. But is there really an merit in a plastic salad spinner or belly button fluff remover? And whatever happened to all those fidget spinners? Here one day, conquering the pre-teen market, and now?
Since I started working at Mungo almost a year ago, I’m proud to show off the work that we do. I explain to friends and family about the commitment to quality, the driving force of sustainability and the architecturally astounding weaving mill in Plettenberg Bay where Mungo textiles are made.
But it always comes back to a single question.
“So how much for a towel?”
When I reveal the price there’s usually a quick in breath. Sometimes a silence.
Recently at an evening out I was asked about the cost of bed linen – one of the higher ticket items at Mungo. I explained that, compared to a fibre like cotton, flax has a longer growing period, and produces fibres that are inelastic and difficult to weave with. Flax also requires a cool climate and moist soil, and hence why most has to be imported from the cooler climes of Western Europe.
Although cultivating linen involves a more toilsome process, the final product is of an heirloom quality. The finished feel is unmatched – light yet strong, crisp yet soft.
Without veering towards imperious soapboxing, it’s about understanding and respecting all the forces that wove your product into existence – the soil and seed and farmer. The combing, spinning, reeling, drying and dyeing. And then the warpers, weavers, cutters and finishers.
So the truth is that yes, your Mungo might cost you a bit more than what you’d find at a large chain retailer. But Mungo doesn’t compromise on the cost or quality of the raw materials, the treatment or wages of the staff, the working conditions, or the work of their CSR, just to drive down the price or compete with cheaper imports.
Taking a moment to edit my thoughts, I came across an Instagram post:
“Maybe we should stop asking why real food is so expensive and start asking why processed food is so cheap?”
Which brings this complex set of arguments to a head: that all production comes at a cost. It’s just about deciding which one you value more – the human cost or the one on your swing tag.
So this festive season, how about gifting something that lasts a lifetime (if not at least several years).
Or better yet, just write them a heartfelt card, and stamp it with a kiss.