Minimalism: Intentional Consumption versus Indiscriminate Elimination
We often struggle with how we present our company in relation to the term ‘minimalism’. On one-hand, we originated from a decluttering effort to only own things truly worthy of our appreciation. On the other, we are selling an article of clothing that is arguably one of the most over-produced in the world…
What is Minimalism?
For some, the term conjures an image of living in an empty white room, with no possessions, in a constant meditative pose, having separated oneself entirely from modern society as we know it. In reality, however, at the core of almost any definition of minimalism is the simple idea of removing things that do not add value to your life - or as the reigning queen of the current minimalist movement, Marie Kondo, puts it: getting rid of items that “don’t spark joy.” While the concept of “elimination” looms large here, it can also be re-phrased as a purposeful embrace of the things that enrich your life. The terms ‘minimalism’ and ‘consumerism’ are often presented as opposites. While they certainly can be - if ‘consumerism’ is defined as thoughtless consumption - we ultimately reject that view as a false choice. The way we look at it, it’s not about avoiding purchases but buying with clear intention…
How Minimalism Inspired the Search for “the Perfect T-Shirt”
‘If… Then Well’ has its origins from an effort to clear out the clutter caused as a result of countless impulse purchases over many years. After leaving a 12-year corporate career and seeking inspiration for what to pursue next, decluttering seemed like a simple first step. I began with my closet which had grown to embarrassing proportions. After a slow begrudging start focused on donating as much of my ‘stockpile’ as possible, I was surprised by how relatively easy it was to identify favorites in almost every category. I was quickly able to identify my favorite jeans, collared shirts, suits, even socks and underwear! The initial reluctance of getting rid of so many items that I had spent a lot of money on, was quickly replaced by the excitement of only wearing things that I truly loved.
The only article of clothing I struggled with was, ironically enough, the most simple and basic staple of any guy’s closet: T-Shirts. Somehow, I found that I did not own a single t-shirt that I truly loved wearing. Whether it was fit, length, fabric or style, not a single T-Shirt felt “perfect” to me. At that point, my goal had shifted from just getting rid of clothes to being left with a closet of items I would look forward to wearing without hesitation. As a result, I found myself with a very non-minimalist objective… to go shopping! To be fair, this was not an immediate run-out-of-the-house priority, but I basically allowed myself to shop for T-Shirts whenever the opportunity presented itself. After countless store visits and online shopping sessions over the next year+ (!), I remained unable to find a T-Shirt that fit the standard I was looking for: the ‘perfect T-Shirt,’ so that I never had to go shopping for it again. The next step should be obvious by now…
Incorporating Minimalist Philosophies into Our Company
Viewed through the lens of ‘elimination’, the idea of a company pitching t-shirts will never feel quite authentically minimalist. Our goal however is not to sell you another T, but sell you the T that causes you to never want to wear or own any other. That aspiration is the reason for insisting on the highest quality standards and a timeless versatile design that will stand the test of time.
Beyond the T-Shirt itself, our focus on minimalist values shows itself in the following:
- We don’t run promotional sales. While extremely effective, ‘sales’ ultimately exploit our impulsive blind-spots to a supposed “good deal.” The truth is that most promotional sales are built into the business model of retailers. No one wants to pay ‘sticker price’ whether it’s a car or an article of clothing, so an artificial MSRP is set but the real average expected price is hidden from your view and heavily skewed towards the ‘too good to be true’ constant sales offering. As a consumer myself, I wish I could say I am 100% above this… I am working on it, I swear! But as a company, we insist on not relying on these inherently deceptive practices. Instead, our pricing model is based on volume discounts. We not only see this as being more transparent, but it also aligns with the idea of encouraging ‘intentional consumption’ (admittedly a very unsexy term – so you know it’s not just marketing speak!).
- We keep our fixed overhead costs as low as possible. Every business has expenses that are not directly inherent to the product they sell (office rent, warehouse storage, administrative support, etc.). These things – while necessary – add zero value to the product being sold. We operate extremely lean. In fact, the person writing this is the company’s CEO – who also represents half of the company’s total permanent headcount. We work with smaller factories that are able to support smaller orders so that we can limit our storage costs. We also personally handle all customer service inquiries. These efforts not only keep our costs down, but also end up ensuring the highest possible level of quality-control, improving the product and customer experience.
These distinctions do not immediately get associated with the idea of ‘minimalism.’ The buzzword will likely always be associated with the idea of getting rid of as much stuff as possible. However as so much in life, what gets lost in that view of the term is the actual purpose of all that elimination: to be left with only the things that truly enrich your life. Can a T-shirt actually enrich your life? We think so, but that is also a personal subjective opinion. Our philosophy as a company centers on the idea of intentional living – If you are going to do something, do it well. We believe that requires doing less, not more. And yes, buying less not more. Obviously, our goal as a company is still that you buy our T-Shirts – we simply aspire to being worthy of you doing it with intention.