Bold Insight: Fewer Choices = Better Choices

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

I have friends who are top-notch bargain bin/thrift store diggers. They can go into the most cluttered of thrift stores or outlets with racks and racks of clothes and emerge with the find of a century. I do not have this ability. I’ve always preferred smaller stores with fewer options and someone who is clearly extremely fashionable telling me exactly what I should try.

This is not to say that I don’t have a sense of style – I definitely do – it just diminishes the more options I have to choose from.

I almost always order the same thing I’ve ordered before at a restaurant; not because I am not an adventurous eater, but because looking at the menu overwhelmed me. Unless you order something I’ve never eaten that sounds interesting, then I’ll trust you and order that – or at least try a bite of yours.

This also makes me extremely brand loyal. I wore Liz Claiborne Classic (the red triangle) from the time I was sixteen until I was twenty-one. At twenty-one, I was told I reminded someone of Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, and I started wearing that and continued to do so until 2015 – when I was 40 years old. That was the early days of my switch to natural products. The Social Media gods put an ad for PHLUR in my Facebook feed, and I switched. I haven’t switched again.

I spent two years hoping for the perfect vintage mid-century magazine rack before it showed up next to one other midcentury magazine rack that I did not like in an uncluttered thrift boutique and four years waiting for the perfect vintage 70’s bag before the magicians that run Etsy put it in my feed when I was shopping for reusable snack bags. 

Having fewer choices combined with knowing what I like and/or what fits and/or what tastes good is one of the ways I reduce overwhelm in my life.

Turns out, I am not an anomaly. While it is a deeply engrained American Ideal that choice = freedom, there is a point at which too much choice becomes debilitating and leads to deciding not to choose. This may seem trivial when we are discussing a purse or even a dress for a party, but watch an episode of Nate & Jeremiah by design and see homeowners who got so overwhelmed by the choices in their remodels that they stopped remodeling and are living in houses without walls or sometimes without working bathrooms and kitchens.

Barry Schwartz, renowned psychologist even goes so far as to say, in his 15-year-old book The Paradox of Choice and Ted Talk by the same name, that the sheer number of choices we have has made us not freer, but paralyzed, and not happier, but more dissatisfied.

Fortunately for those of us who are aware of how debilitating too much choice is, we have Madison Grace, an online accessory boutique founded by Claire A. Pettibone. The first thing you should know is that Madison Grace is an accessories boutique by design – they intentionally offer accessories to go with your very own wardrobe. A big fan of the slow fashion/capsule wardrobe movements, Claire knows that a great accessory can completely change any outfit. 

They offer just a few options and all are classic, well-made, and ethically sourced. In fact, that’s one of the ways she removes another choice for us – no need to wonder about the supply chain of that gorgeous pair of gold hoops you’ve been eyeing because everything she sells is a purchase with purpose.

She’ll be the first to tell you that Madison Grace isn’t the first brand to sell fair trade, promote ethical shopping, or offer purchases with purpose, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an integral part of the culture shift towards less fast fashion and more focus on people and planet. What we need to really change the way people interact with shopping is for it to be odd for a brand to not be ethical and fair trade. 

Claire wanted so much more than positioning Madison Grace as an integral part of the slow fashion movement. She is actively working to be part of the larger movement towards creating more conscious consumers across all industries.

She does this by consulting with emerging conscious brands to help them define and measure their own impact. From her community dedicated to Madison Grace, which she calls women who give a care to entrepreneurs who, like her, believe it is possible to do more than make money with your business – she is teaching us all to pause and ask the important questions, such as:

  • Who made this?
  • Were they paid a fair wage?
  • Do they have good working conditions?

Claire is also doing what anyone who is going to be successful in this industry has to do – creating something people are looking for. She is tapping into an unsaturated market: style-conscious women with moderate incomes who want to shop more ethically. She is using Madison Grace and their product collaborations to show that eco-conscious can be chic, an ethical lifestyle can be stylish, and purchasing from artisan groups can increase quality. This is a movement for everyone – not just those who can afford it or those who identify as a nature-loving free spirit. She is widening the sphere by reaching a demographic that hasn’t been part of the conversation; in her words, the effortlessly chic woman who gives a care. Turns out not everyone who believes in slow fashion owns a Connor hat that they pair with feather earrings.

Furthering her mission of proving that eco and ethical can be synonymous with stylish and elevated, she is even researching a new line that is experimenting with plant-based leathers – moving from sustainable fashion to circular fashion. Like most culture-shifters, Claire uses the following words to describe her work: cultivate, empower, inspire, and lead. She is cultivating conscious shoppers, empowering artisan groups, inspiring emerging entrepreneurs, and leading the ethical fashion space by setting massive impact goals and being transparent about the impact of Madison Grace as a brand.

Today, more than ever, these are the most important things. The marginalized communities she works with are extremely vulnerable during this pandemic and do not have access to the resources they will need to thrive.  Supporting Madison Grace means we get to support her US Based team and the artisans throughout the world – double the impact. The Madison Grace women who give a care understand that. They have been showing up and doing good at every turn.

Further proof that she is moving things towards the world she wants to live in – where ethical fashion will just be fashion and conscious companies will just be companies. 

She is creating a new normal by restoring a broken system, redeeming communities, and bringing hope to a dark place. This is a role she has experience with. In addition to the name Madison Grace representing that one friend who always seems to be effortlessly chic, it is also the name of the daughter she and her husband never got to meet. By honoring the part of her life where hope was most needed by reciprocating what she was given – grace – she is shining as a true leader.

Imagine the shift in our culture if we all learned only that one thing from Claire?

Visit Madison Grace today to shop with purpose, follow them on Instagram: @madisongraceco, and Reach out to Claire for consulting for your own impact brand!

LaKay Cornell

LaKay Cornell is a culture critic, writer, speaker, and feather-ruffler. She is on a mission to change the way we create change. Using her unique combination of exciting anecdotes and enticing data, she positions her clients’ work in the context of the social problem they are solving. LaKay also writes, speaks and moderates discussions on Intersectional Feminism, the Language of Empowerment, and Womxn’s Entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit lakaycornell.com.
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