Today, the familiar and the fabulous have collapsed into one weird collage. Instagram feeds you supermodel selfies next to pictures of your midwestern aunt. Bravo lets us watch the Kardashians messily eat salad. The lifestyles of the rich, the famous and the cool have never been so intimately fused with the pedestrian. With all of this, these fantasy worlds start to seem attainable. It’s no coincidence that more than a quarter of millennials believe that they will be millionaires someday (a number way higher than their parents’ generation), even though 46% of them are still living with their parents. Currently, the number one life goal among preteens is fame.
In this climate, a new set of products that sit in the intersection of craft and lifestyle have emerged, which we’ll call DIY Fantasy Kits. They’re boxes that contain a set of products, which allow you to craft your way to a fantasy life of your choosing, all with the convenience of Betty Crocker cake mix.
Cooking kits, like Blue Apron, take the boring part of being a cook (the supermarket) out of the equation and let you live the fantasy of being a chef without being a chef. Beer-making kits, like Craft a Brew, let you be a bearded Brooklyn connoisseur if you just follow the instructions. The Gentleman’s Survival Kit, fit with a hatchet, a bottle of bourbon and a flask, is less for survival and more to appeal to a back-to-the-land sort of masculinity.
Of particular note is the Kylie Lip Kit, a set of lipstick and lip liner that Kylie Jenner released in 2015. These 0.11 fluid ounces in a box, like God’s hand reaching out to humanity in Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” lets the user symbolically connect to Kylie’s brand of fame. The products of these kits (your face, your beard, your brew) then can be shared on social media, showing your, albeit small, connection to the aspirational characters of your choosing. It seems that Instagram is home to about 40,000 different Kylie Jenners at any given time.
And because these kits aren’t simply a product but require a learnable craft to use (applying makeup meticulously, grooming your beard, making beer), users still get the rewarding feeling that they are working toward these lifestyles, rather than just throwing down money on merchandise.
Products that fall under the umbrella of DIY Fantasy Kits have exploded recently. Kylie’s kit, for example, sold out in less than 10 minutes. In the last two years alone, interest in “Kits” on Google Shopping has increased by nearly 300%. Not all DIY Fantasy Kits are merely about image. Some provide education and exploration. “A Box From” is a kit that lets you buy a package of items and readings from a foreign city, so users can learn about different cultures without having to spend money they don’t have on airfare.
While aspirational lifestyles have become more part of our everyday experience, the chance of actually becoming famous is around 1/1,505,000, 376,350 times less than the chance of being incarcerated before the age of 23. Upward mobility in the US has remained stagnant for years, while downward mobility has increased. In other words, our fantasies, whatever they may be, are still as unattainable as ever.
Of course, the achievement of one’s aspirations can’t be mailed to your house in three to five business days. Still, with these DIY Fantasy Kits, we see that we may not need the real thing to at least reap some of the benefits of the world they attach us to.