Handmade products are part of our history. They became rarer as societies began to industrialize, but even with the automation of production, many continued to swim against the tide, producing handmade goods.
Today we are living a kind of revival of artisanal production, driven by an anti-industrial sentiment. The hallmarks of a handiwork are the fingerprints of an artisan, and the manual processes are highly valued. In the market, they have become synonymous with quality.
It is not just handmade, customized, custom, etc., that is on the rise. We live the search for all things “authentic” and “premodern,” often confusing quality with nostalgia.
We want to sit in a bar set up with demolition wood and choose your meal by reading a hand lettering made in white ink. Drinking in glass jars is more pinterest. In this scenario, the more picturesque the story, the better.
In fashion, we see it in styles and production. We like old workwear , Ivy League aesthetics , old school tailoring . We want goodyear welted boots , tailored suits and shirts, and selvedge jeans .
All brands want to get on the wave and even mass-produced stores are in the same boat. At Gap and JCrew you buy “old-fashioned” pants with raw denim and you can customize your shirts with a monogram to have a handmade product.
Where is the limit?
In 2010, the UK National Advertising Board banned a Louis Vuitton campaign for suggesting that the company’s products are handcrafted, but not.
The softly-lit photos of this campaign show young, beautiful girls posing by hand sewing the strap of a purse or paving the way for the awl in a wallet.
Serene images invoking the craftsmanship that Louis Vuitton wants you to think exists in its mass-produced products.
Not unlike ads with photoshop templates or invented stories about corporate origins . Even Levis has been criticized for that .
Handwork is much more tangible than images and stories. When it comes to shopping, people consider how it was done.
Customers are willing to pay for genuinely handmade items. A Role Club boot can cost more than two thousand dollars, and a Kiton shirt costs about $ 800 for those who want the pleasure of having a hand-sewn collar, hem and sleeves.
The general consensus is that handmade is better made than industrialized and so the customer comes to believe that that product is worth more because there is a whole lot of work behind it.
Why all the mystique surrounding manual labor?
Sometimes consumers need practical reasons to pay for handmade merchandise. Companies are very happy to provide these reasons.
The most common arguments are:
- Craft products have more details
- An artisan follows each step, concerned about the quality of work without having to rush to produce on a large scale.
- Factories are concerned with cutting costs and working with programmed obsolescence to motivate consumerism.
- The hand-made product, in turn, is made to last.
When a brand advertises that its most expensive product is handcrafted, it uses one of these arguments to convince consumers that it is making a good choice.
The reality is that most of the information you read about men’s clothing comes from marketing, regardless of whether it’s a tailor’s studio or a big brand.
Anyone who wants to talk about custom-made handcrafted products will talk to an artisan. The problem is that often they are only familiar with their own reality. They compare their handiwork to the flat sewing machines in their workshop, but they can’t compare with more advanced technologies. These other machines are made for companies that produce thousands of parts per year.
Anyone who researches the production of a brand will talk to someone in public relations and receive a release about the company’s ethics and sustainability. About the production process, only the superficial. The details are complicated, and matter little to the press.
Thus, given the asymmetric distribution of information, you will read only about the virtues of manual labor. Yes, even here.
These qualitative virtues may or may not be true, but these are not the true merits of the hands of an artisan.