The Dying Art of Luxury Craftmanship
Have you seen a surge of “SHOP LOCAL” requests in the last couple of years? This is happening in towns all over the country and local business and store owners are realizing there is a huge online shopping shift occurring but what happens if the local stores are not being supported? Huge online sales are constantly being promoted around us and marketers now know that consumers want to feel like they are “getting a good deal” But as we start to trend towards more and more online consumption we start to wonder who made these goods? Where are they coming from and who do they support?
I was born in Italy but raised in America in my teen and adult life. I remember first hand growing up in Italy surrounded by luxury stores where a pair of jeans cost anywhere from 75 to 100 Euro. On my last visit to Italy I noticed those stores no longer existed in my small town, in their place were stores where now a pair of jeans cost 10 Euro. At first everyone in town seemed excited about being able to have the “same” products at an affordable rate, however as the weeks went by they soon realized these jeans were NOT the same. From chap dye seeping into the wash to fraying of the jeans to just not fitting right, it wasn’t long before the town started to miss the artistry of those nice jeans they had once bought that many still wore as the quality had lasted them all these years.
Recently, back in the States, I went out and about my town and sales were up to 30% off with the change of season. That means those cute flip flops I had been eyeing were now a great price and even though maybe I couldn’t wear them now as the chilly air begins to form for the Autumn season, I can still keep them for next season and I supported a local business that next time I need a pair of shoes in a hurry for myself or my family that brick and mortar shop can still be there because of our local support.
But it isn’t just about shopping local, we also have seen a trend, as educated consumers, we want to know what we are buying, where is it made? Who does this support? Essentially asking ourselves “where does the buck stop?”. It is important that we remind ourselves the value of craftmanship and to remember that not every product Is created equal.
What is craftmanship? A good read in the bbn times explains the term craftmanship beautifully and author Rajh V Iyer states “In the famed halls of Europe, craftsmanship is seen as fine art. They celebrate their artisans and train the next generation so that the art is never lost. Even the most famous fashion brands along with the mechanized processing, depend on the skills of these craftspeople. The methods they use are kept safe as closely-guarded secrets, ideas that are valuable and not easily given away. These old-age traditions and craft include everything from jewelry to leather goods. These crafts are held in high esteem, something that is talked of with pride and extolled. And furthermore, these crafts like the ones mentioned above are highly sought-after and seen as the marking of luxury.”
Also what needs to be understood about the true art of craftmanship is that it is a talent mostly passed down generation by generation and a dying art as the “mom and pop” shops start to get paid less and less seeing that large companies are able to produce more product at cheaper rates overseas. But these products ARE not equal and if you ever took a good look you can most certainly tell the difference in the material used.
Some companies have noticed the dying art of craftmanship and have put together plans to help keep what is quickly becoming an extinct way of creating by ensuring that the small business creating the products coming into your home and using real materials to ensure the quality of the project are being paid accordingly to be able to sustain their business and hopefully pass it on to generations beyond creating a future where the option to buy luxury items is still available and your support to local businesses and companies that are a part of the craftmanship initiative means you too are a part of something much bigger than you can even imagine with every purchase you make.
Lafinndustries founder Tracy Lalasz Finn works on this initiative tirelessly and while traveling overseas to Italy found, alongside husband Kelly Finn, that something needed to change in order to keep the trade alive especially as a shoe designer she knew she wanted to provide her customers a luxury product that also was made in Italy among a family of shoe cobblers that had been in the business for many years but expressed their fears of losing their business to big corporate companies that paid a very small percentage of the profit of the product to them, the actual producers of the shoe. This means using less quality material in order to drive costs of product down and less profit ensuring that the business would most likely not pass down a generation where there is no real incentive to carry on the legacy of the true artistry of crafting a product of luxury.
Based on their concerns on their frequent trips to Italy both Kelly & Tracy saw an immediate need to make the consumer aware of what has been happening to our artisan businesses. Their company, Lafinn Imports, imports Baratti & Milano chocolates and also Alice D’Italia shoes and a big part of the Lafinn mission is to support craftsmanship by paying artisans for the value they are creating.
To delve into understanding the importance of craftmanship Tracy is the author of a wonderful feature called The Vanishing Generation of Italian Shoemakers which discusses in depth what and why there are businesses that are currently working hard to keep the craftmanship initiative alive and to keep small businesses thriving.
So while we all love a good deal, perhaps on our next purchase we can stop and ask ourselves, where is my money going, who is it supporting and what am I contributing to?