Thursday, March 8, 2012

Quality over Quantity

I keep thinking about this article I read today (Ethical Style - What Happened to Made in USA?) - which discusses the sad disappearance of the apparel manufacturing industry in the USA. It struck me on so many levels...

First, and most obviously - making things in America - this is what I do and what my entire business is about. I make high-quality, hand-crafted, customized leather handbags locally - specifically for intended for durability and long-term use by clients and customers. And in doing this I support a local economy, and have become a functional part of the community. And as an eco-bonus, I also utilize recycled materials to further reduce waste and to salvage materials that truly deserve another shot at life. But admittedly what really motivates me to do what I do is the design aspect - the magic of making something out of nothing for somebody, and doing it with my own hands. I usually figure that if I am going to work that hard at making something, I might as well make it top-notch and produce the best item I possibly can so somebody can enjoy and use it for years to come. This is not about manufacturing speed and efficiencies - this is about local craftsmanship. And so, I have created a specialized alternative to the overseas manufacturing of leather handbags.

But the article also struck me on another level. I am always so taken by stories of the days when clothes were individually sewn and tailored for specific people - not for the generic mass market. I wish I had been around when everybody strived to put together a personally individualized, high-quality wardrobe that was built to last. What happened to taking time to personally select textiles to suit your style and having garments hand crafted for you? I suspect that if you take the time to select the fabrics you want and have individualized fittings, that you end up with something you completely love and wear over and over again. It is a true statement of your style, and the quality craftsmanship will allow the garment to be worn for years to come. I yearn for those days!

But the article left me with some important basic thoughts - which help me validate what I do as I continue to grow this business. What I am building is not the next gigantic mass-production of super-trendy, sought-after designer handbags. What I strive to do is to build a more hands-on and specialized business, and to build cool and stylish products locally that people understand, appreciate, and truly value. All while doing something I truly love to do.

Here are a few words that resonated with me from that article:

"The disappearance of Made in USA clothes seems almost inevitable. But recent years have brought a small resurgence in demand for clothing made here. We want fairly made clothing, better-quality materials, and support for local businesses and workers. Still, given the labor intensity of sewing and quick turnaround times of fashion, it's doubtful we'll ever come close to a reprise of large-scale local garment production. Instead, we should focus on supporting the niche markets here: high quality custom-made clothing and independent labels with skilled manufacturing capabilities that emphasize ethics over trends. We are in the middle of a sea change of clothing consumption. Perhaps someday, the values underpinning our reliance on mass production will falter, and we'll dress to a new paradigm: Quality over quantity."
Upcycled Bags Handmade in New Orleans

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