The handcrafted and artisan-made sector has picked up speed as consumers continue to embrace “modern luxury” in lieu of more traditional luxury apparel and accessories. From small- and mid-range companies to large corporations, brands are incorporating locally, and ethically made handcrafted items into their product offerings to keep up with consumer demand.
The growth of handcrafted products emerges as the luxury industry has grown exponentially in the last 15 years: The value of the global personal luxury goods market in 2016 was nearly $300 billion, which includes drinks, fashion, cosmetics, fragrances, watches, jewelry, luggage and handbags. Bain & Co. anticipates the overall luxury sector to see 5 percent growth for 2017.
It’s notable that the origins of many luxury products can be traced to handmade products including apparel, handbags, jewelry and watches. In today’s context, “modern luxury” involves integrating the story and meaning behind products, as well as committing to supply chain transparency and responsible manufacturing.
Jason Keehn, founder and chief executive officer of Accompany, an online boutique of handpicked and handmade items sourced worldwide, told WWD that modern luxury “is about the fusion of quality, craftsmanship and context. It’s no longer desirable to buy something because of its logo; today’s consumer is looking for a more meaningful and compelling shopping experience. Elevated handcraft delivers an opportunity to truly enjoy every aspect of a purchase, from the unique aesthetic and tactile beauty of a handmade piece to the knowledge that you’re having a positive social impact.”
“What’s exciting to me is the convergence of generations-old textile traditions and geographically significant craft techniques with technology that enables local artisans to collaborate and go to market on a global scale,” Keehn explained. “In an industry that’s been dominated by huge factories and mass-produced items, the idea of having easy access to something that’s masterfully handmade from the best quality materials is truly luxurious.”
Accompany partnered with Target Corp. and the nonprofit organization Nest last spring to create “Accompany Us to Target,” a limited-edition collection of authentic cultural products from six different countries, including beaded bangles from Ecuador, block printed cosmetic bags made in India and wooden Kuni bowls from Kenya, according to Target. The partnership highlighted the artistry of local makers via exclusive photo and video content to make storytelling a central component of the collaboration.
Keehn told WWD, “Handcrafted does not always imply luxury on its own, though. Global handcrafts in particular can often feel too crunchy or like souvenirs. The sweet spot is striking a balance between celebrating indigenous handcrafted techniques and infusing them with modern design elements to achieve products that are both authentic and relevant.”
Kelly Caruso, president of Target Sourcing Services, said, “Since craftspeople are typically not included in factory well-being and compliance programs, bringing the industry together to recognize common standards for the artisanal sector can create positive social and economic change and greater transparency across the supply chain.”
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