Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Locavoirs, Leather and Mindfulness....

 Part of the great struggle of both the vintage leather business and the new leather business is that of ethics.  Mindfulness is that process of becoming aware of the self and seeing all things as interconnected.  The local food movement is an example of mindful shopping where participants prefer to buy from local producers where they know the source of their food and how it was grown vs. buying by price.  Oddly my leather jacket project Himel Brothers has taught me valued lessons on the kinds of problems that indigenous manufacturers may have faced as they progressed their business.  Every day I get 2 to 3 emails and spams to this blog from Pakistani leather manufacturers offering to make me jackets from my patterns for the price of 47-57 dollars per jacket.  How wonderful!  I cannot even pay for the leather in one jacket at that price.  It makes for a very interesting debate amongst my customers and my retailers about costs and pricing.
 Now I generally don't think anything I make is average.  Certainly I aspire to not only achieve the quality and character of my vintage collection in my new jackets but I am also trying to achieve the zen nature and longevity that original jackets imbued.  Environmentally speaking I have to know each of my suppliers, and design perfect life long lasting styles that are made of ethical materials.  While not 100% local in the sense of coming from my neighborhood or Province, each supplier is vetted for what they are making and how they are making.  Perhaps the differences between lovingly grown horses, slaughtered and gently treated and then vegetable tanned in tree bark in Japan is not always
 readily apparent to the consumer?  The jackets are not indestructible, nor do they glow with electronica or transport the wearer to another planet.  Simply put the pressures for me are to make perfect technical replicas out of organic materials and not be the guy using my skills and knowledge to make 47 dollar jackets in Pakistan and sell them for half of what I am currently doing.  People ask me why and how I do things.  I think to myself...I make life long lasting, beautiful, well made, well sourced organic jackets that like my vintage collection will age and die gracefully.  It is something to think about when you are buying your next 200 dollar made in (where ever) jacket...all that energy and all the negativity that goes into making something cheaply will be worn right on your back!  Producers back in the day sought to be price competitive whilst increasing features, branding and quality.  Old makers reached the pinnacles of that paradigm and new competitors could only compete on pricing.  It was that downward push on pricing via cheaper imports and a less educated consumer that lead to the extinction of domestic garment makers.  How sad really because the consumer actually stopped caring about what they were wearing and chose simulated fashion, or simulated quality in deference to price!








4 comments:

  1. That's a complicated subject!
    The fellows in Pakistan are trying desperately to make a living too.
    As real wages fall in the West, people wanting to dress well look to cheaper sources - H&M and Zara - which supports 'sweat ships' off the African coast and hi-pesticide cottons. While Vintage is one option, and buying long-lasting fashion (like yours) another, most simply don't have access or can't wrap their heads around paying so much for a single article of outerwear.
    We who want to 'do the right thing' support organic and artisan-made, which is yet prey to the flexible fingers of Capital for distribution (Whole Foods, doing 'the wrong thing for the right reasons'), marketing, etc.
    The juggernaut of corporate capitalism, in its endless adaptivity to trends and subcultures, has a fix on the system; there seems no way out, and if you want revolution, they'll gladly sell you the weaponry.
    Perhaps the Third Way is as you suggest: Do your best always, be mindful of your actions and their consequences, and cultivate compassion.

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  2. one hundred percent true about trying to make a living...sadly there are loads of people trying to make a living...but everyone seems to forgot about what they are doing to make a living.....and who is being hurt in the process. If it was an issue of more localized production and fair wages and waste-water treatment...everything would likely cost pretty much the same...the huge difference is expressed in the terrible conditions and waste and environmental costs of the producers and the incredible greed of the contractors....I am a proponent of buy once buy well...which is lost on a fast paced disposable consumer society.

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  3. It's nice to know I'm not alone in the opinion that trying to compete with the insanity of off shore pricing is ridiculous. I too manufacture leather clothing (mostly riding gear) and have found more and more that if my client isn't into a one of a kind, ultimate quality product then I really don't want to make them anything at all! I inherited the business from my Dad and grew up with the concept of quality and durability drilled into my DNA. I'll email you some rare pics of some of our earliest pieces from 1970-71.

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  4. I just found your blog post so forgive my waaay late entry but it's nice to know I'm not alone in the frustration with off shore manufacturing. I inherited my Dad's business last year and grew up with a moral compass directed towards quality and durability. Making products that were unique and lasted for decades. The industry is a faint shadow of what it used to be and trying to be a responsible manufacturer takes time and dedication. I can appreciate the argument that people overseas need jobs etc, but by the same token we have sacrificed the choice of having some of the best tanned leathers available for cheap poorly executed materials. I look at the pieces we made even 15 years ago and miss the tanneries we once had. So now I have to scour the country looking for things that I feel confident are of the highest quality but they ain't cheap! And unfortunately, this new consumer market that has been created weighs heavily on the price point vs buying something that truly has value. Which is probably why I'm steering the business out of the sport bike arena and back into vintage. I can't and won't compete with things made in Pakistan or where ever because at the end of the day one of my suits or pieces should last a lifetime and many seem unwilling to recognize the difference.

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