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!