Unpacking Our Handcrafted Value

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 month ago | Features

Image: designer Holly Ryan runs one of our handcrafted labels.

Most clothing is handcrafted, in the sense that people – rather than Terminator-like robots – made it. But not all handcrafted fashion actually upholds the beauty and cultural wisdom of age-old craftsmanship, which Business of Fashion describes as being “on the verge of extinction” now. And we would argue that ensuring the survival of these crafts is actually crucial in today's fashion landscape, which is why we have made ‘Handcrafted’ one of our eight core values.

All our brands must adhere to a rigorous code of conduct – which requires them to meet minimum labour and environmental standards – and each brand must meet at least one of our core values. To meet our ‘Handcrafted’ value, brands must prove that a minimum of 50% of each product is made using traditional handmade methods, which can only be completed by highly skilled workers.

We believe this is incredibly important, because artisanal production supports the livelihood of craftspeople and it can also contribute to their sense of empowerment. “Behind agriculture, artisan activity is the second largest employer and in the developing world, often the primary means of income,” explains The Aspen Institute. But that income source is sadly on the decline now. As BoF asserts, “the proliferation of mechanised, globalised production has brought many traditional, craft-based businesses to their knees. Those that remain are often small, family-run enterprises, without the financial resources to attract and develop new talent and without the skills to create sustainable business models.”

These small guys often find it difficult to compete with the fast turnarounds and small margins of major fast fashion companies, for example, and are also up against a fragmented value chain, which The Aspen Institute says is “fraught with barriers that inhibit greater economic value and returns from occurring.” It is for this reason that it’s not only important to support artisanal production and to ensure that those profits are being passed along to the craftspeople themselves.

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