Everyone loves a “deal,” right? We rarely purchase anything that isn’t “on sale.” We love getting one over on the store, bargaining down a vendor or stocking closets full of discounted items that we’ll never use. We are rewarded for this behavior by our peers, the media and the stores themselves.
Insisting on a low price or a markdown on everything is a recent invention. Decades ago, when we knew the seamstress who made our clothes and the man down the street crafted our furniture, we expected to pay a “fair” price for the things we bought from them. However, we don’t remember or haven’t been taught that we should expect to own well-made objects, use them in our daily lives and then pass them on. If things wear out, we don’t know how to refurbish or re-purpose. In a few weeks, we get tired of things that are labelled as “out-of-style.”
What does “fair” even mean? When we see a product that is actually fairly priced for the thought, time, energy and materials that went into it, we don’t know what to do except ask, “why is this so expensive?” It’s “expensive” because the person who made it deserves to be reasonably compensated for the tangible investment they have put into the object. In conventional retailing, price is no representation of the amount of investment in time, money and energy that was put into creating the item. Price is linked more to the market and producing a product as cheaply as possible. Trying to compare the fair price charged for a handcrafted item to a similar product found in the cookie-cutter retail space is folly. Although the items may be able to perform the same task, such as holding your morning coffee, decorating your ears, or warming your neck, the well-crafted item has been carefully designed by the mind of a human and expertly constructed by their hands. The cookie-cutter item was probably generated by a computer program using data bearing little to no relation to you or your lifestyle and then constructed by a bored worker on an assembly line. It’s shoved down your throat because you’ve been taught to accept what’s in the store as what you should buy instead of taking the time to make up your own mind.
Why not invest in products that you really love, that show how thoughtful you are about what you consume, that will last and not go out of style?
Here’s an idea, why not invest in products that you really love, that show how thoughtful you are about what you consume, that will last and not go out of style? If you need it, here’s a trick to convince yourself to break the habit of buying shallow, repetitive, price driven, soulless products. Divide the price of the handcrafted product by the number of years, months or days you expect to use it. For example, a beautifully made jacket at $250, worn 4 times a month over a span of 4 years means your investment in a handcrafted jacket will be only $1.30 for each time you wear it! Completely worth it to be wearing a handmade item that feels amazing on, you will never see someone else wearing and that garners tons of compliments!
Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.