With the growing popularity of sustainable and artisan-made fashion, fashion brands dedicated to the two are permeating the fashion market. For five years now, we’ve worked with a curative philosophy inspired by tradition, sourcing heritage motifs to continue the narrative of generational craft within artisan communities. Most of the time these are small family businesses embedded in a community whose identity and culture revolve around a particular technique and its processes. Though textile artisanship has been woven in the fabric of our history, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what it looks like now.
Here are five of the most common misconceptions about the phrase ‘artisan-made’:
1. Artisan fabric is high maintenance
While it is true that some artisan-made pieces cannot simply be thrown in the washer and dryer with your other clothes, this does not necessarily mean that all artisan pieces are “high maintenance” and therefore unwearable for everyday wear . In fact, most artisan-made garments can be machine-washed, just as long as you follow the instructions on the care label. For example, artisan cotton pieces can be machine washed if turned inside out and placed in a wash bag.
Additionally, most wears and tears (oil stains from food and drink, stains from sweat) on artisan-made clothing can be removed with everyday products found at home. For pieces that must inevitably be hand washed, it helps to know that hand washing increases the lifetime of garments, therefore removing the necessity to keep routinely buying replacement pieces. In short, when it comes to artisan-made wear, an immediate effort goes a long way.
2. Artisan-made products should be cheap because they’re handmade
A very common misconception of artisan-made products is that they should be cheap because they are handmade and therefore have less value. However, in a world where mass production is the norm, artisan-made products using traditional techniques and fabrics must be made to order, and are therefore more expensive. For example, because of its sheer availability, non-sustainable materials such as polyester and mass-produced cotton are a lot cheaper than materials such as azo-free dye, crepe silk, and organic cotton.
Another reason for the price gap between mass-produced clothing and artisan-made clothing lies in fair wages (or the lack thereof). As we all know by now, mass-producing fashion brands are notorious for their sweatshops and factories where workers are paid below minimum wage. As a result, artisan fashion brands try to push back on this unfortunate norm and to make sure that workers’ crafts remain financially feasible in the long run.
3. Prices on artisan fabrics are marked up to capitalise on the sustainability movement
On that note, another related misconception is the idea that prices for artisan-made products are purposefully marked up to capitalise on customers who want to make an effort to make their fashion sustainable.
Although we do acknowledge that corporate “greenwashing”, or misleading sustainable practices, is an unfortunate aspect of the growing sustainability movement, we also know that profit maximisation is not a priority for many artisan fashion brands. For example, we benchmark our prices similarly to others in the transparent industry such as Everlane and Grana who mark up at 2-3x in comparison to traditional retailers who mark up 6-8x times. Factors such as the prices of our sustainable dyes and prints, fair wages for all our workers, and shipping costs are all carefully considered when we price our pieces.
4. The styles available from artisan-made fashion brands are not trendy
Although a more common misconception when the trend of sustainable fashion was still in its early stages, artisan-made clothing are sometimes still considered to be plain and not trendy.
Actually, this misconception is half-true, but not in the way you might believe it to be. One of our core philosophies is to push back on the concept of “trendy”. Instead, when designing our pieces we opt for season-less styles: every piece is created with the intention to carry the customer for years to come. As a result, we are able to maximise the lifespan of each piece of clothing and to discourage overconsumption of fast fashion.
5. Artisan-made products are always sustainable
A final misconception is the idea that once a brand stamps the term “artisan” on a product, it automatically becomes sustainable. As mentioned above, greenwashing and the capitalisation of sustainable artisanship is a growing problem amongst artisan fashion brands. More often than not, the original work of artisan craftsmen are not given recognition because larger brands are able to mimic the artisan “look” for less and without giving credit to the original craft.
In 2017, website Ethical Fashion Guatemala identified over 64,000 products on Etsy that infringed authentic Guatemalan artisan copyrights. In Guatemala, it is not rare for American tourists to haggle for local artisan products, only to mark it up tenfold and sell them online under the guise of giving back to artisan livelihoods. It is important for consumers of artisan fashion brands to always do a background check on the brand’s philosophy and to ask the hard-hitting questions before purchasing a product from a brand.
Although the concept of artisanship is as old as time, the concept of artisan fashion brands is still new and open to misinterpretations and misconceptions. What are some things you keep into consideration when buying from artisan fashion brands?
Let us know down below.