Innovation in craftsmanship or viceversa?

Written by Enrico Grigoletti

Week 41

Some would suggest that the words MODERNITY and CRAFTSMANSHIP belong to different realms. However, the last few years have demonstrated that these two elements are being increasingly combined as a reaction against mass production, fast fashion and compulsive shopping.
On the other hand, slow living – from food to music, and interior design to work – has become a timeworn argument. Magazines and blogs have covered this topic so frequently that we now need a new reaction to the above-mentioned reaction.
If the last few centuries celebrated the application of industrial processes to manual production, today, the manual production of industrialized items stands out as the new creative approach. Let’s take the SNEAKER for example – an emblem of industrialization, and pair it with leather and fine artisanal labour; what you’ll get is HenderScheme, the personification of MODERN CRAFTSMANSHIP, applied to a footwear label.


Image © HenderScheme

Conceived by Ryo Kashiwazaki as a reaction to today’s generic mass-produced footwear, each pair of shoes has been forged by hand, based on well-known silhouettes. It seems that what started as a bizarre pet project, has taken shape as a serious business, currently supported by top notch retailers such as Barney’s, Mr. Porter and Haven.
Generally speaking, it seems that modern consumers require a personal connection with the producers of their material objects.
Yes, the price to pay is higher than industrialized products, but most people who embrace this philosophy see it as a long-term investment. In this scenario, ironically, technology is playing a critical role in enabling more opportunities to attain personalized products.

In this same scenario, where consumers are craving new products that they can have an emotional connection with, and are beginning to look beyond markets driven by mass production, new technologies can cut down on the middleman, and connect the buyer directly with the producer at no cost. Ok, well almost no cost.
Trumaker – a made-to-measure men’s apparel startup – closed Q4 2014 on $ 6.5 million. The company has no brick and mortar store: instead, it employs contractors called “Outfitters” who come to clients wherever they are and take their measurements to ensure a proper fit.
The same technology can help (or at least integrate) with craftsmanship by going straight to the source. Applying modern systems and advanced research to the procurement of new raw materials, is one of the ways to build more sustainable business processes. This year for example, Zegna introduced the Double Century Cashmere, a blend of cashmere combined with organzine silk, resulting in a lighter and more fluid fabric with two surface finishes, and a texture meant for fine, handmade tailoring.

If we want to push the envelope further, Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects…who by the way use the slogan “we make epic shit”) released Project Jacquard in May 2015. After years of research it is now possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms to transform clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces. A game changing innovation that doesn’t require tailors to drastically re-engineer their work processes.
Craftsmanship won’t fill the gap left by the decline of manufacturing, but the application of artisanal work to mass produced objects is definitely forging a new standard of products that guarantee customers the level of quality they deserve, integrated with the benefits of modern technology.