The Craftsmanship that Artisans have inherited and taught
There are industries that depend on individual roles and the dexterity of the workers, who master their craft to aim for a product of excellent quality. Many of these responsibilities are related to the worker’s handcrafting abilities; skills that are traditionally passed down the family tree to maintain consistency and to guarantee that their crafts will stand the test of time.
We experienced much of this while living in the North-East of Italy, where SME’s (small-medium enterprises) are right at the heart of the socio-economic weave of the province; whose GDP matched and even surpassed Switzerland’s in the late 1990s. Indeed, the craftsmanship, as well as the passing down of values and individual love for the respective professions, were all influential factors in Italy’s bid to become a leading industrial powerhouse by the end of the 1950s.
In recent years, we had the privilege to visit Tuscany to get a deeper insight into the lives and day-to-day workings of family-owned businesses and skilled artisans who specialize in the manufacturing of genuine leather. We were granted an up-close look into the process involved in creating shoulder bags and briefcases: from the first drafts of the original designs and the molds to the leather and feature-selection stages; to a final review and an in-depth analysis of the product.
It is important to point out that except for the design and cut, each bag is produced by a single artisan. This is something that struck us as special because, as we were explained, workers can feel fulfilled by their craft, and connect with it by overseeing the whole manufacturing process; from early prototypes to final products.
This unique relationship is present in our catalogue of Italian Leather handbags, particularly in the Chellini Firenze and Pratesi ranges, where the quality of products and their features are directly linked to the bond between artisan and craft, as well as culture and tradition.
Moreover, we have come to understand that the key to success for many of these businesses is the passing down of skills and love for their art, from generation to generation. Younger members have also improved upon older business models by shaping them according to new trends and by adapting them to global challenges; particularly those posed by companies from Eastern Europe and Asia - where many countries have lighter workplace regulations and have produced serious competitors since the early 90s.
It is therefore imperative to discuss where a customer may purchase their artisan products. Having observed how much success and popularity international retailers have experienced, partly due to their focus on the customer, which should always be a top priority for any business, it is impossible not to question whether the artisans who craft the products retailers sell, have benefited from the exposure and growth, and if the true value of their labour and their traditions have been maintained despite working with global retailers. In light of this, should customers purchase artisan products from a big chain or should they instead buy from one of the many independent online businesses?
We will attempt to tackle this modern issue in future articles, as it is a topic that deserves attention.