The Mirage of Artisans: Deceptions in the Luxury Industry

The Mirage of Artisans: Deceptions in the Luxury Industry

Here’s the little story that inspired me to write this article:

Twelve years ago, the owner of a very respected leather goods company deeply impressed me with his obsessive insistence on correcting anyone in his circle who referred to one of his factory workers as a “laborer.” He would immediately correct them in his usually pompous voice, saying: “You must say artisan.”

The fact is, for anyone with even the most rudimentary intelligence, it was hard to conceive that his staff, all new by a few months and without experience in leather goods, hired following a partial relocation of his activities to Southeast Asia to increase his margins, could be qualified as artisans. The term sounded wrong to my ears.

 

As is the case in all such workshops, the activity of his “artisans” consisted of endlessly assembling a handful of models, basically gluing and dyeing leather edges. Cutting, preparation, and stitching were, of course, carried out by other equally mono-functional operators.

Charlie Chaplin on the Fordist assembly line

 

Unless one is completely naive, one cannot be truly surprised by this type of operation, which is ultimately nothing very new. However, one can be astonished by the compulsive use and, in the situation I just described, the forced use of the term “artisan.”

 

Today, we can still observe it: the term is incessantly used by luxury groups themselves or their subcontractors seeking the cheapest labor possible in their job advertisements. While the term ‘artisan’ is complimentary, the pay is often equal to the minimum wage, which should raise suspicions for some.

 

Subcontracting companies even invite you to undergo training in leatherworking, meaning rather: to check your abilities to perform without complaint the repetitive and boring task that could become yours, oh what a chance you have and what charity on their part!

Screenshot

 

More seriously, one should not be mistaken by the distorted use of the term ‘artisan,’ which aims to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

 

Here, I want to emphasize the rather systematic and dishonest use of the word “artisan,” particularly in the very French leather goods industry which is recruiting massively, which is a good thing, let’s not get lost.

 

Some managers are themselves convinced that they are using this term appropriately. However, one must realize that they often form part of a slightly out-of-touch class for whom manual labor is often just a distant concept, a practice intended for people who, as they might say, are “manuals” sometimes implying for the most malicious “not intellectuals.” As if the two were opposed and the brain didn’t guide the hand, for my part, I have observed that many talented artisans were rather interested in intellectual matters, history is full of examples!

 

With the growing success of the major brands’ industry, which must continuously recruit to feed the insatiable monster of its production lines, the term “artisan” is used manipulatively, on the one hand to seduce the consumer obviously, but also more insidiously, to valorize the place conferred to the employee.

Factory

Seducing the customer is the basis of commerce. Even if it has to be admitted that the famous customer is somewhat mocked by selling him often overvalued products, it doesn’t matter, since the consumer is often aware of the machination and is simply seeking to display a certain social status. It seems rather fair play, doesn’t it?

Rapper with Gold Chains and Leather Jacket

After all, the romantic imagination of craftsmanship is just a balm to soften a little more the dream that this industry sells us, creating an illusion of authenticity and tradition that masks the reality of industrialized and impersonal production. Let’s not blame the dream merchants for doing their job! It is, after all, only a consenting relationship between industrialist and consumer.

 

Deceiving the employee or future recruit, hypocritically flattering him with the nickname of artisan, is another thing. Think of a young hopeful employee, thinking of undertaking training that will lead to a fulfilling and rewarding job, throwing himself wholeheartedly into this professional adventure that will soon leave a bitter taste. The sweetened reality gradually revealing its true face, leaving him with very incomplete know-how, only useful to his employer who ultimately owns him.

Depressed Young Man with Factory Background

Let’s call a spade a spade! Without value judgment, a fundamental distinction must be made between an operator performing repetitive tasks daily (which the industry massively needs), doing so with the honorable aim of not living off society and feeding his family, and the artisan mastering all the technical facets of the conception of a leather goods piece, relations with his clients, the administrative management of his small business, etc. Using the same word for both is a deliberate distortion of reality for the sole benefit of the billion-dollar dream merchant groups.

How to Become a True Artisan

 

1. Acquire the Fundamentals of the Trade

Learn the ropes by working in various companies in the sector, in different positions. This will give you a deep understanding of the techniques and processes used in leather goods.

2. Use Modern Resources

Take advantage of the resources available on the internet to enrich your learning. From tutorials to discussion forums, the internet is full of valuable resources to deepen your knowledge and solve encountered challenges.

3. Build a Network of Artisans

Create a network of artisans to exchange advice and experiences. A solid network can provide you with valuable support throughout your professional journey.

4. Train Beyond Technical Skills

Understand that success depends not only on technical skills. Also, train in sales, marketing, IT, and management. These knowledge areas are essential to succeed in the modern world of leather goods.

5. Cultivate an Open and Innovative Mindset

Adopt an open mind and be ready to innovate. Leatherworking offers a diversity of possibilities well beyond simply making bags and wallets. Explore new ideas and techniques to stand out in the market.

6. Learn Continuously

Force yourself to constantly learn. Today, thanks to the internet, access to information is unprecedented. Stay curious and always seek new methods, technologies, and trends that could enrich your artisanal practice.

 

By following these steps and remaining committed to your professional development, you will be well-equipped to advance your career in leather goods as a genuine and skilled artisan.

 

And you, what is your vision of the matter? Do you think the use of the term “artisan” by major brands is justified, or is it a manipulation intended to embellish reality?

 

Your feedback, your experience interests us, leave a comment in the space below.


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