I was at the Crafts Council's annual conference a few weeks ago, Assemble, where there was an interesting line up of speakers, including Martin Raymond from trend forecasters Future Laboratory, Emily Campbell from the RSA and a wonderful talk from Matthew B Crawford who has written the recent NYT best seller The Case for Working with Your Hands; Why Office Work is Bad for You and Fixing Things Feels Good .
Raymond was there to offer insight into the consumer market for craft, which apparently is doing quite well considering the economic recession. However, he made a rallying cry to makers everywhere that they need to become much more visible with their skills and expertise. He noted that he had recently been to see fashion brand Louis Vuitton, who are planning on having craftspeople working in their shop on Bond Street, making bespoke products. Craft and authenticity have been the words used to describe a new 'luxury' for a while now, but it's not enough anymore for consumers to know something has been made by hand and with great skill - they want to actually see it being made in front of them.
He made a plea to makers to try to win this territory and to see this as a unique opportunity to work with brands and retailers. As Guardian journalist Libby Brooks describes it in her review of the conference, this is where brands are 'appropriating the operative language of craft'. Of course, this is not to everyone's taste, and I sensed a note of dismay from certain makers who would never dream of getting involved with luxury brands, let alone have the marketing skills that would get them noticed.
But, ironically it seems that consumers are actually becoming more inclined to buy craft and less inclined to buy luxury goods and that overall spending on craft appears to be holding up better than spending on luxury goods, art and design. This came from a report that the Craft Council have commissioned which showed that craft is seen as being more 'genuine' and 'personal' than luxury/art/design and that luxury in particular, is starting to have negative connotations such as being 'too expensive' and being too concerned with status.
Hopefully this will help the craft market in benefiting from this strong consumer trend for authenticity and connoisseurship.