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Handmade goods aren't expensive: consumer goods are too cheap

image of wood shavings on a rustic wooden bench

In this chaotic world of ‘fast fashion’ we live in, we’ve become used to lifeless, low-quality goods produced on a mass scale. The ‘take, make, dispose’ model of the fashion industry has sadly become the norm. People yearn for the latest trends, buying cheaply and replacing quickly. We’ve become accustomed to the small price tag of these mass-produced goods. This poses a huge challenge to craftspeople selling handmade products. All too often, consumers label lovingly handmade items as being ‘too expensive’.

A lack of awareness

With consumers busy trying to keep up with what’s hot and what’s not in the world of fashion, they’re often not aware of the time, effort and expertise that is poured into a handmade product. The artisanal world remains somewhat undiscovered compared to the popular realm of fast fashion; thus, many people seem shocked when they see the price tag of a handcrafted item. Consumers often instantly dismiss something handmade as being overpriced, without considering the hours of unseen work that goes into every item.

We hope we can help to raise awareness of the time and skill devoted to handcrafting products, and in turn show that handmade isn’t expensive, it’s consumer goods that are too cheap.

Handmade takes time

Image of Matt Nesbitt from Colville Leather hand-stitching a handmade leather wallet

Behind every handmade product, is a lengthy and extensive making process. Artisans see their products through from that initial ‘lightbulb moment’ of conception, to a physical item awaiting its new owner.  

First, there’s the design phase. Craftspeople start from scratch, armed with a pencil, paper and their creativity. Whether it’s draft after draft of initial designs, or an intricate drawing complete with every detail, designing a product takes time and consideration. Materials then need to be sourced, tools readied and patterns cut. The time it takes to sew, build, carve, stitch or solder the finished product can vary hugely depending on the item and its size.

One thing is certain though: without the use of manufacturing machinery, it’s not a quick process. For a taste of how one of our handcrafted leather belts is born, take a look at our ‘Bark to Belt’ video. This communicates the time, passion and skill that goes into creating each Colville Leather product.

Once a product has been made, don’t forget that often it will need to be photographed for marketing purposes. Getting the right shots is essential, especially for selling online, so this is no easy or speedy task. Photos then need to be edited, uploaded and promoted. Once sold, often the artisans themselves will package the product and send it on its way to its new owner – another piece of the handmade puzzle that also takes time.

Product quality guaranteed

Handmade means that the item has been nurtured from start to finish under the watchful eye of its creator. It means quality and attention to detail have been at the forefront of design and production. It means every stitch and every cut is done with excellence in mind. There’s no doubt that craftspeople take great pride in the items they produce – it’s their passion on show and their reputation at stake. When you buy handmade, you’re getting quality guaranteed.

Image of the new handmade leather roll-top backpack from Colville Leather

Our master craftsman Matt is great demonstration of this. He works tirelessly to perfect his creations, always eager to improve designs. Check out our blog post on the evolution of the Horween Derby Leather roll-top backpack to find out how he goes about testing and tweaking products.

The finest materials

Handmade pieces are most often synonymous with high-quality materials, as well as superior craftsmanship. Often sourced from local suppliers in a transparent supply chain, materials for handmade items are usually of the highest calibre. This is worlds away from the hushed, exploitative supply chains of consumer goods. Consumers often gravitate towards handmade items because of the quality, local materials used, yet often they will forget this when questioning their price.

rolls of leather at the Colville Leather workshop

Here at Colville Leather, we take pride in using only the finest leathers. Take J & FJ Baker oak bark tanned leather, for instance, one of our favourite leathers to work with. This truly magnificent leather is transformed from hides using an all-natural English tanning method passed down through generations. Its celebrated credentials have earnt it a special reputation across the globe. Find out more about how the world-renowned oak bark tanned leather is made here.

Quality is guaranteed with our hardware too. In fact, our products feature metalwork fit for royalty! All our brass hardware is sourced from Abbey England, who received a Royal Warrant for their quality goods manufactured in their Walsall-based foundry.

More than just a product

When you choose to buy handmade over a high street favourite or corporate giant, you’re getting more than just a product. You’re receiving a unique creation, made with the hands of someone who is truly passionate about their craft. Every fibre of a handmade item is infused with expertise and energy. Each maker will have an intimate relationship with every item they create. They’ll know every stitch, fold and curve. The same can’t be said for consumer goods as they move along a factory production line, from one worker to the next.

In the case of our Colville Leather products, you’re getting the ‘handmade experience’. You inherit a fully handcrafted accessory that’s been lovingly created from scratch. Your belt, wallet or bag will have been meticulously crafted with care and attention, whilst honouring the traditional techniques of artisans gone by. You know that no-one else has a product exactly like yours. Each item has its own individual story to tell, its natural marks and scars standing proud.

What’s more, due to the natural dyeing processes used, your accessory will mature with you, developing a patina unique to your adventures together. Your Colville accessory has been crafted with longevity in mind, so it’s something you can pass onto the grandkids too.

Being a socially conscious consumer

Fortunately, with the recent artisanal boom, we’ve started to see a backlash against cheap, mass-produced goods. For example, local store, Sancho's Dress in Exeter, are making every effort to educate people about the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social.

Consumers are becoming much more conscious about what exactly they are buying, where it’s from and how it’s been made.

There’s a real drive to move away from cheap, exploitative labour towards a much more ethical and sustainable fashion industry. Our purchases are increasingly being seen as extensions of ourselves, as representations of our values. We hope that as the number of socially conscious consumers grows, so will the belief that handmade goods aren't expensive, it’s consumer goods that are too cheap. 

To see our full range of handcrafted leather accessories, check out our website. If you’re curious to find out more about how we make our products, browse our other blog posts, or feel free to contact us.

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