Martin Johnston and his partner Lise Bonnet. Cover image of Harmony House India.   All photos courtesy of Crafted Society.

Martin Johnston and his partner Lise Bonnet. Cover image of Harmony House India. All photos courtesy of Crafted Society.

THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR 

Crafted Society is paving the way for the luxury fashion industry  to engage in giving back with transparency.  

By Guru Ramanathan

 

Describe some of the frustrations within the luxury industry that prompted you to adopt more transparent policies in revealing your suppliers and artisans?

 When Lise (my life and business partner) and I, made the decision to start our own brand with our own values, we knew exactly what we wanted to do – make timeless, artisanal handcrafted products by master (Italian = represented the best of the best) craftsmen and craftswomen which all of the luxury brands talk about, all of the time. 

Frustration #1: Industry secrecy. Unfortunately for these highly skilled artists’ luxury brands do not disclose who these people are, so finding them was extremely difficult.

Frustration #2: Luxury Industry Vocabulary. Rare, exclusive, bespoke, craftsmanship, the finest nappa leather etc etc. We took a long hard look at the vocabulary that the luxury houses use and arrived at the conclusion (as a consumer looking in) that a new vocabulary was needed based on modern, socially conscious values.

Frustration #3: Sustainability of Craftsmanship.We spoke to multiple business owners and artisans about their biggest concern for their own future. Unanimously, they all stated the immense challenge to identify, train and educate the next generation on the skills and value of artisanal craftsmanship.

All roads lead to one thing; the need for total transparency. 

  An artisan at work

An artisan at work

What was the initial reaction from the rest of the luxury industry regarding your transparency about industry secrets? 

When we started out we priced our products to wholesale the brand to third parties as that was my background. But very quickly that door was shut firmly in our faces. 

It was clear that profit trumped purpose for the retailers. That’s when we decided to completely rethinkthe business model and sell directlyto the consumer. In doing so we are now able to offer an unparalleled quality for a fair price which supports new ideology and gives back.

The same went for the traditional media outlets, but thankfully there are enough courageous journalists who have picked up on what we are doing and what we stand for.

Has it differed from artisans or have other companies been following your model? 

We applaud the brands who have taken the step towards being a more responsible global citizen but to our knowledge, no one has yet adopted the complete TESSR (Transparency, ethics, sustainability and social responsibility) code of conduct...Our hope is that as our story spreads we can inspire and welcome others to join our Luxury for GOOD™ mission.

What made you realize there is a social responsibility involved in this industry that was missing or dormant before Crafted Society began?

Luxury has historically been expensive, exclusive and for the elite. We wanted to give it a makeover which champions inclusiveness, fairness and giving back… As parents to two young children we are acutely aware of the power of education and believe access to quality education (UN sustainable development goal #4) should be a basic human right. Our products are the tools which fuel our impact to provide access to quality education for disadvantaged children. If we can do that and help preserve craftsmanship at the same time, we will both be very happy.

  Black sneakers by Crafted Society

Black sneakers by Crafted Society

Do you think every organization has a social responsibility to give back in some way and is there enough of that happening right now?

The majority of the global issues are man made so if we are to make serious inroads into successfully achieving the 2030 global goals set by the United Nations, then we need every single organization in the world, no matter if it is a single person business or a fortune 500 company to give back...If every company around the globe would pledge just 1% of revenues that could raise approximately 800 billion dollars for the global environmental police to do a lot of GOOD.

One percent of your sales go toward humanitarian and environmental causes--what are some organizations you are working with right now to promote social change?

Harmony House India, is a child day care center on the periphery of the New Delhi slums. Lucy Bruce and her husband Gaurav Sinha started the center in 2009 to provide slum children with an opportunity to learn, eat, play and dream. They started with the goal to take 5 children out the slums, today they have almost 500 across two facilities and are now sending kids onto higher education. www.harmonyhouseindia.org

In addition to HH we are also supporting Favela United, a Dutch registered non-profit which provides marginalized children, living in the favelas of Rio and urban ghettos of Maputo in Mozambique, with the opportunity to learn about social inclusion, gender equality and domestic violence among other things while using the game of soccer as the change agent www.favela-united.com. We are also in discussions with the Fondazione Cologni foundation in Milan to work on a programme together where we pair refugees with skilled artisans to learn the crafts, giving an opportunity to the artisans to pass their knowledge down to enthusiastic apprentices looking to make a new life for themselves and their families after being forced to flee their homelands. www.fondazionecologni.it

Your impact articles on your website profile other organizations with the founders coming from various backgrounds, ranging from athletics to education. Can you talk about the importance of being able to bring about social impact regardless of the field you are working in? 

We chose our name Crafted Society very carefully as we wanted it to represent the two worlds we are trying to merge, that of luxury craftsmanship and mankind and doing good. We wanted it to represent something bigger than that of a designer brand, but that of a movement for good...Therefore, everyone is applicable no matter whether they are a doctor, teacher, athlete, artist, writer, astronaut or volunteer...They all have one thing in common though, and that is the thirst to continually learn and develop to be the best human being they can be.

  Mario and Giacamo, italian shoemakers

Mario and Giacamo, italian shoemakers

Crafted Society is quite young. How closer are you to creating an ideal “crafted society” than you were back in 2015? 

When we started, it was just Lise and myself with a dream. We can now count more than 100 Italian artisans who have joined our journey and provided us with either finished products or handcrafted components and packaging which have gone into making the finished goods.

Proudest achievements? 

Many, but top of mind are from our master shoe maker, Mario Grassetti training (for 6 months) and subsequently hiring 7 refugees which now make our sneakers, to a Swedish customer walking into our first ever Amsterdam pop-up store (we were there for only 2 weeks) and pre-ordering a new pair of sneakers, paying for them in full, and still having to wait 6 weeks based on our mission and trust (shoes being delivered to him any day now), to the joy and pride of our customers being as excited for their new goods as they are to tell which cause they have helped to support through their purchase.

What are some short term and long term goals for your business?

Our short term goal is to identify some impact investors to help us scale the business in the United States so we can have a greater long term impact. Long term goals are twofold, one is to identify master artisans from different countries and help shine a light on them as we do today with our Italian partners and the second key long term goal is to build the Luxury for GOOD™ foundation which has members from all walks of society, but especially our peers that have joined and embraced the new~luxury movement.

  The weekender and slip on by Crafted Society

The weekender and slip on by Crafted Society

Where would you be if you hadn’t decided to embark upon creating Crafted Society? Although our standard of living has dropped significantly as we seek to drive the business forward, there is no feeling greater than to follow your own dream, do that with your best friend and do it passionately for a real purpose.

 

craftedsociety.com