31 August 2014

I love British-made, but I also don't mind French or Italian or...

British manufacturing is having a revival, at least when it comes to the production of gentleman's clothes and shoes, and it also seems like fabric manufacturers will have a bright future in Great Britain. I think this has largely to do with a growing awareness among the public of how and where these products are made, and I also think there is an increased interest in quality, rather than price always being the overriding parameter. The increased interest in quality and craftsmanship may be wishful thinking on my behalf, but I sincerely hope there's some truth to it. Anyway, the majority of people are still mostly concerned with price, and as long as it's cheap enough, the blind eye is turned towards concerns about manufacturing. It seems, however, that the public opinion is moving in the right direction and one day, one can hope, the conscious public will be in majority and all production of clothes will be ethically sound.
There are probably many reasons for this positive turn of public opinion but I think two factors are very important. Firstly, all the stories of despicable working conditions in the so called sweatshops producing the cheap garments sold on the high street, will have awakened a consciousness in many shoppers. The recent exposure of the appalling behaviour by many Australian and American sheep shearers will have had a similar effect. Secondly, the ongoing campaigns for buying British products have surely had an effect as well. It is, however, these campaigns I want to discuss here. Although, I think they have a positive effect, I also think there is something slightly misguided about such campaigns and they also carry an unpleasant undertone of nationalism with them. This is nothing particular for Britain as similar campaigns are found in just about any country. The French want to buy products produced in France, Italians want Italian products, in Norway there are campaigns suggesting what's produced in Norway is of superior quality and so it goes. Everybody thinks they're best, but this is, of course, rubbish; everyone can't possibly be best at everything. That's why I think there's a great deal of nationalism and protectionism behind such campaigns and I must honestly say that I don't like either. Rather than the sole focus being on the country of production, the emphasis should be on quality. In a world where everything should be as cheap as possible, there is very little room for real quality and craftsmanship, although I believe the market is increasing. It doesn't matter if it's produced in England, Italy, or anywhere else if the quality isn't there. Poor quality products are produced in any country, in the same way as all countries have production of some quality items. If everybody started to embrace quality products and stopped buying sub-standard items it would be good for the manufacturing industry in most countries, and it would be good for skilled craftspeople everywhere, who will once again be appreciated. Not the least, it would be ultimately better for the customer. Let's appreciate each other's craftsmanship across the borders and let different countries produce what they're best at, without claiming to be best at everything. Thus, if you want an Italian looking suit or an American style of suit you don't go to a tailor in London to ask if they can make it, you find a suit that's actually produced in Italy or in America. If you should happen to be in the market for a kimono you would want a Japanese made one, even though you could probably get a cheaper one  made in Europe. And I definitely want my Panamas to be made in Ecuador.
Let's continue spreading the message of buying locally produced products but not unless the quality is there. There are wonderful, high quality things produced in any country and one should embrace that. One should enjoy quality where it is, regardless of where it comes from, rather than being destructive to craftsmanship for the sake of protectionism.

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