A request: All independent makers, and clients who support them, please read and reblog this articulate post by Jared Karnes of Onetribe (see link above.) It is an honest expression of how one company has chosen to negotiate the competitive landscape in favor of quality and the challenges they face.Brief Commentary on “Why Not My Size?”:
As a maker, I can attest that these are precisely the issues that I was unable to overcome in the two years I attempted to bring hand-forged Fine Silver and Anodized Titanium body jewelry to the market under the brand Meriken Metals. That Onetribe has not only survived, but flourished, while maintaining their design ethos is a testament to Karnes’ leadership and integrity.
Acknowledging that sizing, in the context of body jewelry for stretched piercings, is an important aspect at play, I’d also like to suggest that this problem might be more precisely situated in the transition of broader consumer values that are translating into the digital consumer marketplace.
On the whole, we expect one picture to represent exactly what we will receive in the mail. Karnes describes how difficult it is to prepare an item for launch into the marketplace, due to the complex relationship between sizing and design. But once an item is launched for purchase, every good maker knows that they can fabricate it to the precise dimensions and specifications.
I’d argue that the vitality of a handmade piece comes from the nuanced difference within a defined style. That may come from the material, that may come from the technique, or from a maker learning how to better tease out the essence of the form over time (crucially: time spent making).
Unfortunately, the standardized product offerings we are used to in the physical marketplace have transferred to online retail.
In my role as a buyer for a contemporary design store, I have seen exactly how destructive the preference for “facsimile” is to innovation in general.
Remember that the benefit of exact replicas is primarily situated in the consolidation of production costs – ie: it is a larger benefit to the company than the consumer. It is accomplished by value-engineering materials, quality, and processes to the lowest acceptable tolerance. On the whole, the success of this standardized model has allowed for entire factories to be exported to countries where now the last highest cost of human labor can be squeezed even more. It is easier to fit the human body to mass-produced goods, than to design for the unique individual.
So the process of standardization, paired with globalization, puts the competitive pressure on companies to disobey their design integrity.
All companies have a choice: whether to utilize a higher quality fabric, a longer lasting polymer, or as Karnes points out – to assert size limits on styles based on aesthetic choices as artists. Most choose not to. Our expectations as consumers have been conditioned in favor of those companies who produce to lower standards: we know that our purchases will break, wear down, or become obsolete within a short time span.
This expectation feeds directly back into the production stream, such that there is no longer any demand for quality in either performance or design.
I suggest that if we embrace variation, and design with integrity, we will see added value as both consumers and producers. But we will also need to develop ways to communicate this value to our clients, since we have all been conditioned to expect less for our money.
Every body jewellery enthusiast should read this article and the response article. It clearly articulates the problems with sizing and design in this industry. This problem can also be applied to moderm fashion design, and is the reason why some styles can and cannot be worn by every person, no mater size.