Ed Cotton: The Local Movement Is Growing Beyond Food

Ed Cotton delves into the meaning of ‘local’ beyond the food and restaurant industry and what it means in the face of a world that is still very dependant on mass-produced products developed in faraway lands.

The production of many of the brands we use has long been outsourced to far off lands this means that the vital and often vibrant connection between the producer and the consumer is severed.

While years ago, this production connection would have been celebrated and romanced, the production side of the business is now mentioned in a hushed whisper whenever Taiwan, China or any Asian country is disclosed as the source.

The images of Asian production are firmly embedded in people’s heads, it’s a dirty little secret that neither the user or the producer of the brand involved feels comfortable talking about. Beyond the sweat shop image, there lies the realization that with this all this lost production comes “lost history”, “lost competence” and “lost power”- all things that we don’t feel good about.

While the local movement has its roots in food, where the increased popularity of farmer’s markets has been driven by a desire for people to eat better and to be more connected to the production of their food. People want to understand that there is a farmer behind the vegetable they just brought which is more reassuring than the faceless image of agribusiness or a processing factory.

What’s happened in food,  is now happening in other categories, as people see the benefit of buying something that’s locally made.; it’s likely to be made better, made by people they can identify with and by companies who appear to have a commitment for their local community

Years ago David Hieatt used to be an writer at Wieden and Kennedy, but decided instead of advising other brands how to make things better in the world, he’d do it himself, so he created Howies, a successful sportswear brand that he sold to Timberland a couple of years back.

Obviously not content with sitting around idly contemplating the future, David is embarking on a new adventure to bring premium jean manufacture back to Wales. To do this. he’s created a new brand, Hiut and headquartered the company in Cardigan, which had a long proud history of making jeans.

Here’s David describing the story on the Hiut site.

Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades. Indeed, they were so skilled at making jeans, it was the very last jeans factory in Britain to close.

In Hollywood, it’s hard to find a waiter who is not going to be an actor. In Cardigan, it’s equally as hard to find someone who hasn’t made jeans.

The factory may no longer be here, but the skills remain. And yet they have nowhere to practice their art.

Malcolm Gladwell once said: ‘You can’t become a chess grand master unless you spend 10,000 hours on practice.’ The good men and women of Cardigan have spent that and more learning their trade. In some cases, they have spent 30,000 hours. They have practiced their skills until they have become ‘Grand Masters’ of jeans making…

It’s clear David’s heart is in doing something extremely ambitious that goes against the common sense of the modern capitalist/industrialist and because of that creates a beautiful tension. David’s instantly created a brand with a purpose and mission that goes against the category and industry conventions. He fuels this brand with challenger status recognizing that it’s going to be tough and he’s going to have a fight on his hands against a resurgent other premium jeans brands and the Levi’s brand, who also produces some of its premium product locally in the United States

Local isn’t just an opportunity to connect to a trend, but it’s a chance to celebrate the local communities and people who are involved with producing and bringing your brand to market. It’s a way to break the disconnected loop between consumers and producers and to bring humanity to brands. You don’t have to be David Hieatt competing against the global giants, you might just be one of those global giants that has chosen to ignore its important contributions to local communities.

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Ed Cotton is the Director of Strategy at BSSP and is curious about all things relating to brands, marketing and culture. Read more at influx insights.

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