When Is Local, Local?
Tyler Brûlé ends the May 08 issue of his Monocle magazine with an interesting observation piece on the meaning of local products. With the rebirth of locally-made businesses, he wonders if consumers are going to begin to wonder why they’re paying premium prices for products that are made cheaply in Asia and whether these consumers will continue to buy into a brands that leverage national heritage if all their production is outsourced elsewhere.
From Melbourne to Gothenburg to Minneapolis, retailers of everything from vegetables to fine knitwear are surveying the landscape, speaking to consumers and responding accordingly. When these businesses venture out into the wholesale market to purchase goods they’re disillusioned by rails filled with expensive, shoddily stitched garments made in countries with dirt-cheap labour costs and questionable employment laws. They’re unimpressed by porcelain companies that still sell their Swedishness but manufacture in Thailand. They’re worried that there’s no respect for finish or detail and that some of the world’s most respected premium brands (many gobbled up by dim private equity firms all working to the same, short-term strategies) have squandered everything in order to improve their margins while unwittingly offloading the real intellectual property – the painters, pattern makers, seamstresses and master carpenters.