By Rebecca van Bergen
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certain colors cannot appear next to others in a given motif. If your
design team takes the time to visit your artisan suppliers and understand the technique, the better equipped you will be to successfully
design into the technique, rather than to work against it.
Communications with artisan partners can be difficult. Your suppliers
may have a very limited command of English and cultural differences
could result in spotty email communication. Set expectations with your
partners upfront about which communications channels you plan to use
and how accessible you need them to be.
Many artisans come from “yes” cultures and your partners may want to
tell you that everything is going smoothly when it’s not. Let your suppliers
know that proactive updates are appreciated, even when the news is bad.
Let them know that you will work together to troubleshoot the issues.
Working with artisans is no simple task. It comes with unique challenges and frustrations. But artisan partnership also brings opportunity on multiple
levels: the opportunity to bring employment to
women in rural communities who are experiencing
high levels of poverty, illness, and social unrest;
the opportunity to integrate rare craft techniques
into your collections; and the opportunity to
connect your consumers more deeply with the
people and processes behind your collection.
These are only a few of the reasons that the
struggle is well worthwhile.
In the 10 years since I founded the organization,
Nest has seen that short-term investments in training
and infrastructure for artisan groups yields high
return on investment. This is good news for brands
and designers, because it means that if you help
give your artisan suppliers a little boost, the rewards
will be many and the growth curve for an improved,
high-functioning sourcing relationship will be strong.
The following are some suggestions for how to
work most effectively with artisans.
Visit your artisan suppliers and/or dedicate time to
understanding their craft techniques. One of the
biggest issues that brands and artisans encounter
when navigating new sourcing relationships is the
lack of understanding around the confines and
unique stipulations involving a given craft technique.
For example, the batik textile dyeing process
requires a nuanced application of dye colors and
ABOVE + LEFT You'll
be better equipped to
from artisans after
getting to know them
and their techniques.