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Artisan suppliers are often very geographically
isolated, working out of their homes in rural areas.
Shipping and logistics can be a big problem. On
top of this, the work is entirely handmade, which
means that it requires time to be produced.
Artisans may be dealing with health issues
and other social stressors that impact their ability
to show up for work, meaning that the size of
your workforce may be
variable from day to day.
For all these reasons, it is
not uncommon for artisan
orders to take longer than
upfront by factoring extra
time into your production
calendar (i.e., starting early) or by testing the
waters with a capsule collection created outside
the confines of the seasonal calendar.
I have to plug Nest’s services here, but if you
invest in helping to grow your artisan suppliers,
this is where real improvement will take place. It
is to everyone’s benefit to see this as a long-term
relationship that will need to develop and grow.
The good news is that our experience has
shown that these relationships improve incredibly
quickly from season to season. This type of
investment not only ensures the sustainability of
your supply chain, but also dramatically increases
the viability of the artisan suppliers, directly
contributing to the assurance of their livelihoods
and improved wellbeing.
A great example relates to Nest’s partnership
with the luxury fashion brand Maiyet. In Kenya, we
helped build a new safer workshop for artisans
who were operating dangerous machinery close
to their children. We sourced new brass polishing
equipment that dramatically improved product
quality moving forward.
There is a beauty and intricacy that only handmade
work can achieve. The more that you value artisan
craft for its imperfections, rich heritage, and stunning
results, the better you will feel about results that differ
from those of factory production.
We have seen how partnerships with brands like
West Elm, Maiyet, and the Elder Statesman stand as
a testament to this new brand of luxury, which more
consumers are appreciating and seeking. “Slight
inconsistencies actually prove that these pieces are
very special,” said Greg Chait, founder of the Elder
Statement. We can all take an approach similar to
Greg’s, and uncover these dusky jewels.
Rebecca van Bergen is the founder and executive
director of Nest, a nonprofit organization that
brings visibility and viability to women who comprise
the global community of artisans and homeworkers.
Van Bergen earned her master’s degree in social
work from Washington University in St. Louis,
Mo., in 2006 and founded Nest at age 24. Her
accolades include selection as one of twelve of
GLG’s 2015 Social Impact fellows and a complimentary Clinton Global Initiative membership in
2015 and 2016. She has also been honored as
a PBS Changemaker and CNN’s Young Person
Who Rocks. Learn more at www.buildanest.org.
➤ continued from page 20
ABOVE + RIGHT
work cannot be
for its heritage