Guy Salter

March 20, 2014

Good words, well written by Guy Salter, Chair & founder of the Crafted programme.

“Craftsmanship has long been part of the luxury mantra – and never more so than now. There is something of a symbolic, almost talisman-like aspect to it. It has become de rigueur for brands to extol their craft virtues; telling that story with beautifully shot print ads depicting craftsman at work, or for those that are able to, organising special open days or travelling exhibitions featuring their most talented makers.

This is clever and necessary marketing.  Responding to the customer’s desire for reassurance about the price they are paying and so asking searching questions about quality, provenance and the like.  The issue is how much substance is there backing up the marketing? Only a relatively small number of mainstream luxury companies still have outstanding craft credentials and have built their business models, pricing, employment policies and marketing around the ‘making’ philosophy. Indeed, some of the best practice in terms of product quality is now seen by new smaller luxury brands that eschew expansion and ubiquity in order to be niche and specialised.  In doing so they have cleverly bought themselves a place at the top table, even if that is about reputation not size.

In a similar way, just as Luxury has had ‘a good crisis’, so have the best independent makers.  Top end shopping streets are increasingly looking the same the world over, so the hunt for something truly unique, genuinely bespoke, is gathering pace.  Commissioning something from an independent craftsman requires sophistication and confidence but is a natural evolution for the discerning consumer.  In that sense it is a ‘Back to the Future moment’, as this is where luxury started hundreds of years ago.

In my view this is based on a truth; that despite advances in technology and precision engineering by intelligent machines, nothing can replicate something that has been made by the human hand.   Another truth – this matters to consumers.

Despite the long term trend at the top end of the market favouring talented makers, being a craftsman is a difficult, demanding and often lonely road to travel.  One of the biggest challenges being the commercial know-how and business acumen to turn talent and skill into products that sell, generate a profit and pay the mortgage.

This was why I founded the Crafted mentoring programme in 2007.  Since then we have supported some fifty makers and, thanks to the time and generosity of our mentors, made an appreciable difference to their sustainability and commercial viability.  Thanks to the incredible support from Vacheron Constantin, we now have another opportunity to celebrate both our makers and the role of craftsmanship in contemporary luxury by staging the Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional showcase for the second year running. Vacheron Constantin’s vision to promote traditional skills is nothing short of inspiring and I am indebted to their patience and understanding that true luxury, just as exceptional making, is a long game and as much about investment as marketing.”

read the fulll piece on line and see details of the exhibition at the RA here