Originally Posted by shoefan
I don't believe I said it was a good thing. It is what it is, for better or for worse. If you are charged with running a publicly held company, it is generally, though not universally, accepted that the goal of a company is to maximize shareholder wealth; after all, you are employed by the shareholders, who want you to make them money. I would say there are many goods things about capitalism and shareholder-owned, limited liability legal entities, though certainly there are many downsides as well. Do you own stocks or equity mutual funds? If so, why? What are you hoping they will do for you?
Yes, it is what it is...and I don't have a problem with that except as regards deception and pretense. When a RTW GYW company promotes themselves as offering the "finest made shoes in all of Daneland" (sic) or using "traditional methods that have always resulted in the finest quality shoes," it is plainly deception or willful blindness.
Beyond that, whatever it is, it is demonstrably different not only in underlying assumptions and philosophies...as well as results...but also different than when Job One is ensuring the finest quality regardless of the cost of labour or materials or cost of production.
Different...Joseph Heller said in his novel Catch 22
that if you have flies in your eyes, you can't see that you have flies in your eyes.
I like the intellectual discussion as well but I think we often don't understand how pervasive the factory mentality is and how hard it is to shed it. When you accept the premise that you have to compromise quality in order to run a successful business or that stockholders' interests are paramount, you've already lost the battle. You've got flies in our eyes.
More to my point -- making the wrong decision about lowering quality in exchange for lower costs can be a bad decision. It's not all about figuring out how to make products as cheaply as possible.
If you start out with the assumption that making a profit is Job One or that you have to answer to the stockholders, all your decisions will be the wrong ones as it regards objective quality. But you'll never agree...never see that, because you got flies in your eyes (foundation assumptions that you cannot abandon).
[PS...I am using a generic "you" in most of this--nothing personal]
But isn't that in incredibly inegalitarian view? I mean, should it be that everyone should either wear hand made/hand welted shoes or go barefoot? Surely in products that are based on traditional skills, you don't buy those made by your analogues exclusively? I mean, do you buy only handwoven clothing (I am sure you could)? Local, farm-grown food? Hand laid paper or parchment? Hand-cut fountain pens? etc. etc.
There is fundamentally nothing egalitarian in my views (I am not, in any way PC) -"Good, better, best," remember?
Personally and professionally, I don't think you can be a craftsman or an artisan and harbour egalitarian views, esp. not in that context. You have to be able to "see," recognize, and acknowledge "good better best" simply to be honest with yourself and be objectively self-critical without being defensive.
I don't believe everyone should be wearing bespoke handwelted shoes...just those who seek excellence and are willing to make acquiring a pair (or two) their Job One. Or those who prattle on about quality but really don't know what it is, what is involved and have no real interest in finding out.
However, parenthetically, you (and all makers) make choices about where along the quality/cost spectrum you want to fall. Why not grow your own linen, or go to Holland and source some long-staple linen fibers and have them spun into linen thread. You could do it, though at great expense. Why not hand stitch, at 24spi, all your uppers? I believe you could do it, though again it would make your shoes much more expensive.
I think it is a pretty sophistry, but not much else. IRL, a good craftsman is
self-critical and does
know his own limits. That said, any good craftsman will tell you he has looked at and even experimented with just such extremities. that's one of the ways I know for certain that no one is the world is making long staple linen...unless we dumb down our definition of "long staple" from nature's own 36" staple to the default 4" staple in long staple linen. It's one of the reasons I am open to and actually do hand stitching...not at 24spi...or try my hand at channel stitching, etc.. And it's one of the reasons I say with great certainty that no modern production process in shoemaking in the last 150 years has advanced the Trade or the "Art and Mysterie" or made a better shoe than was, and can be, made using Traditional techniques.
I never suggested that, nor would I. The issue is not whether adherence to traditional methods and standards is a good idea for a craftsman; I think it is admirable. I am merely pointing out that other methods (e.g. 'factory') don't inherently involve the corrupting influence that you believe is the inevitable consequence of those methods. That is a very different point.
Yet no one has ever shown me, nor in 45+ years of making and even repairing, have I ever seen anything to contradict that view. Simply put, all other things being equal, Traditional methods and Traditional materials will yield a better shoe every time. IMO. People can allude to cars and watches and computers and so forth but it's specious and moot, as far as I'm concerned. Show me a shoemaking firm where using modern factory methods and adopting a profit / loss sensibility has ever resulted in a better made shoe than the original John Lobb made, for instance.
Well, in my view, you are competing with those firms, by definition, if they make footwear and you make footwear. Prospective customers will contemplate buying from you, from other traditional shoemakers, and also from 'factory' shoemakers, be they HW or GYW.
But I'm not, simply because no one can force me into competing for a certain market nor define the terms of competition for me. I am not competing for the same customers as the RTW firms. That's why I don't need to watch my bottom line. Or worry about what price to charge or whether my prices are in line with the other guys.
In point of fact, i am not even competing with you, or Nicholas Templeman, or any other maker. I am competing with my own self...my own tendency to accept mediocre and "go with the flow". It's "aspirational" rather than competitive. That's one of the big differences between a craftsman's POV and the "factory mentality."
--Edited by DWFII - 2/27/16 at 8:12am