The Power Of Purpose: How Crafted Society Is Creating 'Luxury For Good'
Amongst all the innovation in social impact happening across business, luxury is not one category that intuitively seems ripe for potential. But one intrepid company in Amsterdam, Crafted Society, is trying to change all that, with its unique model blending centuries-old craftsmanship in their products with a new-wave passion for creating positive social impact in a movement they call 'Luxury for Good'. Afdhel Aziz: Martin, please tell us about the genesis of Crafted Society and what the purpose of the brand is?
Martin Johnston: For as long as I know, I had always harbored a desire to launch my own brand. In agreement with my wife Lise, who also harbored the desire to build our own dream, we agreed to go for it. From the very first brainstorm at our kitchen table, we knew exactly what we wanted to make. Beautiful, handcrafted products made by the best craftsmen & women we could find, in the country we had both fallen in love with many years earlier, Italy. We had no brand name, no direct contacts to the mythical artisans, limited knowledge of the language, but an abundance of passion for seeing if we could get our dream to become a reality.
It dawned upon Lise and myself, that exquisite craftsmanship was facing a serious threat of extinction, even in Italy, the country that has that global stamp of approval on quality and craftsmanship. If the masters that are left cannot pass their decades of knowledge and know-how onto the next generation, that knowledge could be lost forever.
In-between driving between one artisan factory and another, we were talking in the car about the situation and I mentioned to Lise that we needed to do what we could to preserve a crafted society otherwise our own children and grandchildren may never be able to appreciate the beauty of excellence. She said to me “say that again”? It was here that our brand name was born. We adopted a set of principles which were shaped into our brand purpose. We would use the power of transparent craftsmanship to inspire, empower and educate the next generation.Aziz: And how do you bring your social impact to life - what is your focus?
Johnston: Our mission is to use 'Luxury for Good'–we do this through our sustainability, ethical and give back practices.We make handcrafted sneakers, bags, accessories and some apparel. First of all, we adopted a completely transparent modus operandi . We co-brand our products also with the name of the local Italian artisans we work with. We share their stories and contact details on our website. In addition, by embracing transparency we also disclose our secondary and tertiary suppliers of components and raw materials and by doing so we force ourselves to work with sustainable materials and processes.
Because we also believe that business should be used as a force for good, we wanted to add a give-back component to the brand. We pledge 1% of retail revenues (again more transparent than profits) back to help create educational opportunities for the next generation to be educated and learn the skills of craftsmanship. When we launched we partnered with a variety of non-profits who are all focused on providing access to quality education for children in need, ranging from InterCampus - the social responsibility arm of FC Inter Milan, Harmony House (Educating the slum kids of New Delhi) and Favela United (providing the opportunity for play and education to the street kids of Mupata in Mozambique). Moving forward, however, our acute focus will be to work on scholarship programs where we pair people in need directly with our multiple artisans to pass the knowledge to the next generation while providing people in need with much-needed jobs and hope for a better life.
Aziz: That is terrific. Tell us about the wider idea of 'Luxury for Good' and what it means to you?Johnston: Luxury, in general, has traditionally been about secrecy, exclusivity, hierarchy and for the elite from a purchasing perspective. 'Luxury for Good' is our approach towards democratising luxury to become transparent, inclusive, collaborative and for those who aspire towards community rather than individuality. We have been inspired to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with goal #4 providing access to quality education for all, the key goal which we support.
'Luxury for Good' acts as our barometer for ultimate success. It is our own internal check and balance for ensuring that our brand and business continues to serve others in a fair and ethical manner while preserving our footprint as a responsible business towards the environment. Luxury for Good is our commitment to transparency, ethics, sustainability, and social responsibility. It is now ingrained as our mission for how we are growing our brand yet it is an open forum for others to also join and embrace. We want other luxury brands to join us to make our total efforts more impactful because Millennials who will control luxury consumer spending over the next 10-20years demand everything we have signed up for within Luxury for Good.
There are many brands who are giving something back or focusing on sustainability but the real game changer comes with transparency. By adopting completely transparent business practices, we give our fans open information for them to make an educated purchase. Our hope is that other luxury houses will also choose for transparency and by doing so this will support the larger macro issue of providing valuable education to our next generation for society to be able to make informed and educated decisions to help progress mankind and our planet.
By Afdhel Aziz