The idea for Crafted Society was founded by Lise Bonnet & Martin Johnston in 2016. The husband and wife fashion duo wanted to pursue a lifelong dream of fusing their passion for design and exquisitely crafted lifestyle products with their personal commitment to inspire their two children while giving something back to society.
In 2015, Martin decided to quit his job and together with Lise, they embarked on a sabbatical trip to India to visit a charity project in the slums of New Delhi. They saw first hand how a little can go a long way and were deeply inspired and impacted by the trip. They knew immediately that they wanted to put positive social impact at the heart of what they would later create in their own business.
The day the duo decided to walk the entrepreneurial path, they knew exactly what they wanted to create and where. Limited edition, handcrafted sneakers, bags and accessories all made in the country that had stolen their heart; Italy.
The small question was by whom? They set out to work with the very best artisans Italy had to offer, but finding them was not easy, mainly because luxury houses are extremely secretive about their manufacturing partners, and manufacturing partners usually sign strict confidentiality agreements with the labels and are forbidden to market themselves based on their client base. This intense secrecy would, however, inspire them to do things differently.
As 2016 came around and armed with just passports and a large dose of passion to move the project forward, the pair left for Italy in search of the mythical artisans. With a little help from their friends, it wasn’t long before they found themselves in Tuscany being introduced to Lanificio Arca, a family-run, luxury textile weaver on the outskirts of Florence, who have been weaving cashmere and cashmere blends on antique shuttle looms for the past 70 years. From Tuscany, they headed to Le Marche and met with the shoemakers at IFG and hat makers from Sorbatti before discovering the denim tailors of Laboratorio Imjit35020 nestled away in a sleepy village in Veneto.
Master artisans did exist after all.
Over the course of several months, the pair went back and forth, visiting the artisans frequently to learn more about excellence and craftsmanship, their own history and more importantly, their challenges. While listening intently it occurred that all master artisan's faced one particular key challenge. They were all struggling to identify, train and develop the next generation of artisan, mainly due to their anonymous existence.
They operate within an industry which hides behind conformity & secrecy and one that has banished the real heroes to the shadows. They are floating within a viscous circle, a circle that requires courage to break, because if they do not break with convention, they will face the real threat to their actual existence in the years to come. It was time to return the economic scales between brand and maker back to equilibrium while celebrating the poetry which their hands continue to create.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” - Socrates
What had begun as frustration turned out to become the driving force hurtling them towards a bigger purpose for Crafted Society. By combining their own values with decades of fashion industry experience they had finally arrived at a hypothesis.
What if, albeit, rather counter-intuitively, they could build a new-luxury brand by going against the grain and challenging convention? They decided to put purpose on a higher pedestal than profit and embraced a transparent approach which so many of the companies the duo had previously worked for had shied away from. They set out with an ambitious (some close to them would go as far to say 'crazy') goal to democratise luxury by creating an association with a new set of values such as inclusivity, transparency, collaboration, participation and fair.
Traditional Luxury is opaque and the practice of secrecy was previously successful in creating allure, desire and mystique which would ultimately justify the overly exaggerated price points. But in today's world, the new generation is simply not buying it, and are beginning to push back in greater numbers.
Socially conscious consumers are demanding strict ethical protocol towards both people and planet while challenging businesses to live up to their marketing claims through transparency. A logo with a very expensive price tag is just not enough for fact-thirsty millennials who first want to fall in love with a brand's values before they fall in love with their products.
Luxury without craftsmanship is not luxury in our opinion and the luxury industry without master artisans' will ultimately lead to the demise of the industry as we know it. Artisans' are a central pillar for craftsmanship, and finding a solution for their greatest challenge is at the core of why this brand was started.
Simply put, Crafted Society's purpose is:
"To use the power of transparent craftsmanship to inspire, empower and educate the next generation."
This is just the beginning and there is a lot of work ahead to preserve a Crafted Society, but with the brand already resonating with a diverse group of people from all over the world, there are positive signs that, together, we can democratise luxury and the keep the crafts alive for future generations to enjoy them too.
Welcome to our Society!
Lise & Martin