I recently had an interesting experience. Someone liked one of my products, was interested in it, but only wanted to pay me 50% of my price. They said they wanted to support me, but didn’t feel like the product was worth what I was charging. This same person had previously tweeted about the price of another product, publicly saying that his Grandma could make a hat for a few dollars.
Sadly, this view is not uncommon in the handmade world. But what is new here is that it's the first time a “supporter” of mine has raised a question about my prices and by doing so raising questions of the value of my work.
At first, I was taken aback, truly shocked the way a person thought they could haggle prices or devalue my work. While crochet is known as a craft and many people take it up as a mere hobby, I am more than that. I am an indie fashion designer.
Would you walk up to Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, or Ellie Tahari or ANY other designer and haggle? I doubt it. So then why would a person do that with me? It happens too often I tell you. Asking for a discount is commonplace, but haggling is almost insulting.
The most likely truth is that unlike the big names where the labor, research, and toil are publicly known (and sometimes exaggerated) smaller handmade designers aren’t given the recognition for their work. No one sees the behind the scenes of this one woman show, or the small staffed shop so they make assumptions about how “easy” it is to make something. From ideas, to designs, to photo shoots, it's a process. And that doesn't factor the business & backend of it all.
My creations are made from my original designs. I spend a lot of time researching fibers, working with yarn vendors, and testing what works best for each design. Sometimes this process is quick and smooth and other times it is a laborious task with near no end in sight. I work with other designers in collaborations and to grow the community.
Also, in my particular case: Each item is handmade. Hand. Made. Though the bulk of my items are made by me personally, I also employ another crocheter to help me meet my demands in the busy season. Like so many others, I’m running and building a business and a brand in fashion. Materials, workmanship, branding - it all goes into my pricing formula.
Sure, I know you can go to Walmart and buy a knit beanie for $10 and that’s fine because that’s not what I’m selling. That’s not what I’m creating. That's not a hand made piece of wearable art or a handmade accessory. I create cozy, chic, handmade accessories.
I’ve also recognized that not everyone is going to be my customer and that’s okay. But claiming to be a supporter and then turning around and devaluing the work involved in the business is not support. Maybe my items aren't in your budget and I understand that.
I love those who support me by sharing my posts, projects, or sales on their social media pages. The people who poke in to say, "hey, have you ever thought of this__?", and even my friends who simply stand by and say, "great job!" Not every one of my supporters buys my work but NONE of my true supporters devalue it!
But I also want to impart to you that there are so many ways to support someone, to help them grow their business and their brand and it doesn’t always have to be with a purchase (though ideally those are fabulous). Each bit of support is dear to me, and so important to artisans as a whole. I thank everyone who has supported me in their own way over the years.
Because when you buy, or even consider buying handmade, please remember that someone somewhere sat down and made that. And each time an artisan celebrates a success, celebrate with them because you, their support, helped make that.
For those of you out there supporting handmade, in any way you can, thank you. For those of you who haven't, why not start now?