D*S Radio: The Cost of Independent Design

by Grace Bonney

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This week’s episode of After the Jump was inspired by comments I’ve seen on blogs and social media lately. Under photographs of handmade work, especially work made here in the U.S., I’ve noticed people becoming increasingly vocal about price points and how upset they are that handmade work or goods made domestically are expensive. While I understand that some people will never understand or accept price points above a certain level, I was concerned that there was a missing link here, or some information that would at least let these customers understand why products made in the U.S. and by hand cost more than the things sold at big box stores.

The same movement that happened in the food world that lead to people understanding the importance of organic food and shopping/eating locally has yet to find the same foothold in design. People are tempted by “fast fashion” and the low price points of huge box stores because they are affordable and easy. But those low prices and ease of purchase often come with bigger consequences and costs that people may not know about. So today I interviewed Claire Mazur, co-founder of Of a Kind, and Kathryn Fortunato of Lizzie Fortunato Jewels. These two women have an enormous amount of experience and information about the cost of independent design, from the cost of goods and labor to the reason prices for independent, domestically-produced goods need to be priced higher to support artists and create sustainable businesses.

This is quite simply my favorite show we’ve recorded all year. The information and conversations taking place during this 30 minute show are the beginning of a much bigger movement, one I hope we will all be a part of, that hopefully will lead to people thinking more about what they buy, how often they buy, and the circumstances behind the goods they’re purchasing. I am so grateful to both Kathryn and Claire for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us today, it was incredibly eye-opening and I hope all of you listening will feel as inspired as I did to be a smarter, more conscientious and understanding shopper. Shopping can still be fun and lighthearted and spur of the moment, but when there’s a greater understanding about the people behind everything we bring into our lives, we have the opportunity to make a real impact with our dollar and help the people and communities we care most about. Thank you again to Claire and Kathryn for joining me on-air today. xo, grace

LISTEN: You can download the podcast on iTunes here, or stream it here on Heritage Radio

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  • I am so grateful for DS and After the Jump, Grace and crew. Every week I listen, I am so excited about the topic. You really know how to cover things that are important to artists/designers/makers. I look forward to this week’s topic on my drive today. Thanks so much for all you do!

  • Loved this episode. I’m going to have to listen to it, a second time, to make sure I’ve absorbed all of the nuggets of wisdom and information shared!

  • I am so happy that this topic was covered. The re-assurance to keep the price point high is very important for all of us who put lots of hours and efforts on designing and bringing something unique to people. I made unique candles and very often I hear that my price point is high. But then when I explain when it took me to make that piece then people are more aware. It is all of us to re-educate people that if they would like a unique design and quality product in their place, that they will need to pay for it.
    Again many thanks DS and hopefully more topics will be covered by you on what’s the best strategy and process to re-educate people and better undesratnd that handmade products take time and effort and of course will be more expensive compare to what you get in big stores.

  • Thank you for a great interview with these excellent, influential, talented guests! It’s amazing to hear thoughts on this topic from both retailer and designer/maker at once – rounded off by a host who knows the independent design world so intimately. The questions were amazing…The answers were illuminating and encouraging. And, amen on the loose pants! : )

  • Another amazing episode – I look forward to this show every week. I felt like I could have listened to them both speak for much longer – they had great insights and perspective on the handmade movement. Perhaps you’ll consider having them back in the near future.

  • Loved this episode. Especially the deep dive on a look behind the business with a focus on cost/pricing. I don’t remember who said it, but I totally agree about the value of simply discussing business with other like minded individuals. SO important and a major reason why I mastermind with other smart, creative women. Great work!

  • Yes, thanks for helping to spread this kind of information. I think since the 80s we have become so used to cheap, mass-manufactured goods that it’s hard for some to see why independent, small-scale designs cost more (and are WORTH more).