If you lock up a human being for long enough, nature takes over and madness sets in. We are, as they say, inherently social creatures. Despite the quiet protests of introverts and hermits, our survival depends largely on a deep feeling of community, an emotional and physical closeness that exists only through constant contact with others. “Of course,” you may say, while clicking “buy” in your bedroom for clothes and groceries online.
We have reached an age of peak ease. We’ve become accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it, but not knowing where it came from, or at what cost. This, of course, is not a particularly fresh observation. Most people understand the faceless faults of our consumer society. And yet it’s so easy to forget how nice it all could be.
I spent the past weekend at an always-fantastic touring smorgasbord of menswear and well-designed delights, The Pop Up Flea. It’s described as a “short-term shop for long-term goods”, and that’s about right. The guys behind “the Flea” set up camp in a city (so far this year: New York, Detroit, Tokyo and London), and invite great brands to pack up a trunk full of their wares and come and have fun. The idea is to meet, hang out and talk shop with the guys and gals behind the stuff you wear. Like the old days. Just ask your grandfather.
The brothers behind Billykirk were there, showing their leather bags, belts and wallets, made in part with a group of Pennsylvania-based Amish artisans. Pete from denim wizards Tellason flew in from San Francisco to meet fans of his brand, as did Chris from Belfast-based Loft Trading and others.
On next week’s episode of The Entrepreneurs on Monocle 24, I meet the team behind British bespoke masters Gieves & Hawkes, a wonderful brand with a storied history. But The Pop Up Flea and events such as Makegood Festival prove you no longer need big bucks for a chance to meet your maker.
Trends in the food industry are on a similar track. The French-based Food Assembly craze is spreading across Europe, reinventing the time-old farmers’ market by allowing consumers to bypass large chains and purchase food directly from the producer.
And even e-retailers are catching on. Boticca.com acts as a global marketplace where customers can discover the stories behind fashion accessories before purchasing them directly from designers. Sites such as Etsy, of course, have steadily provided a 1-to-1 connection with designers and makers for years. And Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to bankroll the operations themselves.
It’s mighty difficult to tear down our system of mass production, and nor would that even be a good thing. But we can certainly tear down a few bricks here and there. Solid face time, thoughtful stories and a personal touch make all the difference. The best entrepreneurs have known this all along.
Daniel Giacopelli produces and presents ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle 24.