Sunday 17 October 2010

The Far East Challenge

This is a picture of the bag in the making right now. It will be another bubble smocked bag and as you see, it is a fairly complicated process involving seven needles at any given time.

This is the front. It will take about a week to smock the front and then we will still have to make the bag it self.

Last week we got a very friendly convo by the listing of an other smocked bag asking us if we could make that kind of bags for $10. The lady indicated that in that case she might buy five or more.
It is not every day that you get such overwhelming offers, but I had to tell her to try her luck by our colleagues in the Far East.

What brings me by the problem- or shall I call it challenge?- of our competitors in the Far East.
The market for bags is even more difficult than the market for custom jewelry. While the rich and beautiful choose to spend thousands to buy a brand bag, the regular customer wants them cheap.
And, lets be honest, at the Far East, very good bags are being made, often of leather and with a gazillion zippers and other details well above of what we can offer for that price. In fact, the thousands dollars brand bags are also made in the Far East!

I don't resent the far eastern sellers on Etsy, as long as they are not copying others and as long as their product is well made. Cheap labour does not mean bad labour per se and that people also have to eat and make a living like the rest of us. I think that every one of us buys once in a while from the Far East when is convenient, so let's not cry when we are the seller.

The question remains, how to compete? Is there a market for painstakingly made bags that necessarily cost a bit more? Creating a niche for yourself is easier said than done!
What are your ideas and opinions in the matter? Let us know!


  1. I prefer one off handmade everything is a great and beautiful luxury and a treat ....
    I prefer to wait until it is possible to buy the exact piece I love than just to quickly get something which is ...ok ...but not quite loved...

    I think there is a market

    but maybe a bit more secret...

    those smocked bags are amazing

    and I notice the things you make dont fall apart in one season !!!

    I utterly adore my sea installation sculptures you made ... theyre wonderful and made me survive my city life !

    I think the only way to compete is word of mouth by folk who have bought pieces from you and know the quality and craftsmanship and painstaking love that goes into each of your works of art.


  2. Tough question Estella.
    I think that we cannot and should not compete with bags (or jewelry or clothing) made in India or China or elsewhere.

    I also think that we work for a niche market which is kind of middle-middle and upper-middle class market, whose members can afford to buy handmade, but most importantly they are open to handmade or fair trade or local crafters.

    I do not think we can help this fact at the moment: things will not change concerning mass production and prices, but attitudes can change VERY slowly.

  3. It's a really tough question, without any easy answers. Word of mouth is probably one of the only things that good sellers on Etsy have, that manufacturers in the Far East do not. But it certainly takes a lot of work and patience to let a production blossom this way.

  4. This is a real teaser.
    And I don't know any answers.
    So I gave up to hope to earn for living selling hand made...

  5. very tough question indeed. Personally I don't think we can compete with the east. I am quite pessimistic about it; don't think it's possible to earn real money with handmade in Europe. The only very small change you have is that you are discovered by Lagerfeld and co....

  6. We can't compete that's a fact, but we hope for customers that appreciate the work we make of our handmade items and the love we put in. If only we could let people participate in the handmade process because eg. we demonstrate how we make them, well I think they would buy more easily. We can only hope that the niche of persons that buy handmade is growing steady (but slowly).

  7. I have thought of this question before as well. The best we can do is to make our bags as unique as possible so they stand out from the crowd. Quality fabrics and unique designs are harder to copy. In that case, you got in figured out since your bags are definitely one-of-a-kind beauties!

  8. Oh yes, I also wanted to say that your smocking is amazing!! Can't wait to see the finished creation!