Handmade in Germany: Extending the German Reputation for Quality


Image: handmade-in-germany
Made with Class, Not in Mass
Made in Germany. The label initially required for protectionist ends has become recognized worldwide as a hallmark of quality. Now, an initiative started by German manufacturers plans to extend the concept to high quality products that are made by hand. Think Burmester Audio Systems, custom fit carpentry, handmade shoes, fine fountain pens. Could this be a return to high quality products that last and induce happiness by their quality rather than by consumption in quantity?The Roots of Manufacturing
The word manufacture comes from the roots "hand" (manu) and "to make" (facture). Handmade-in-Germany wants to bring the significance of products produced with a human touch back to the concept of manufacturing.

Not just any hand-workers can stamp "handmade in Germany" on their products. Membership in the association is judged by a number of weighted factors. But 60% of the weighting requires that the goods sold be manufactured by hand, or predominantly by hand, at a German location. Additional criteria include having ideally more than ten employees, selling to multi-regional customers, and presenting both a quality product as well as the image of a German factory.

Too Expensive to Kill the Consumer Economy?
Shoes by Gundlack are made to measure, using traditional shoe making techniques. But at a reported cost of 2000 euros (US $2500), is this an antidote to our consumer culture, or just another luxury product? Well, two thoughts vie to keep up optimism. First, a lot of movements that eventually reach the middle class start in the luxury segment.

Second, a high quality handmade product will cost between 10 and 100 times what a mass produced practically disposable product costs. But imagine a society where we own two pairs of shoes for decades instead of 20 pairs of shoes lasting only a pair of years each. With resoling and the kind of maintenance that a high quality pair of shoes rewards with an even more elegant patina, a good pair of shoes can go a long way. And the made-to-measure shoe will prevent foot, leg, and back pains, lowering medical costs. OK, the example is extreme. But paying more for a quality product is the first step away from a disposable or over-consuming mentality.

Making Jobs
More importantly, handmade quality products solve one of the major issues with trying to stop the consumption bandwagon: if everyone stops consuming, the economy will collapse. Handmade goods keep hands busy. The same amount of money flows in economic circles, but it is distributed to working people rather than to capitalists who can afford to finance the expensive automated equipment churning out cashmere sweaters that pill at the first wearing or plastic plates lucky to serve a single use before disposal.

More on Handmade:
Green Eyes On: Handmade Gifts for the Holidays
Green Eyes On: Handmade Gifts for the Holidays
Etsy Debuts Handmade Kids Series, Treehugger Reviews
Luxury, Recycled Glass Ornaments and Gifts Handmade by Annieglass

Tags: Advertising | Consumerism | Corporate Responsibility

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