The number of skilled craftspeople is fast declining in the UK, according to this piece from the Independent. Most of the artisans capable of doing advanced handwork needed for haute couture in companies like Burberry Prorsum and Mulberry are over fifty. American Shoemaker Allen Edmonds faces the same problems, says the New York Times. They will either have to hire immigrants or send the work over to China, which they have always worried would mean compromising on quality, since the emphasis is on mass production here.
Interestingly enough, here in Beijing at Senli and Frye, we could be facing the same problem in the future. The small group of artisans that crafts our suits are all over forty. This reflects both China’s status as a low-cost manufacturer of assembly-line type goods and the career aspirations of younger craftspeople. Of course there are young tailors in China but they tend to either work for a big company or start their own business. At the same time, most young people in fields related to fashion prefer the lofty road of design to being an artisan. As I search for companies here in China that could produce a shoe line for us, I am constantly reminded that there are only big factories. Smaller specialty or high-end shoe crafters like Allen Edmonds are hard to fine. I will be learning more about this in the future.