Some may say the luxury industry is a victim of its own success. In a consumption-driven world, luxury items have become so mainstream and accessible that they have gone a long way towards losing their exclusivity.

It’s no wonder then that many high-end companies are turning to craftsmanship and traditional production methods as a way to distinguish their brands. Consumers, too, are beginning to see the value of how much time and passion went into the creation of a product, and how much skill was required to conceive that item.

The South African creative landscape is no exception. We speak to eight local companies and designers whose hands-on approach to production is spearheading the craft revival. These makers are creating unique, authentic, tactile, and sustainable products, with which the buyer cannot help but experience a personal relationship. They are defining craft as the new luxury.

Image: Sean Laurénz

Clothing has always had a place in the life of Amy Venter, founder of ethical clothing brand, Jane Sews. “I have memories of sitting with my mom in her sewing room while she made clothes for us,” she says. “When I grew older, I scoured vintage shops, and was constantly wanting to pull apart old pieces of clothing and somehow make them new again.”

It was only when Venter studied fashion and decided to make clothes for a living that she started sewing herself. “I really enjoyed it, but I quickly learnt that if I wanted to get to the end of my to-do list, I would need to lean on others and learn from them.”

This notion kick-started Venter’s search for a network of artisans, masters of their craft who could help actualise Jane Sews’ clothing, footwear, and accessories. And it’s this network that she now sees as the heartbeat of her company.

“I often refer back to older techniques, as I feel that when people had more time they used to put more care into products,” Venter says. Each Jane Sews product requires different skills, and whether she’s making leather boots or a woolen coat, Venter takes pains to identify the right artisan for the job. “We focus on the small things, like French seams to reinforce your garments, or lining leather footwear in soft nappa leather, processes that have largely fallen away in modern production,” she says.

Venter has found the relationships with her suppliers inspiring, as many of them had previously become resigned to working in an industry focused on shortcuts and chasing the bottom line. “We have a different approach,” she says.

“We ask how much value we can add to a piece, and this is extremely rewarding for our makers.”

Jane Sews is a proponent of the slow fashion movement, and the #choosecare and #whomademyclothes campaigns, and the brand believes the most sustainable thing it can do is create a product with longevity. “Each product is engineered to be long-lasting, which is why we refer back to the traditional way of making things,” Venter says. “We reference the past to preserve our future.”

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