Ahhh! There is just such sweet delicious tension between the words 'Manufacturing' and 'LUXURY'. Ain't it? Luxury is never manufactured - Luxury is crafted by skilled individuals....
[BIG EDIT] - This entry is written from a 'capitalist perspective'; I read a book 'Crashed', written recently by a British historian - it documents the meltdown that occurred in 2008 on Wallstreet; it has dramatically altered my perception of wealth and equality] - which I believe is the main driver of our society - art and design follow. I think there are numerous, numerous, easy examples of this idea - money driving art - money driving design; IKEA Hacking is popular because it is CHEAP. No class of citizen, in my experience, has refused savings of a good IKEA Hack. That is its main attraction - it is cheaper, I just simply add the aspect of 'Design or Art'.
As cliche I it may sound, but I have worked across the entire section of our society.
I worked for single mothers who wrote me this breath taking e-mail telling me that they love my work, and admire my work principles and crafty attitude. They are renovating but they can't afford me - they have been burnt out by cheap shady trades and they just want a quality affordable kitchen. Hey! I got two feet and a heart - I extended her 0% credit for 6 months - she bought the kitchen and I installed. She then took a year to pay off the balance, I still charged no interest. I think sometimes it is important to recognize how to create 'maximum value in society'. I reduced stress in her life and in her child's life. My company did not collapse because I got paid so late; I made a great friend, I still occasionally advise her on her home projects [that's the advantage! - once a customer you are always a customer - free advice for life! hahaha! shhh.... it is a secret.]
I worked for Ivy League educated lawyers who create complex financial instruments and have seen my work in a friend's home. Why did they hire me? 'It's cheaper and he does nice design' - for realz, that's it.
The ONLY barrier to my work is simply because you have not heard of me.
CHapter 2 - THE EXPERIMENT
So about a year ago - I want to say - there was an advert that rippled thru the Toronto design community. It was something special - 'a dream design position'. That's right, you read that right - a DREAM design position, that is the exact wording that was used in the advert!.
It was DREAM enough that I considered applying - before I reconsidered.
So what was this 'Dream Design Position'*? So there is this one design millwork company that I would consider quite reputable to work for; the owner is doing well and is a bit of a visionary but also a businessman; the company has a very generous budget to develop new ideas and it is well equipped with cutting edge in-house manufacturing technology. Those three points, put together, set the stage for THE EXPERIMENT: To design a new line of successful luxury furniture
Now, back in the good ole' days [say the 40's or 70's or even 80's!] that was simple. Your piece had to have those three magic ingredients - 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'. It had to be made of precious resources that at least 2 individuals lost their lives extracting the material [BLOOD] - so say 2 lives were lost while the log was pulled out of the jungle; one was crushed by the log itself, the other life was lost eaten by a tiger; [SWEAT] it was a skilled blue-collar worker that manufactured the piece - the manufacturing facility was hot and humid, and there was no AC; the piece produced was a culmination of this man's lifetime of experience; [TEARS] - the final price had to be lowered by $200 to make the sale; the salesman cried as he would take home $200 less that day.
Then, more and more, actual 'design content' of the piece of furniture started playing a role. Corporate began to bleed into the residential - architects doing most impressive American Architecture would often design furniture - for sale or personal. Manufacturing was still based in North America so the jobs were here - and for some reputable companies it makes sense to remain in North America; I mean you can't truly imagine Herman Miller made in China, can you**? Can you really have a discussion about luxury being manufactured in China - a land so foreign to North American woodworking culture? This not to say that China cannot make good quality furniture - today fabrication techniques are identical on both sides of the ocean.
I come from behind the Iron Curtain - if you catch this reference. I grew up in a socialist Poland and am acutely aware of what it means if there is a shortage of meat or sugar. Or you only have access to local markets - yea, like 'shop 100 mile radius' for furniture'. In fact even furniture used to be rationed - TRUE STORY - my mother had to summon 4 strangers from the street outside a Polish furniture store so she could buy enough outdoor chairs for our family; there was a limit of 2 chairs per customer. NO JOKES! That is how is was at the peak of communism!*** You wanted the outside goods - that was luxury.
Imagine how the situation reversed.
Today it is considered luxury [price point] to purchase locally made, locally sourced products - offshoring products has really put an imbalance on pricing. The capitalist world NEEDS to be ahead of the curve to realize profits - government policies must be known in advance to steer capital accordingly. If I want to thank Donald Trump for accelerating the shift to new, more local sourcing then let it be.
But here is the thing. The capital is returning to a land of low wages, and even lower purchasing power. **** I saw a project few days ago - an AXSTAD kitchen! first one for me! I will make it look like a million buck$! - and the owner said he got quotes for anything between 40 and 60 thousand dollars for his kitchen. Do you understand now why IKEA hacking will experience NON STOP growth? He said the contractors he considered were all dismissive of IKEA - they felt threatened by it. And given the flexibility of the SEKTION system you can design - ON A BUDGET - very spectacular designs. Essentially you want to take that kitchen out of the IKEA kitchen planner - throw in some dimensions to make it different - go for some lower cost upgrades like crowns, or feet - 'Oh you like that look of deVOL kitchens? Well there is an easy way to achieve that look with a 1" filler....'.
[To Be COntinued]
*I did not screen-shot the Insta post, which in hind-sight I should have done.
**Ha! But that doesn't mean that we now do not have knock-offs! I once saw a replica of a Barcelona chair in a large super market chair flyer advertised for $200! Barcelona chair is licensed to Knoll, which last time I checked charges more than $6k for it. With markets opening up, China 'peacefully rising' it made sense for capital to move offshore and generate higher profits. I once did a beautiful IKEA Hack for a dentist who had a knock off of the Eames chaise-lounge so good, that at a distant first glance had me fooled. I congratulated him on his good taste, at which he point he blushed and admitted that it is a knock off.
***Listen, I'm not complaining as a 10 year old child I rode a 50cc motorcycle to pick up milk, not wearing a helmet, with no insurance. So there were pluses and minuses.
**** which actually means automation, unfortunately; check out this IKEA warehouse that is straight out of the movie The Matrix.