Americans have rediscovered a passion for handcrafted goods and artisan products. Bartenders are crafting elaborate drinks with small batch bitters and locally distilled liquors. Makers are hand-turning furniture and foraging ingredients for handcrafted perfume. Cobblers, weavers, watchmakers, and other craftsmen are outfitting us from head to toe.
But one generation in particular is driving this trend: millennials. They crave authentic experiences; they choose to spend their income on purchases that reflect their values; and they are more likely to frequent local shops in their neighborhood than the big box store at the traditional mall. The result: a flourishing artisan community is growing in cities all across the nation, including here in L.A.
The return of the American artisan is on my mind because one of my favorite millennials, my son Gregory, traveled the country to interview American makers and craftsmen for his documentary, Making the American Man. Since then, I have been meeting with local makers here in LA…and even enticing some of them to Caruso Affiliated properties, such as the Malibu native Vintage Grocers, a curated, locally sourced, community-minded grocer.
The resurgence of small producers isn’t just news for boutiques and farmers’ markets. The biggest names in retail are paying attention and asking how they can be part of the movement, too. The North Face is bringing back its Backyard Project, which aimed to “grow and sew” products within 150 miles of its headquarters. Nordstrom and Whole Foods hired local artisans for the holidays to handcraft items to sell in stores. Etsy is moving its once digital-only sellers to retail stores, while Amazon is poised to launch a handmade marketplace of its own.
Behind all of this is a simple truth: today’s customer is looking for a high-quality product, a fulfilling experience and a meaningful connection to the seller. With a little help from America’s artisan movement, that’s something every major retailer can provide.