The decline of the craft market in wearables

15 January 2007

When one looks at an individual craftsman one can always invent some reason why their business has declined (not enough new stuff, only party clothes,….) but if one looks at their vendors one can can get a bigger view of the market.
I’ve talked to two silk vendors that service the wearable artists. Both agree that there has been a drastic downturn in the market since 9/11. One said last year sales were down by 20% and that it had been like that since 9/11. Asked how much of that was due to artists, she said that she didn’t know the overall decrease was for all– artists, fabric stores and manufactures. One new trend is the delivery of silk to overseas locations.
The other silk vendor said it all started 9/12 when everyone cancelled their orders. The silk was on the boat (it takes long lead times to get silk from China) and they had three quarters of a million dollars of silk that it took a some years to liquidate. They say that artists that used to buy $25 000-$40 000 each year have gotten out of business an now just buy $1 000 in a year. They now have a additional new, different, business that consumes half of their efforts.
To me this is even more telling than the loss of one of the artists. These vendors sell to all tiers of the crafts market and to people who do many techniques and all over the country.


3 Responses to “The decline of the craft market in wearables”

  1. glennis Says:

    hmmmm… so by overseas locations do they mean places like australia, UK, & europe? silk shibori and handpainted silk artists seem to pop up in those places. as for $40M in silk scarves a year.. that’s a lot of darm scarves/silk to process by hand for an artist. that definitely falls into the MFG catagory for me. maybe i think too small…
    maybe some of the artists have graduated into doing higher end, more involved items- less volumn-more quality?
    i saw a shibori/tie dye kit at micheals that included a silk scarf.
    so, yes, they are selling to all tiers of markets.
    artists/makers have had to adapt- it’s what we do….


  2. Karren Says:

    I understood that these were small clothing designers now starting to manufacture overseas too, China, India, Thiland would be my guess.
    I think that we only sell to one tier of the market at each show.
    The most accessible tier is is unjuried shows like street fairs and festivals. You pay your money, set up and put your wares in front of the public. Very democratic. But the public is hot and sweaty, dressed casually and not looking for a expensive silk scarf.
    Then there are juried shows, indoors or outdoors, that are relativity easy to get in. These may have a huge attendance but I would guess that most individual items sell for modest prices. Ann Arbor comes to mind.
    Then there are the very competitive shows, all held indoors in major urban area. The Smithsonian Craft Show usually has 100 applicants for each space in the show. There are few articles for sale under $100.


  3. len Says:

    these days, i think it really depends on the product. if you look at the success of stores like and the like
    where young people are paying $200+ for designer wares, many handmade by young designers–it’s about image. if you can find a famous person to wear your product, you’re set because then it becomes “trendy” and ‘kids’ flock to buy it.
    i don’t know the target market for luxury silk scarves, but in this age of online shopping anyone can setup a chic online boutique and and sell just about anything. Doesn’t the problem just come down to marketing and finding the right(?) clientele?


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