Our co-president Joan Shifrin was approached by writers at the Smithsonian to give a quote about the meaning and importance of authenticity in commerce. Take a look below to read about what we consider when partnering with our artisans to bring you the most authentic products possible!
From the buyer's perspective, 1) how would you define authenticity? and 2) how important is authenticity for you when you're sourcing products?
In the world of commerce, language can quickly become inverted and the meaning obscured when the goal is promotional. This has been especially evident recently as the appeal of artisan products has gained a hold among mass marketers. Words such as green, artisan, sustainable, to name just a few, become almost meaningless when overused to the extent that they have been in the past several years. In their truest form, however, these words do hold meaning at Global Goods Partners. And, while we use these terms at times to promote the GGP brand, we strive to demonstrate authenticity—rather than claim it—through the model by which we operate in the artisan sector.
For GGP, authenticity means that the producer group is locally organized, raw materials are locally sourced, artisans are trained in techniques specific to their region or culture, and designs are locally inspired. As a nonprofit social enterprise, GGP’s mission is to help build the operational capacity of our partners so they can provide secure living-wage jobs to the trained artisans with which they work. We believe that the authenticity of the products our partners produce constitutes the inherent value of an artisan’s skills and a product’s value.
While “handmade” is the foundation on which the GGP brand is built, authenticity is one of several considerations on which we evaluate prospective partnerships. We are realists and know that to expand the market for our partners’ products, we have to adapt to the fickle and ever-changing market place in which we operate. We always insist on handmade and endeavor to ensure that each product meets three of the four criteria for authenticity. For example, we recognize that the range of textiles produced in Rwanda may require our partner there to buy fabric in India; that Khamak, the indigenous form of embroidery in Afghanistan, will sell more when applied to jewelry than to traditional table linen; and that the brilliant colors used in traditional Guatemala weavings need to be toned down for the American marketplace.
How important is authenticity in a product to you? How do you feel these values have affected the modern market? Comment below or tweet us at @GlobalGoods to let us know!