JUDGE FOR YOURSELF©
Regardless of age, gender, income, taste or lifestyle, we all use:
glasses, dishes, flatware, cook/serve-ware and furniture everyday.
Don’t think these everyday essentials ordinary;
they chronicled man’s history long before written words.
The Industrial Revolution gave rise to mass-production
and everyday essentials were affordable and good—
until the 1970’s.
Today’s retail stores and web sites sell both good
and less-than-good quality products but—
all everyday wares ‘look good’ when new!
Most of us can’t discern the differences.
Most of us think we can!
HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT’S GOOD?
After the Great Depression and WWII, America welcomed educated GI’s, baby-boomers, television, suburbia, new schools and shopping centers. A growth cycle seemingly without end brought prosperity for consumers, manufacturers and retailers—and an insightful work ethic prompted designers and manufacturers to make excellent products to complement America’s newly casual lifestyle.
As an art major at Buffalo State and Albright Art School, I learned about Walter Gropius, architect and founder of the Bauhaus, a remarkable art school in Germany. He wrote: “The Bauhaus fights against the cheap substitute, inferior workmanship and dilettantism of the handicrafts for a new standard of quality work”.
His principle guided my life far beyond my job as retail buyer of home products for Berger’s Gift Gallery beginning in 1958.
My domestic wholesale shopping took place in beautifully appointed NYC showrooms where salespersons extolled brand, price and style—which are not designations of quality.
In contrast, European wholesale shopping took me to artisan studios, ateliers and mass-production factories—where technical experts not only stressed quality; they demonstrated how and why “quality is a synthesis of raw materials and production methods”.
I became an EYEWITNESS to Bauhaus standards observing how:
sand becomes glass,
clay becomes dishes,
ore becmes knives, forks, pots and pans,
and wood becomes furniture.
In the 60’s, we ‘sang-along’ with commercial jingles for many brands of toothpaste, laundry soap, cigarettes, etc. right in our living rooms. Brand competition escalated as homes with TV sets escalated. Price wars stirred brand-name production of ‘lesser’—rather than ‘better’ quality everyday essentials.
We became a ‘disposable’ generation. If products weren’t good; we threw them away and bought more, unaware our purchases perpetuated production of more inferior stuff.
The 1970’s brought Vietnam, Watergate, Recession, Inflation & Energy crises. Living in NYC, I began seeing some ‘less-than-good’ home essentials—domestic and imports—in major retail stores. ‘Global Sourcing’, a retailer’s ‘search for style and craftsmanship’, had become a ‘search for cheap’ —and ‘less-than-good’ essentials filled sidewalk garbage collections.
My professional odyssey as retail buyer, designer and professor at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology provided a perfect vantage to observe how economic forces affect the quality of many products; as everyday home essentials continued their decline.
Greed generated competition.
Competition generated endless brands.
Endless brands generated bias!
…….and I remembered:
Hans Christian Andersen warned us about hype and spin in the Emperor’s New Clothes!
Not all everyday essentials are inferior. Some manufacturers maintain excellent standards; others are relatively reliable.
Concern is for the many brands coasting on a good reputation—
no longer deserved. Confidence and loyalty must be earned by
performance, not public relations and promotion.
Okay, what are we to do?
If everything ‘looks good’ when new;
how do we differentiate the quality of these essential wares?
There is no price-to-quality ratio.
Teaching at FIT, I needed authoritative and fundamental standards of quality for a non-textile Product Knowledge class—but found nothing in print!
I’m indebted to the international retail professionals who opened factory doors for me to interview the BEST producers of everyday home essentials. Each manufacturer demanded excellence —from both man and machine. Theirs are the standards of quality I discuss.
FIT students loved learning about early man’s creative utilization of clay, wood and metal ore —but were most amazed by the transmutation of sand into glass. When mothers of students asked to attend my class, I realized all consumers need this unbiased, timeless information— but tenets of quality were no longer in print.
I resisted writing a blog, knowing how thorough the material had to be if it were to help consumers, but so much brand-bias and myth has already spread globally through digital technology and cyberspace. I’m now convinced I must use this same technology to spread timeless standards of quality for products entrusted to me by international experts at the BEST of the hundreds of factories I’ve visited since 1961.
WE KNOW WHAT WE LIKE: HOW DO WE KNOW IF IT’S GOOD?
explains how glasses, dishes, flatware, cookware, serve-ware and furniture originated—and how they’re artisan and mass-produced today.
Inevitably, new technologies and new applications of raw materials will generate new styles of everyday essentials in diverse price ranges. Each will have to be judged for integrity, beauty, validity and the timeless quality standards discussed in this blog.
Apply the appropriate, specific standards of quality for raw materials and production methods to all brands, prices and styles of everyday wares: and
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF!
INFORMATION IS POWER
Aware of the benefits of organic food, U.S. consumer sales of organic food were $1 billion in 1990 and $39.1 billion in 2014—despite a depressed economy.
CURRENT DISTURBING SHOPPING EXPERIENCES:
- The same ‘brand-name’ products are everywhere; we assume they’re good––unaware inducements are given to retailers.
- ‘Brand-Bias’ spin doesn’t list raw materials and production methods we need to know to make informed purchasing decisions.
- We’re confused by similar products with inexplicable price differences and multiple brands of duplicate products—each extolling superiority.
- Brand, style and price are pushed as quality—but they are not designations of quality.
- Untrained salespeople push misinformation.
- Names of raw materials and production methods are not on labels or packaging—nor required by law to be there—because what manufacturer wants us to know their products are less-than-good!
- Timeless, legitimate standards of quality are not in print. A lot of Internet information is brand-biased— depending upon the source. Most disturbing is Internet misinformation—unchallenged and everlasting.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY