There is a wonderful company from Ahmedabad, India, the capital of the Indian state of Gujarat. The company is called The Creative Artisans, and it specializes in artisanal fabrics. Gujarat, for the uninitiated, is a region of India known for its textile industry.
Creative Artisans supplies custom fabrics to major fashion houses like Ralph Lauren, Eileen Fisher, etc. and has already crossed the $1M revenue threshold. They have artisans working with many different techniques - Indigo, Ikat, block prints, Tie n' Dye, Khadi (Yarn and fabric crafted by hand) embroideries, etc.
In working with them, however, I also see a wonderful opportunity for apparel, accessories, and home furnishing designers to develop products and build small/medium e-commerce businesses using artisanal fabrics.
What I envision is a host of specialty e-commerce brands focused on specific types of artisanal products: scarves, hand bags, cushion covers, throw rugs, shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, nightgowns, kaftans, curtains ...
In each case, the designer would work with a fabric merchant like Creative Artisans to source exclusive, differentiated, custom designed fabric to develop new lines of products.
These products would then be sold through multiple channels: the brand's own web site, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, etc.
Let's look at some numbers.
Say, one brand focuses on cushion covers. At $15 unit price, and say, 10 units per order, average deal size per customer would be $150. This business needs 7000 customers to hit the $1M million mark.
Another brand could focus on artisanal scarves. These could not only be bought for personal consumption, scarves also make great gifts. So, let's say, each scarf costs $50, and each customer buys four of those a year. That is a per customer sale of $200. The business needs 5000 customers to hit $1M. And if the product is good, loyal customers will stick around. There are many e-commerce merchants from whom I keep buying, year after year.
Similarly, a dress brand with unit price-points from $50 to $250. Or, nice blouses - women buy stacks of them - between $30 to $75. Table cloth and matching napkins. Duvet covers and matching sheets and pillow cases. You do the numbers. Somewhere in the 5000-10,000 customer range, you have nice million dollar business opportunities to flesh out.
There is a rich body of artisans all over the world. I find it tremendously exciting that with the Internet, there is now the opportunity for designers around the world - small designers, not just Ralph Lauren and Eileen Fisher - who can access their unique expertise, and produce work that thrills consumers like myself who care deeply about design and craftsmanship.
I can't wait to buy from small brands that bring such products that I can wear, present to friends and family as gifts. To feel the satisfaction not only of touching beautiful merchandise, but also of supporting these artisans is meaningful for many of us.