Passing the gauntlet

Redwood Comment
Published:  21 June, 2017
Mike Redwood

It has always disappointed me to see a small company decide to close down. Certainly, there is a time to live and a time to die for a business and not all businesses are set to survive through endless decades. When I began in industry an S&P 500 company had an average life of about 60 years, while now it is down closer to 17. 

Technology, fast evolving consumers and a little thing called “disruption” is driving all this. It makes life hard if you are planning to work a full career in the coming world where one of every two people born this century will live to a hundred and have to work to 80 to earn a decent pension.

It is even sadder when that business is one involving craftsmanship such as one using leather to make leather goods, shoes or gloves. Hand crafted production of quality is not going to disappear in 17 year cycles.

Sometimes the problem is that the owners decide there is no future and do not look for others to take over, thinking there is no value in the business and it will be better to liquidate and extract what can be gained from any assets owned. Often this involves not recognising where the value in an ongoing company really lies. Even a small business usually has inherent value that a successor can evolve and build upon.

In France, industry has been a little wiser and where a family business involved in an ancient craft looks to be missing continuity in family members and a will to find a viable alternate often a luxury goods company steps in to ensure the skills are not lost. Chanel, for example, has eleven such businesses in its stable, including the famous glove factory Causse, and the shoe plant Massaro.

Having seen two glove factories close in the UK over the last two years this contrast is a worry. There were good reasons for how events worked out in these closures but equally there were ways to move things positively if all stakeholders were fully engaged.

So, it is a delight to learn that La Crasia, the longstanding New York glover which I used to delight in visiting in the 1990s, has found continuity as it owners move towards retirement, a happier route than might have been expected as they can take their time passing on their skills. Jay Ruckel and Lacrasia Duchein of Lacrasia Gloves last month announced they are passing the gauntlet to trusted colleagues, a well-known team of industry professionals. Principals Sarah Timberlake (costumer, Timberlake Studios, Inc.) and Katie Sue Nicklos (Tan Line-Minimizing Sports Gear and KTSUdesigns) who will keep Lacrasia Gloves craft alive under Wing & Weft Gloves.

Since the glove trade started exiting the U.S. in the early 1900s after a series of labour disputes, the erosion of capacity and skills in American glovemaking has been huge. There is very little left at all. So, keeping LaCrasia is a great success, and something we should delight in.

Mike Redwood

20th June 2017

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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