The Craftsman: Issue n.006 — March 2018

Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter
6 min readMar 1, 2018

Welcome to the archive of The Craftsman Newsletter. Sign up here to receive the latest issue, delivered to your inbox each month.

A collection of products and experiences celebrating craftsmanship, paying homage to those who take the expression of our humanity to a higher level.

“Craft puts us in touch with the material world we inhabit.
The handmade connects us to ourselves as embodied creatures.
It’s no wonder that we turn to the tactile in reaction to our hyper-virtual, digitised lives”

Annie Warburton
Creative Director of the Crafts Council UK

Photo: courtesy of Rossi & Rei

Rossi & Rei, A Global Marketplace for Custom Luxury Elisa Rossi was born in the Marche region of Italy and later moved to Silicon Valley, where she worked for over a decade at companies like Steve Jobs’ Apple, Eventbrite, Square and most recently Yik Yak. Now she has her own company, Rossi & Rei, with the goal of becoming a global marketplace for custom luxury goods. To launch, Rossi picked a limited number of artisans: milliner Veronica Marucci, bag makers Le Panier, and knitwear producers Maglificio Tomas. Starting small allows the young company to generate awareness and foster a community around their offering, get feedback and improve the service. The next steps are to build the supply side by adding more craftsmen and scale to the right size and not more, nor less. (Photo: courtesy Rossi & Rei)

Read more about Rossi & Rei and their plans in my recent interview with Elisa.

Rossi & Rei

Photo: Gianfranco Chicco

Fujito, Clothes To Grow Together With

Mr. Fujito is the owner of the eponymous Japanese fashion brand and to him attention to detail is king. He started in 2002 at 28 y.o. inspired by the features and durability of military wear from the 1920s to 1940s. A key characteristic of Japanese craftsmanship is how they finish their work and this is visible in Fujito’s signature button-down shirt, that features 21 stitches per inch. Fujito says that you should be able to feel the craftsmanship that goes into its garments by just touching and looking at them.The brand’s motto is “Grow together with your clothes” and that’s why denim fabrics take a central role in their collections. It’s wabi-sabi applied to clothes: when designing with denim you need to think about how shape and colour will change over time. He believes strongly in going towards customers and communicating with them face to face, and that’s how I’ve come to meet him at the Sunny Siders shop in London’s Rivington Street. Pro tip: Fujito uses food to reset himself after an intense travel period. When back at home in Fukuoka he sticks to the same lunch menu during the week: udon noodles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and chanpon on Tuesday and Thursday. You can check out Fujito’s 2018 Spring/Summer collection via the link below. (Photo: Gianfranco Chicco)

Photo: courtesy of Zephyr Berlin

Zephyr, Pants That Travel Well And Are Built To Last

Zephyr was born as a side project of technologists and real life couple Peter Bihr and Michelle Thorne, who wanted to create a pair of trousers following the philosophy that they should be super versatile, as sustainable and long lasting as possible, and made locally in Berlin, where they live. For this, they recruited fashion designer Cecilia Palmer and scouted a Swiss-made fabric that suited this purpose. According to Peter, the fabric’s synthetic origin was a drawback, but it was the only product that would satisfy their requirements. A first batch of 100 was launched in time for Christmas 2016 using Kickstarter, followed by 100 more of their men’s cut, as they’ve sold incredibly better even to women who preferred a looser fit. Durability was a key concern, so they adopted heavy stitching and embraced the old practice of providing an extra inch of fabric here and there to allow for small alterations. Following their expertise in creating digital products, they’ve taken an iterative approach to the design of Zephyr which led to the second batch having ultra deep pockets that would provide a secure hold for our ever growing smartphones. The team is looking into doing something with merino wool next, which his considered a natural super-fabric.

Photo: courtesy of Vinay Gupta

A Very Special Engagement Ring

Two of the essential elements of craftsmanship are intention and deliberate practice. My friend Vinay is not a craftsman, at least not yet, but this didn’t stop him from taking on the challenge of making an engagement ring for Vanina with his own hands. She was not into precious rocks and what they represent, and he was happy not to plunge one tenth of his annual salary into one. So instead he enrolled in a metalsmithing course at Camden’s Working Men’s College. His manual labour produced the beautiful ring pictured above, more valuable than any commercial piece of jewellery. Most importantly, she said yes.

The Past, Present and Future of Shoreditch

Real craftsmen and artists often carry on a social mantle with deep roots into the community that surrounds them, and their work expresses and influences such culture. British graffiti artist Stik is one of the last remaining artists that blossomed in the now gentrified London neighbourhood of Shoreditch who is still based there, from the times when it was so affordable that plenty of artists would set up their studios in it. In the video linked below, Stik makes a giant mural depicting the past, the present and the future of Shoreditch with his characteristic stick figures and remarks how “community is not business, it’s something else”.

Watch the video here.

ネコ家具 — Kagu Neko or Miniature Furniture for Cats You often hear how craftsmen, especially those part of a long tradition, tend to be technophobes or just illiterate when it comes to digital technology. This is just one of many false myths associated to craftsmanship (another one being that craftsmen are old, see the first story in this newsletter).

To back my claim, look at how the Japanese city of Okawa in Fukuoka Prefecture decided to promote their craftsmen’s furniture-making skills: they created tiny furniture for cats and made a video to share it with the rest of the world. It’s a well-known fact that cats and the Internet are a match made in heaven and while no one is expecting that cat furniture becomes a thing, it is a smart way to attract some visibility. Notice how the video ends with the expression “shokunin-made”.

Watch the video here.

Making Things the Old-School, Foolishly Romantic Way

Raw Craft is a web video series presented by former chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain and sponsored by The Balvenie Distillery that features the work of very diverse craftspeople, from blacksmithing to tattoo making. In this interview, Bourdain acknowledges how hist attachment to the project was fuelled by his own interest in handcrafted products: “To see what human hands can produce is truly extraordinary. It is very important to me that these kinds of crafts continue into the future and we value artisans who make the decision to choose quality over quantity. There is no doubt for me, that if you can have it, you want the stuff where people have taken their time, paid attention to and personally care about how it was created”.

Watch the episode on cobblers here.

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for feedback and updates.

Sign up here The Craftsman Newsletter to receive the monthly issues, delivered directly to your inbox.



Gianfranco Chicco
The Craftman Newsletter

Curator of The Craftsman Newsletter. Conference director for hire, digital-physical experiences, marketing & storytelling. Japanophile. ✌