Where's the craftsmanship?

Where's the craftsmanship?
Back in my younger years, I [Ben Kepes] was a distinctly uncompetitive competitive cyclist.
Back in those days, the 1990s, we used to wait for a month to find out the results of the Tour de France. There was no Sky Sport and the idea of live coverage of those sorts of races was science fiction. We used to pore over dog-eared copies of Cycling Weekly to find what our favourite European professionals had done the month before.
This European centricity also extended as far as a love of the bicycles we rode or at least aspired to ride. Given the choice, most people would always go for a component set from renowned Italian manufacturer Campagnolo.
When it came to bikes themselves, the most coveted items were hand made frames by the Italian master frame builders, such as Colnago. De Rosa and my beloved Bianchi (what’s not to love about the signature Bianchi paint colour, Celeste?).
I’m no longer a cyclist, but it pains me that almost every cyclist I see riding around the place is riding a generic bike made in the same sort of factories in the East. Where’s the passion? Where’s the craftsmanship? Where is the simple “because we can” drive to make the best product imaginable?
I’ve recently been thinking of Ernesto (Colnago), Edoardo (Bianchi) and Ugo (De Rosa), the individuals behind those famed marques. The context for this thinking is some decision making we’re doing at Cactus about our Canvas Down Jacket.
Our Canvas Down Jacket is generally regarded as the staunchest jacket of its type in the world. And, like I say, don’t take my word for it, ask the people who use it in harsh locales from Alaska to Antarctica.
Anyway, our Canvas Down Jacket is made in our workshop in Christchurch. It takes an insane 10+ hours to make this thing and the people who do so have decades and decades of experience in the industry.
But here’s the thing, every time we go to FieldDays or another rural A&P show, we have people come in stating with incredulity that a piece of clothing can cost that much. Perhaps beaten down after years of those comments we’ve found ourselves apologising for the cost.
And there’s the thing, right? If the ghosts of the bicycle builders named above were to come back, they would wax poetic about what it takes to make one of their frames, about the high tech metallurgy that goes into the frame tubes, about how many thousand bicycles one needs to build to become competent at the craft.
Similarly, if Ferruccio Lamborghini, Enzo Ferrari or the Maserati Brothers were to be reincarnated, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t feel any kind of need to apologise for what something costs. Indeed, with typical Italian arrogance they simply wouldn’t respond to any question about the high price of one of their products, deeming any who asks such a question unworthy of their time.
My father was an opinionated man and one of his oft-quoted saying was that his progeny knew:
the price of everything and the value of nothing
I never really understood the saying but thinking about hand crafted Italian bicycle frames, high-end motor cars and, yes, the best down jackets in the world has started to make it clear for me. You’re not buying the product, you’re buying the tens of thousands of hours of learning that goes into it and the outcomes that said product will give you.

As youngsters, we lusted over those bikes simply because they were the absolute pinnacle of the bicycle craft and because they were crafted with a singular focus on achieving a very specific outcome – riding on the road at speed and in comfort.

Similarly Ferrari wasn’t about miles per gallon, ride comfort or the usability of their cup holders. Rather they were about winning races with distinct Italian style.
And so, perhaps in striving for our own personal truth, we’re not going to apologise that our jacket, an already expensive product, is going to cost more going forward.
We could wax poetic about the sewers who make the garment, the more than ten hours of highly specialist time that goes into creating it, or the fact that we’ve invested in high-tech plant in order to actually produce this beast...

Instead, in the same way that those Italians didn’t deign to justify the price, we’ll channel their approach.
These products aren’t for everyone, indeed, they’re only for a very select few.
But if you know, you know.
In the same way my old friend Oli still rides around the Wellington bays on his beautiful Bianchi steed, so too do a small number of individuals use our jacket in the world’s toughest climates. And actually I’m OK with that.