Learning Luxury Craftsmanship from Mayan Women

As part of my Pan-American road trip, I recently spent six weeks in Guatemala, a country filled with a rich Mayan culture. Although I truly enjoyed visiting the impressive ruins of Tikal, the lovely island-city of Flores and the vibrant colonial town of Antigua, my heart belongs to Lake Atitlan.

As soon as we arrived in San Pedro, a small Mayan community nestled between the San Pedro volcano and Lake Atitlan, I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the local Mayan women. With their traditional huipil or blouse, corte or skirt, sash and shawl, these women shined in their bright colors especially when compared to my "made-in-China" shorts and blouse. It noticed luxury craftsmanship at its best.

I wanted to learn more about their culture therefore I spent some time with a local woman in a nearby village learning how to weave the traditional Mayan way. After learning how to weave a scarf, I learned something that shocked me: luxury brands should learn from Mayans as they hold the key to luxury goods.


Because these women put their heart and soul into every piece they create.
Because everything is handmade.
Because each piece will hold up to the test of time, lasting more than a century.
Because each piece is unique, hand-crafted one at a time.
Because most pieces are bespoke; guidelines given by the buyer.
Because service was done with a smile and often with a laugh.
Because you felt like a member of their community when you entered a small boutique.
And because you made a new friend.

Luxury brands are often caught up in the "snobbiest" of luxury and forget the true essence of the word. Luxury is not about spending the most money for a marketing campaign; it's about creating a product that is spectacular in a niche.

Think of Coco Chanel,the woman, and not just the brand she left behind.





Bespoke Luxury Definition

Bespoke Luxury: What Does It Mean?

Not too long ago, nearly all luxury brands prided themselves on their intimate knowledge of what their customers preferred. The phrase “the usual, Madam?” was as common in affluent circles forty years ago as Louis Vuitton handbags are in the hands of young fashionistas today. Once upon a time, every luxury brand understood that they were targeting la crème de la crème. They needed to provide the utmost level of service to satisfy the particular needs of these discerning buyers.

Now, the scenario is very much different. It seems that popular "luxury" brands think that by adding strawberries to a cup of cream makes for a luxurious experience. The arrival of mass consumption luxury items might satisfy the common "luxury shopper", but truth be told, it simply does not satisfy the ‘exclusivity itch’ of those who deserve the finest.

To scratch that itch, we need to turn our attention to boutique luxury brands, brands that offer bespoke luxury in lieu of mass consumption products. These brands stay true to the real definition of luxury by catering to individuals rather than the mass. But what exactly is bespoke luxury? Let's explore the concept further more.


Bespoke Luxury Unveiled


The true meaning of bespoke luxury isn’t found in the common dictionary. A good starting point to understand its true meaning would be to use this example: Think of a master drafter drafting patterns from scratch - without using a base or master pattern - to create products that match individual tastes and requirements. This is bespoke.

To further understand the concept of bespoke, we need to explain the fine line that distinguishes bespoke from made-to-measure products. When a client likes an existing product but needs to alter it to his individual needs, we call this custom-fit or tailor-made.

Bespoke stems from creating something truly unique for  an individual, something that will not be duplicated in the future.  In terms of garments, bespoke comes from being able to select everything from the fabric to the cut to the color to the finish. The price says the rest. This is not custom-fit; it is custom-built.


The How of Bespoke Luxury


Bespoke is not only about clothing. Select luxury brands cater to the discerning consumer in every industry. Think of Feadship, the Dutch superyacht builder which created the utmost  yacht; or of Calzature Marini, a small boutique brand in Rome creating shoes one at a time.

The derived value of a bespoke luxury product increases manifold because it resonates with individual tastes, choices, ideas and needs rather than popular trends or accepted standards. Now, imagine a bespoke item, say a suit made to fit your exact measurements and to your painstakingly crafted specifications. Would this be your ultimate power suit? Or would you prefer to buy a mainstream Hugo Boss suit instead?   Bespoke is a custom-built product, but it will only take on the aura of bespoke luxury if it gives you true value and perfectly complements your personality and style.

Luxury is out; bespoke luxury is in. To stay.


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