CARLOS JOÃO PARREIRA ON SWITCHING OFF AND GETTING HANDS-ON
In response to lives that are too fast, too busy, too connected and too global, slow-making, wabi sabi and hygge are giving rise to simple pleasures focused on connecting with the world and people around you. LUSITANO1143 is a Brooklyn-based direct-to-consumer shop for modern home accessories, gifts, textiles and ceramics created by independent Portuguese makers; since its launch, the brand has been profiled in Remodelista, Luxury Daily, Glossy, Design Sponge, Apartment Therapy, Sight Unseen and Rue Daily. This summer, founder Carlos João Parreira completed his second collaboration with GOOP and spoke at LE’s Ministry of Ideas. Here, he talks to Ana Andjelic about craftsmanship, curation, authenticity in product design and customer communication, and global creativity.
Being on the road has become the staple of fashion, business and art aficionados who take pride in living their lives at the speed of social feed. But has this “breakfast in Tokyo, lunch in London, dinner in Milan” gotten old (and painfully old-fashioned)?
In our business, having a global consciousness and image is important; but I think there’s the Instagram version of hotel hopping, and then there’s the reality of living for weeks out of one suitcase! It’s human nature to have wanderlust, and people will always daydream of exploring the world – as we have for millennia. It all goes back to authenticity and not showing off. If you’re in Tokyo and see something beautiful, by all means share it (even if you were in Milan the day before…). However, if you’re only Snapchatting from airport lounges… Maybe skip it. (Unless you’re at the Virgin Lounge at Heathrow. That lounge is heaven.) Also, I think about it this way: every time we’re dreading a couple of weeks of city-hopping, I hope that we can keep in mind how lucky we are to travel and experience different worlds, even when all you’re craving is take-out on the couch.
The transformation economy is a rapidly growing segment as consumers shift away from purchasing products and towards spending their money on lifestyle-enhancing experiences. Does this have to do with a demographic shift, or is something else also at play?
Yes and no. There is a demographic shift. Older generations are keen to own a house, car etc., while younger generations tend not to want to ‘settle’ so early. They just live more transient lives with different values. But for every demo, there is a resistance to how quickly we go through trends and our new philosophy that everything is replaceable and temporary. I think we’ve almost gone so fast that the only things that really feel ‘worth it’ are when we invest in ourselves. You’ll remember that incredible trip or that ridiculous fitness class you took with your best friend much longer than the trendy jacket you bought and only wore once.
Reacting to the pervasiveness of modern technology, an increasing number of startups figured out that they should invest in ‘slow making’, ‘wabi-sabi’ and ‘hygge’ and start offering all-natural, imperfect, handmade, pared-down creations dedicated to the lifestyle of ‘being’ instead of ‘having’. Supplements, beauty products, comfy clothes, food and interior design are just some of the industries capitalising on the “feeling good is the new looking good” attitude.
What are other industries ripe for the slowness disruption?
Considering how intimate our relationship is with our banks, I’m surprised by how generic our interactions with banks are. It’s an industry that’s been disrupted from a technology standpoint, and we have more options than ever [thanks to technology]. But going back to the human touch and the local connection: those should be the differentiators among banks. Having worked in the past with community banks, I know that the sense of place is there and could be leveraged so much more than it is now industry-wide.
Traditional brands built their entire businesses around efficiency of making perfectly identical products at a profitable scale. They then marketed them by crowbarring themselves into their consumers’ conversations. Slow-making upstarts, in contrast, opt for marketing strategies that reflect their handmade philosophy. Rather than running big advertising campaigns, they prefer meticulously curated, carefully thought-through content; taste-making influencers; and state-of-the-art CRM programmes. What are some of the great marketing examples out there that legacy brands can learn from?
Lusitano1143 has been really fortunate to work with Goop, which is a brand that’s really tapping into the ‘feeling good’ mood of contemporary consumers. One of the great things that they’ve done is create retail spaces and experiences with social media in mind. Their pop-up spaces and events are styled so beautifully with moments that have to be photographed and shared. That’s a winning strategy: the consumer has already connected with your brand, they want to be part of your story, and you are arming them with imagery for them to be brand evangelists.
The kind of hobbies younger consumers amassed in the past decade – such as knitting, cooking classes, pottery-making, board games, flower-arranging and colouring for adults – have nothing to do with either the internet or the fast-paced lifestyle. In fact, they are their exact opposite. How can brands meaningfully participate in this ‘great indoors’ style?
I have a bit of an advantage here, since our mission at Lusitano1143 is to invite you to bring slow craft into your home and to be part of the creative process by learning about the artisans and their inspirations. Considering that technically you do not interact with our pieces until after you have bought them, it is wonderful to see how strong the human connection has been forged digitally. My advice for other brands that are larger [than Lusitano1143] is: be human! It’s all about interacting meaningfully with the world around you. Whether you are interacting with a customer virtually or in person, it should always be about strengthening that human connection.
It looks like consumers strive to have simplest pleasures with the same fervour they once strived to accumulate material possessions or professional achievements. Quality of being (versus doing or having) is the new status symbol. Is this a weird perversion of the lifestyle that we have once taken for granted or the natural evolution of consumerism?
I think this departure from ‘owning’ is a bit cultural – and specifically Western – with everything now being so accessible and everyone being able to accumulate some version of the ‘It’ possession. It’s almost like we’ve ‘evolved back’ to where being part of a leisure class was a communicator of status. If you follow the thread for millennia, status-makers have always been eventually copied by those with less means, but with the desire for the same status. The ease of how this can now happen has made the eighties-style consumption seem a bit futile. This new trend [today] feels like the next stage. This may come across a bit cynical, but everything is becoming so available and accessible. With every need having been satisfied by industries saturated with options, maybe as a culture we are now trying to reach self-actualisation.
The internet, ironically, plays a pivotal role in the spread of the anti-connectivity movement. Even a precursory research into the term reveals no less than 14,000 Instagram posts labelled #slowmade, with all sorts of handmade objects, food and clothing on display. It’s as if the endless reproducibility of internet culture makes us long for experiences that are tangible, authentic and hard to replicate – which we then immediately reproduce online. What’s the catch here? What’s the relationship between being hyper-connected and disconnected?
The reality is that we are hyper-connected. It has really expanded our horizons, which is great. It’s allowed us to discover things that we wouldn’t have otherwise. But those who do not want to be part of this connectivity can still hunt and explore – and just not post their discoveries on social media. Maybe that’s why we don’t know about it!
It’s easy to see our craving for the pre-electricity lifestyle of simple pleasures, farm-to-table food, homemade meals, hand-woven items, rest, comfort and contentment as a side effect of lives that are too fast, too busy, too connected and too global. At the same time, only affluents can afford to disconnect. Is the slowness movement creating a new socio-economic divide?
Yes and no. I have thought a lot about this. My entire mission is to keep craft alive, craft that used to be humble and accessible. Now, because of how few craftsmen there are, they have become luxuries. Thankfully, there are those whoe have the means and desire to support them – and for that I am grateful. This is just one piece of the puzzle, though. Humans are also, by nature, creative. For example, you may not have access to what the wealthy consider appropriately #slow, but you can connect with the creativity around you. If you clear the slate of the specific ‘marketed’ items and focus on the pleasure of what’s behind them, there are communities everywhere supporting each other with every single craftsmanship experience. Neighbours cook for each other, or someone’s grandma is making scarves – not just for their own grandkids, but for their friends too. That’s what it’s about: simple pleasures should not be about consumption, but about connecting with the world and people around you.