The objects and products that are most important to us tend to be those that are inexorably tied to the stories of our lives—the boots you wore on every camping trip for the last decade, the hammer Dad used on every project around the house, the wool scarf Mom wore every time the wind picked up. But what about a product you haven’t bought yet? Would an object with an existing backstory be more desirable than one whose story you don’t know?
Madesmith founders Sheila Iverson and Sumeera Rasul believe that by telling the stories of where goods come from—who knitted that scarf, where a candle’s wax was poured, why a jeweler left her corporate job to make bracelets by hand—they can not only help consumers forge connections with the people who make the things you buy, but also turn the act of buying into something more mindful.
"I grew up in Pakistan and my family exported handmade furniture and textiles internationally," says Rasul, who worked with co-founder Iverson at the digital branding agency R/GA before launching Madesmith. "One thing my father ingrained in me at a very young age was: 'buy one thing, and buy it really well made.'"
That "buy less, buy well" mantra is central to the Madesmith mission. The site sells limited run, handmade jewelry, clothing, shoes, and home goods from American craftsmen, and tells the stories of the artisans behind those products. That means the site doubles as a branding agency and distributor—offering social media strategy, product photography, fundraising, sourcing, and manufacturing—for makers who otherwise couldn’t afford (and wouldn’t know where to start) those services.
"We just believe that people get attached to stories, more so than objects," says Iverson, who hopes to see Madesmith grow into a lifestyle brand. The company makes money by commissioning and selling exclusive runs of items on the site, and through its consulting services.
"When we work with our artisans and makers and designers, we make sure that it’s a very high-quality item," says Rasul, "and that something that’s going to last a long time. That’s the motivation behind the objects you see and the stories you read on Madesmith."
When you shop at Madesmith, you’re not just buying a mug; you’re making a connection with the 28-year-old ceramic maker Clair Catillaz. You’re not just buying a kitchen knife; you’re understanding the link between the hobby of a 29-year-old actress and the life’s work of her blacksmith father.
Ultimately: you’re thinking about the things you buy. So maybe that means you’re buying a bit less, but gaining a bit more.