Something that particularly enrages me is that concept that mass-produced products are inherently and unquestionably 'better' than the equivalents made in smaller quantities or by alternative means. The desire to dispel this myth is a common thread that runs through all my current endeavours; whether that is providing a platform for crafters/designer-makers to promote and sell their handmade wares with Brighton Craftaganza or developing sewing patterns, providing inspiration or sharing knowledge to help those interested in creating/recreating their own wardrobes.
I could probably write a whole essay on this topic if provoked, but simply put: it can be argued that most societies (in the First World at least) perpetuate the idea that large companies, often corporately owned, produce the best products or services we could get for our money. And with this message being pushed to us from all angles from a disturbingly young age, it's easy to fall into the belief that the sheen of mass-production equals quality in all respects. But if we think about it for more than a minute, we can often finds ways that this belief falls apart.
Take sewing patterns, for example. Most of the sewers on the blogosphere use commercial sewing patterns from 'the Big Four' at least some of the time. We are used to their format and we know what to expect from them when we buy them. They are easily available and often quite cheap to buy. However, the growing proliferation of smaller, independent sewing pattern companies are proving that they can compete on some of these aspects, as well as offering us much more than the Big Four can in a variety of other ways.
Independent sewing pattern companies can often respond more directly the the requirements of their customers and they usually have a closer connection with them. For example, if you were having difficulty with one of the construction steps in a Colette Patterns pattern, you could email them and someone would most likely get back to you before the week was out. If you'd like to make a suggestion for future Sewaholic patterns, you'd easily be able to email Tasia and start up a conversation. Who would you contact at Vogue patterns with either of these topics? Would they bother to respond? I don't know. I'm not trying to criticise the customer service of these big companies, I'm just highlighting the faceless-ness that goes hand-in-hand with their businesses.
Plus the production models that the independent pattern companies implement in comparison to the high-volume Big Four also allow for (arguably) more interesting designs and niche ranges. The 'independent's' can focus on specific body shapes: Sewaholic cater for pear-shaped figures, Suzy has the petite market in her sights, Megan Niesen has some great maternity wear styles, and it's only a matter of time before taller, plus-sized and full-busted women have a specific independent company focused on their requirements, if they don't exist already! My goodness, there may even been some soon specifically for men's wear!
And whether you're a fashion-forward kind of chica always with an eye on the trends, or you prefer clothing with a more retro/classic/rock/sporty/girly/country/insert-your-own-adjective-here look, there's probably an indie range with your kind of bent. The Big Four can't easily compete in this arena because they rely on selling large quantities of the same design, so more innovative and less mainstream styles probably wouldn't shift the units they need to.
Make Bra, pattern #2610
I find the variety of the actual products a joy as well. For example, so much thought and planning has gone into the presentation and packaging of Papercut Patterns that just owning one is a pleasure before you've even begun your sewing project. Wiksten has the genius to create both paper and downloadable PDFs of her styles so the consumer can decide what format and price point works best for them. DIY Couture has even done away with the traditional sewing pattern and instead presents the styles in easy to follow instructions and diagrams to help you recreate them. It is nice to be able to financially support these endeavours and innovators directly. They also invariably enrich the online sewing scene so much more than the Big Four by putting time and love into fabulous and informative blogs and even offering some patterns to their followers for free!
There are so many independent pattern companies and happily more seem to be springing up all the time. I have included links to many of them in alphabetical order in this post, and illustrated it with some gems from their ranges. A more comprehensive list of independent sewing pattern companies can be found on 'A Good Wardrobe' blog here, which I thoroughly recommend you check out.
I'm not suggesting that we all stop buying patterns produced by the Big Four, I'm just trying to encourage sewers to perceive the independent companies as being at the same level as, and in some areas above what we have come to accept as the traditional format for consuming the patterns our sewing projects start from.