Katui_kiwi from The Curious Kiwi started an interesting discussion about Burda patterns here.
I left a comment on her blog but realized I needed a whole post to develop my views on the matter – so here it goes:
Perhaps a little bit of history, though. First of all, I am very thankful to Burda. As I said in a previous post I have no training in sewing whatsoever and I learnt to sew by using Burda and Knipmode patterns. I bought the magazine, without skipping an edition, for years. Till Burda changed its pattern policy and crammed 52 or so patterns into four pages. I was disappointed. The magazine which used to provide good service and helped people develop their skills in sewing was doing less. Why? I asked myself.
I do not share the secrets of power that be but I do not think that Burda’s main concern is to save printing costs. We are in a transition time from the printed matter to digital age and I believe Burda is preparing us for that. Patterns are already available for download but, if my line of reasoning is right, a break in printing patterns would be too abrupt. Not everyone in the world has an Internet connection to be able to download a pattern, and not everyone would be willing to start doing so all of a sudden. Above all it is perhaps cannier to instill the new method slowly. First make it difficult for people to draw patterns so that they will eventually look for another solution and will think of downloading patterns. Do the maths and you realize the profits: pay €6 for a magazine offering 52 patterns and soon one will have to pay €4 per pattern.
Again this is one interpretation. Just one way of looking at things.
But Katui_kiwi and Burda made me think about a couple of things. According to the economic system we live in, what is the supreme, the main goal of a company nowadays? Is that to provide good service? Is that to produce something of value that will benefit a large majority of people? Some companies may cherish this goal but I am not sure the majority of them are primarily concerned with this line of thinking.
What do we hear overall? Companies and governments, be they of left or right wing, they all share the same goal in one word: growth. A company’s main goal is: growth. How do you translate growth? Benefits. Earnings. Profit. Money. Money is on their worship altar. Service? That’s something we can make do with marketing.
Some years ago I was talking to a manager in a company I worked for and wanted to share ideas in how to improve a particular service to our customers. That improvement meant we had to do something extra to the customer. My manager cut me off immediately saying: “if customers are not prepared to pay more for a service we are not going to give them extras.” Plain. Period.
Take the example of Google, for instance . They earned, in the UK alone, £3.2bn on sales worth whilst they paid only £6m in corporation tax. We need to be in crisis (crisis caused by whom?) for European governments to wake up to the fact that it is not only the middle man who has to pay his fair share of taxes, the big corporations – which make billions of profit – too.
Google is going to stop Google Reader. Did they ask their users about their advice? Very naïvely I wrote to Burda asking about their change of pattern policy. Did I get an answer back? Only an automatic e-mail reply saying they had received my request. But I never got an answer. It was naïve of me to think they bother about us, faithful readers and buyers of their magazine.
Take the example of RTW (“ready to wear”) companies. What is their aim? To produce poor quality clothes in the least expensive way. These clothes are not meant to last long so that people can keep buying clothes. As it is no longer possible to produce clothes cheaply in the developed countries, companies get rid of their original local industries leaving local people unemployed, go offshore where workers are paid unfair wages, work in difficult and dangerous conditions, so that companies can maximize their profits. What are the results of this greedy attitude? Dhaka, Bangladesh is but one example.
Sadly enough, Burda is not alone to blame. Burda is but one company in a system of fierce competition where all companies worldwide do the same: compete to see which one makes more profits, embellished into the more academic word ‘growth’. We never think about it but wouldn’t it be a good idea to work together instead of working – almost – against each other? We must outdo our neighbour. Service? People’s well-being? Sustainability? None of our concern.
The other day I read an article where the IMF (Institute of Monetary Fund) which is known for its austerity programs and calls to cut government spending, is concerned about the growing inequality between rich and poor: “0,5% of the population owns more than 35% of the wealth. (…) Movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Indignados or the Arab Spring were motivated by this tendency.”
Where are we heading to?
I am currently reading an interesting book (Geluk & wijsheid voor beginners: inleiding in de kunst van het filosoferen by Jos Kessels). The author comments about analyses made by the American philosopher Marcuse (1898-1979). These analyses were made some time ago but still apply to our society today. Marcuse says that our society is the richest and the most technically advanced in the whole of history.
These technical advances give us the opportunity to accomplish and lead a free and satisfactory human existence. For everyone. An existence without coercion, an existence where you are free to pursue, to give meaning and to develop your life. Live yourself your happiness in your own way. An existence without stultifying or unhealthy labour, without exploitation or oppression, without poverty or shortages. (…) That’s all technically possible. (…)
But what do we see? Instead of an enlargement of individual freedom it seems our prosperity results in a reduction of individual freedom. This is evident from the simple example that nobody has time nowadays. Everyone is in a hurry, most eagerly working under tension. Why is that? In the end people strive not to have time to themselves to do what they like. They seek primarily to have money. People find it so important that they have almost no other time. And that means hurry, stress and above all production, the compulsion to perform. There is work to be done, there must be results. And there money should come from.”
And I might add… we must keep busy to make sure the 0.5% of the population stay on the top and accumulate more wealth.
Of course things are not so simple. But to examine the question thoroughly you would need to write a book and this is only meant to be a post.
One last thing, I said above we can look at things through different perspectives. Many of us believe it has become more difficult to draw a pattern out of the 4-page-printed patterns Burda releases. But we can see this change in a positive way as well: printing less pattern pages means less environmental nuisances as less trees are cut down. In the long run when patterns will only be available through download and there may be no more magazines printed, the environmental impact will be even less.
And there Katui-Kiwi’s advice on how to deal with Burda’s patterns comes in very handy. If it is to save on printing costs and to be sustainable, I’ll be there to support it.
A positive side as well: do we need to have 52 patterns at our disposal every month? Is it not greedy of us to want to buy 52 patterns? How much patterns do we really use out of one magazine?
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I no longer buy Burda magazines. Meanwhile, I prefer to support sustainable and independent designers like Deer & Doe for example and to develop my sewing skills by drafting my own patterns.
What about you? What are your views on the subject?