For better or worse, we’re living in a time when almost everything around us is mass-produced. From the food we eat and the clothes we wear, to the movies we watch and music we listen to. Time and quality have become very rare commodities. Prior to wide-spread adoption of mass production techniques, a craftsman built a product from start to finish. This meant that they had to know all aspects of the assembly of the work, including the creation of the individual parts. This also meant that each product was in a sense, a unique work of art.
As competition increases the trend of commoditization continues, companies are more keen than ever to create strong brands, especially luxury brands that are built on the solid foundation of quality work, strong overall brand equity and a loyal customer base. However, building a sustainable luxury brand is extremely challenging.
The question is; given these inherent challenges, how can individuals build a globally successful luxury brand today that simultaneously appeals to a targeted consumer base while differentiating themselves in a hyper competitive industry. To get an answer to this, I reached out to Josh Warner, founder of GOOD ART HLYWD who was awesome enough to share his thoughts and experiences.
Founded 1990 in Los Angeles, California, GOOD ART set out to create the best of handcrafted, high-end luxury goods fit for everyday use. For more than 20 years this drive has remained steadfast. With a bend toward the extravagant, usually sumptuous and always luxurious; GOOD ART have distilled the arrogance and exclusivity of the clubhouse into the grit of a good old-fashioned fist fight. Cost-no-object hearty construction, clever mechanisms and the tenacity to do things well are the hallmarks of this design house.
Hey Josh, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. First can you give me a little background about yourself?
I’m Josh Warner, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Always made things with my hands. Love art, not so much artists. Love travel, food & drink and family and friends.
How did GOOD ART come about? When did it start?
I wanted a pair of earrings, the guy selling the ones I wanted was rude and the price was too high. Being handy I made some. After loads of people asking for me to make some I finally did. One thing lead to another and I never looked back. That was 1990.
In a time when most fashion products are being mass-produced, and prices are consistently decreasing, as a luxury brand how does GOOD ART stay competitive and what’s your unique selling point?
We don’t try to stay competitive, we actually raise our prices when we need, and that has nothing to do with the economy or competition, and every thing to do with the costs of manufacturing the way we do. No short cuts here, no drips of gold solder to make something look like it’s actually gold. If a piece of GOOD ART is gold in color, it’s actually gold. And we don’t really have competition in the usual sense anyway.
Sure there are a few choices when you’re looking for jewelry in the style we make, but really there are only a couple of choices if you’re in the market for quality, or you’re a savvy buyer. You can get some crap made in Bali or some 3rd world spot where the workers are paid in cashews. You can also find shitty stuff made near the beach in Los Angeles that looks very much like ours (and several other peoples’ brands) that from a far looks okay but it’s truly crap. We charge a very fair price for a product that’s costly to make. So it may seem like our stuff is high-priced when actually it’s not. It’s a fucking bargain. GOOD ART is perfect, beautiful and made to last. People like to ask me how much silver or gold is in a particular piece. I don’t like to make things for those folks, they’re missing the point. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa and asking how much the canvas, wood and paint cost? Hard to put a price on how something makes you feel.
Technology and Fashion is inevitably coming closer together. We’re already starting to see big name brands trying to create connected devices. What’s your take on this? Is it a trend or a sign of things to come?
The way we make our stuff we’re utilizing state-of-the-art art technologies from about 100 years ago, and most of them work just fine for what we’re making. I also like the earnest hallmarks of something made by hand, the subtle differences in left and right, variations in finishes, the marks of the tools. All these things add to the beauty and individuality of a finished piece leaving my studio. That said, the Star Trek Replicator style rapid prototyping machines available today are the bees knees. They’re very cool and let us do things we couldn’t otherwise, so in that way I see the tech of the day helping. But it ultimately has little or nothing to do with the actual aesthetics of what we do here at GOOD ART HLYWD. And that’s our actual field, aesthetics.
Can you tell us a little about the GOOD ART way of creating fashion products?
I don’t create fashion products. Fashion is temporary, and hollow like a movie set. I make things from a viewpoint of aesthetics that I’ve had since as long as I can remember and it doesn’t change with the seasons. Of course the fashionable folks like skulls because they saw them in Vogue, but most of our public are drawn to GOOD ART for much deeper reasons. We’re making little works of art you can have with you all the time. I do my best to not let fashion affect what I design. On the very rare occasion I’ll make something that the kids are screaming for, but usually only because it would be fiscally irresponsible not to and I can do it well. But the general nature of my way of creating is to design things that I think look and function well and create interest, either in their appearance or function or both. I love clever clasps and sexy links. And to me that’s got nothing do with whatever being the next black.
Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
Some of my inspiration comes from things I’ve already made, sometimes I’ve learned a thing or two and want to take a new crack at an old idea. I also draw inspiration from the places I go and the people I spend time with. Really living life gives me inspiration enough to design for a few lifetimes.
What other fashion brand really blows your mind and why?
It takes a lot to blow my mind, and I can’t think of a fashion brand that comes close. I’m a fan of the 50’s & 60’ eras of design from some of the big houses of Europe, especially Hermes. I connect with specific aesthetics on a visceral level and it’s usually over something clever like a mechanism. But really there’s a very fine line between a beautiful piece and POS, for me anyway. Some brands I love are Langlitz Leathers of Portland, Oregon. They make the worlds best motorcycle leathers, and from the earliest pieces of the late 1940’s straight through their work of today, they make masterpieces every time. Having very little to do with fashion, the folks at Langlitz create functional garments that’ll protect you, and they do it the same way it’s been done from the start, one piece at a time, made to order, by highly skilled artisans. That’s the stuff that moves me.
Interestingly enough there are two other brands from Portland that I love, Wesco Boots and Dehen Knitting Company. Out of Japan I’m a huge fan of Isamu Katayama who’s line Backlash is turning out some of the coolest leather I’ve seen, plaid shirts you’d swear were cotton flannel that are actually made from soft and supple leather. There’s lots of good stuff out there. But not lots that really blows me away. Mostly I keep my nose down and create the stuff that I want to see. That’s the stuff that blows me away.
To wrap it up, what piece of advice would you give a young designers who want to make a serious impact?
As for advice for young designers I don’t have much beyond the romantic codes of finding what you love, doing that and never looking back. The truth is there are more creative people out there who are well suited to being part of a group and flowing power to that group. As part of a group you’ve got to contribute what’s needed and wanted, and that’s not always what your heart desires. But there’s nothing wrong with doing good work, and there’s plenty of room for personal integrity within a good group. Then there are those who just need to walk to the beat of their own drum. And for them the best advice I could give is to not take too much advice.
Josh, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, work and the passion you deliver with GOOD ART.
Check out more of GOOD ART’s handcrafted luxury goods.