A Different Spin On Authenticity

Written by Randa Tawil

Authenticity has always been an important criterion for premium products.  Naturally you would put a higher value on Parmesan cheese made in Parma than if it was made in Detroit. The same would be said of Italian leather boots as opposed to boots mass produced in China.  Whether or not these products are actually better, they nevertheless hold a certain value because of the dream of ‘genuine’ and history they inspire. But recently at ReD we are seeing a new type of “authenticity” emerging among young urban adults.  Instead of following the classic idea of “authenticity,” (value-creation on the basis of coming from a specific time or place) young urbanites are playing with the concept and adding an aspirational twist. This new dream of authenticity involves craftsmanship, a strong story, and the process behind the product. For their products, authenticity is not about the “real” product, rather it is our dream of what the “real product” was, and what it can be in our modern age.

The New Authentic

It seems that today some people have a strong yearning for “authenticity,” and to go back to “simpler times.” While this desire is certainly not new (Rosseau and the Romantics felt it, Thoreau and the Transcendentalists felt it, to name a few) this desire is being used to sell products in a way that we have not seen before. There is an emergence of the urban craftsmen who rejects mass consumption and globalization in favor of handcrafted simple goods.  He/she has a mission that goes beyond the product: the way in which the product is made adds meaning to it, and to the producer and consumer’s belief in the instrically higher value of handcrafted goods. “Rising Sun & Co.,” which makes all its jeans by hand, advertises that “by reviving the tradition of quality American needle work, we create only the highest grade of garments. Nostalgic for this golden age of craftsmanship, we labor.” Through their craft, they make jeans “that capture the optimistic spirit America is founded on.”  However, at $500 a pop, these jeans are certainly not meant to be worn for labor-intensive work.  Rather, this company sells the jeans on the dream of what jeans were, and thus what jeans should be.  Looking at their blog, youtube channel, and website, it is clear that the type of “authentic” experience is different than discovering an unknown little bistro in the french countyside. Rather, it is sincerely creating a product on a dream of the past, and not on the past itself.

What Does the New Authentic Mean for Larger Business?

It seems that aspirations for authenticity may be changing. While in a way these products can be seen as comical (young urbanites making handcrafted knives out of found materials and blogging about it, for example) they tap into our desires to combine the best of the past and the present. They inspire our romantic dreams about the past, without giving up our iphones. For businesses then, it is more important to emphasize the process, and the sincerity behind the process than its actual “authenticity” or historical accuracy.  Businesses should think about creating a line that taps into this trend of sincerely imagined authenticity. Creating a line of old style sodas with real sugarcane inspires our imagination of how soda was drunk before it was a mass-produced item. A line of individually mixed natural perfumes make us dream of a time when perfume was natural and there was an art behind creating a unique scent.  The new premium is about being able to imagine a simpler, more natural life that fits within our very modern and tech driven world.

Le Labo creates “made to order” perfumes that are reminiscent of the way perfume used to be made.

Boylan Soda Co. Advertises their soda as natural, and coming from real cane sugar, the way soda used to be made

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