In the spirit of the “listening project” this week’s post is about the story of PICKPOCKET®” and small business in Porto.
I spend endless hours searching for the perfect work bag. It has to be large but I do not want to look like a bag lady. I need wide handles and reinforcements to manage the weight of a laptop and student papers and books. I like a pop of color and style. I also don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars. I usually end up with a bag that I tolerate rather than love.
That is, until I ran into André & Teo at the market in Porto. They create individualized bags and backpacks and wallets using locally sourced leathers and methods that they learned from elder artisans. I am now the owner of a hip and functional work bag that didn’t break my budget and was personalized to my needs. I feel as though I am carrying a piece of art throughout the day and that makes me happy.
When I picked up the bag I asked Teo to tell me the story of Pickpocket. In many ways it is a story of the new model of Portuguese business.
When Teo was growing up in the 1990’s, Portugal experienced a building and economic bubble that burst. The entry into the EU and the infusion of money led to an expansion in business and construction that could not be sustained. When this economic bubble burst, the process of recovery influenced the younger generation who lived through it to re-imagine the idea of sustainability and economic success. Rather than go “big”, Andre and Teo made a conscious decision to go “small” and focus on quality and using historically authentic Portuguese methods, and collaborate to with other artists in a sustainable way. They survived the most recent economic crisis and as Teo writes:
A thought about scale and growth:
Our reality is a bit more complex. Regarding our scale, (although small) it allows us to touch different markets, in a ‘’cirurgical’’ way, for example: in Germany and Spain we have like- minded collaborators that sell our products. We are open for this kind of collaborations.
As a brand, we sell to an audience that is tired of “massification”, and has a desire to know where things are coming from, and how they are made. So, we end up, like you said supplying niche markets, but not just for the Portuguese reality, we also are supplying a global market. And this is the point where we see our growth potential and expansion.
This is not the land of Walmart. While I appreciate the scale of large business with its convenience and efficiency, I’ve come to appreciate how this model of “small” has advantages for the quality of life and the quality of the product, and how small can be global without “massification”.
I now have a beautiful and functional work bag (in University of Pittsburgh colors) and a new acquaintance in Porto. Now to find the perfect lined raincoat…..
If you are interested in learning more about their business model and products, this is the website https://pickpocketbags.net