I propose we give the retainers (or even players) the ability to have a "Seeking item" flag that would allow us to buy certain items, or quantities of items in the same way that we can sell them. Similar to the current "Seeking item" system we have now, but we should be able to buy any item even if we do not have it, retainers should be allowed to do it, and we should have a search function for it in the wards like we currently have for selling.
This will help crafters know what to craft. Crafters can see what is offered and see if it is worth it to do it for profit or just to help the person out. As it stands, there is no way to know if making a bunch of hempen robes will be useful to anyone or if you'll just end up vendoring them all. It will be much easier to obtain certain crafted gear that you really want because people will be able to see that you want it before investing the time and materials in crafting it.
The search feature could be organized by crafting job and by skill level. That way, I, as a level 10 carpenter can search and see if there are any requests for something that is in my ability to make, see if the offered price is worth it to me, and then make and deliver the item to the requesting retainer.