Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Poll winner and my dissent

A huge majority of you believe that good clothes are available at all prices and it is unnecessary to max out the credit cards. I demur on this one. I have just thrown away my second Zara LB day dress, because it has fallen to bits. The zip is broken, the fabric on the visible collar lining has faded to grey, and the skirt is coming away from the waistband. It was a great dress, but now it's unwearable. It cost I think about sixty quid and it's been replaced by one which cost twice as much; twice burned, now finally shy.

There are good quality clothes on the high street - I rate Marks and Spencer and Gap - but if you want something that is going to look good in two years time, you need to spend money. Of course unless you are Victoria Beckham or the wife of a Russian oligarch, you're going to have a budget. Almost no-one wears couture every day and even major designers churn out badly-made crap. But for enduring quality, particularly tailoring, I would go into debt to buy what I wanted. (Would? See overdraft - but you can't, it's a secret).

There's another issue with cheap clothes. See this:



It's a bracelet from Asos. It costs £8. Can anyone explain to me how it can cost £8 without someone, somewhere, being reduced to penal servitude to make it?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree - the High Street has moved down market in terms of quality. I have just come back from a weekend in Italy where good quality fabrics are used in clothing. A classic example is Marks and Spencers - their knitwear used to be merino wool now it is acrylic. Unfortunately we seem to shop by quantity and price rather than style and quality

Kuri said...

A little knowledge of sewing can go a long way in making cheap clothes go further.

Agreed on the labour issue, though I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised to find that pricy designers are paying their overseas labourers no better than major retailers most of the time. I recall reading that cheap shoes and expensive ones are often made in the same factory. Better materials on the latter, to be sure, but same ethical dilemma. Unless the branding is specifically about fair labour, I wouldn't assume a label pays more just because it costs more. (And even then not necessarily as that sexist jerk Dov Charvey of American Apparel shows, the brand doesn't always reflect reality.)

Gina said...

Linda, I worked in the jewellry division of an American designer so mundane and ubiquitous that I shudder to call it "fashion". We were able to offer boxed costume jewellry sets at $15-18 retail. Assuming a 50% markup from wholesale to retail and a 40% profit margin from landed goods to wholesale -- again how do they do it without slave labor? Poor quality materials, machine production and loose QA inspections are also part of the equation.

lagatta à Montréal said...

Linda, you have a steady, well-paid job, (as well as your freelance work), and I'm sure "la présentation" is an important part of it. For people with more contingent employment, debt is a terror, so I'd never vote for it, except in the specific case of interviewing for a professional position.

Indeed, knowledge of sewing is very useful - yours or someone else's. If one can find a tailor or dressmaker and pay him or her fairly, it is possible to have good-quality fabrics worked up into garments with style and proper fit.

Linda Grant said...

Lagatta, just to clear up any confusion, I actually don't have a job of any kind, steady or well-paid. I am a writer. My income derives from freelance journalism and book sales. .

lagatta à Montréal said...

Sorry for my mistake. I was afraid that comment would sound envious, which certainly was not my point - I'm only envious of people who get jobs because of their connections and write crap, not of journalists who do quality work and get properly paid.

I thought you were on staff with the Guardian, as well as writing books and freelance pieces.

Linda Grant said...

If you're on staff they don't allow you to freelance for rival newspapers, so no. My last 'secure well-paid job' was in 1988.

Thomas said...

In a word - China. Anyone who has concerns with how our consumer goods are made. One trip will both affirm and deconstruct all your views on the matter. What I saw there definitely saddened me, but after talking to many people I realized how much of my sadness was based on cultural bias. None of this is to say that the situation is ideal - only that it is not how it might first appear.

It is well known that Tommy Hilfiger jeans have long been made by Pepe. And I can say without risk of contradiction that certain brand name items are made in the very same factory as their knock-off counterparts.

fromneardc said...

I agree about some of the cheap stuff falling apart quickly, especially coats, bags, and shoes- the "only the rich can afford cheap shoes" line is really true! But some of my other cheap stuff, that isn't subjected to as much wear and tear, has held up pretty well. I prefer to shop at thrift and consignment shops or places like Filene's Basement (overstock sale place- not sure if there's a UK equivalent) rather than the cheap knockoff places- better quality for about the same price.

Anonymous said...

This is why I am learning to sew. I could afford only H&M clothing, which has style if you buy carefully, but which I constantly have to repair. Crappy materials, crappy construction--I'm so sick of going into a department store and seeing polyester pants selling for $100! But I recognize I'll be paying for clothing in time and effort--luckily I have more of that than spare cash...