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

Friday, 21 December 2007

Why some clothes last longer than others

I spent this morning with the design and management team of a UK fashion house for a story I'm doing. At one point the conversation turned to the high street, and whether the public was tired of cheap, disposable clothing.

I mentioned that I had bought a couple of Zara dresses that had fallen to pieces, and finally replaced them with a Vanessa Bruno dress which cost more than twice as much. I was told the reason why they fell apart. The label said machine washable.

A jersey dress that costs £49.99 will lose its colour when it's machine washed, particularly if it is black. The cheap thread and slapdash stitching will come undone in the rough and tumble of the spin cycle. The zip may slightly lose its placement and become difficult to do up. So why does it say machine washable? Because the high street knows that people won't buy a cheap dress you have to dry clean. More expensive dresses often have dry clean only on the label, and can in fact be machine washed, but the designer won't say so, because a machine washable designer garment sounds cheap.

We moved on to the baffling story of a pair of Zara trousers. I tried them on but didn't buy them. Changing my mind, I came back the next day and finding the same size on the rack, bought and paid for them, thinking that since I'd tried them on the previous day, they would fit the next. When I got them home, they were too small. This is because Zara allows for say 2 cm of 'slippage' ie the same item in the same size may be up to four cm different in size. On top of that lax quality control means that clothes will always get through that are out by more than the slippage limit. So the two pairs of trousers I tried on could have been six or eight cm different in size.


Toby Wollin said...

And, Linda - what was the verdict on whether or not consumers are ready to pay more for clothing that does not fall apart?

Linda Grant said...

Well, given the job of the person I was talking to, they certainly hope we are ready to pay more.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's more of a matter of working within those limitations than spending to get out of them. "Shop the garment, not the label" goes for size and care labels, too.

Outside of casual summer cotton tops, which in my climate I really don't want more than a year or so, most of my garments last me longer than my laptops do, taking a lot more hard wear and costing a lot less on the way. It's possible that moving into a different price bracket would get even longer life, but I feel like I'm largely getting my money's worth.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...

That explains a lot! I have a few jersey dresses that are nearly identical in terms of fabric and color, but they have different washing instructions.

Even though some say Dry Clean Only, I've been washing all on the delicates cycle with cold water and I haven't had any problems whatsoever. If I had to dry clean them, I wouldn't wear them. I don't mind if they fall apart just a tiny bit sooner, so long as I get plenty of use out of them.