Recently I read a really interesting article in the April 2011 issue of Shop Til You Drop called "Why Clothes Cost What They Do" by Jade Warne (p. 105).
I often think about this, and when I've worked in fashion boutiques I have encountered this question time and time again with customers, in many different forms...
"Why is this top $350? I've seen the same sort of thing elsewhere for MUCH cheaper..."
"$100 for a T Shirt? Ridiculous!"
"Oh it's lovely, but the price is crazy. Drop it by $100 and I'd buy it in a second!"
And these questions/statements are fair calls. I wonder these things myself. Why does one top cost 3 times the price of what looks like a very similar design you could find in a chain store?
According to Assia Benmedjdoub, editor of fashion retailer journal Ragtrader, "It's easy to assume that if you can buy a pair of jeans for $20, that must be the true cost of all jeans. The fact is, the number on the tag is linked to different choices fashion labels make throughout the production process." (1)
What does this mean? This means that the $20 pair of jeans is likely made in an offshore factory where materials are cheap and work conditions are questionable to say the least. Whereas say, a $400 pair of jeans made in Australia will likely use high quality fabric which will last for years, manufactured by people, not a machine driven assembly line and workers will be treated ethically. Higher priced garments are often a smaller production run and therefore more exclusive as well.
You also have to think about everything that goes into producing and marketing the products, and all the middlemen that have to be paid. If a designer charges $50 for a pair of jeans, but they have to pay the patternmakers, the machinists, buy the fabric, pay for freight and distribution, pay a photographer and graphic designer and printer to make the catalogue, pay their admin staff... the list goes on... how are they supposed to cover costs?
This article was a real eye-opener for me, and I really wanted to spread the word and try to create an understanding in people. In our consumer culture where you can get something for almost nothing and everything is available online from overseas, I think it's really important to support our local designers.
Two of our favourite Aussie labels are Mela Purdie and Vigorella - combining great design with comfort and quality, both labels have a devoted following. Being devotees ourselves we stock a large range of both labels at Impulse, along with many other Australian fashion labels which we're sure will be favourites soon enough!
(1) Warne, J., 2011, Why Clothes Cost What They Do, Shop Til You Drop, ACP Magazines, Sydney, p.105