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 simple T Shirt? Ridiculous!"
"Oh it's lovely, but the prize is just over the top. Drop it by $100 and I'd buy it in a second!"
These questions/statements are fair - I used to wonder these things myself! Why does a simple top in one store 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, not environmentally sound and work conditions are questionable to say the least. Whereas say, a $300 pair of jeans made in Australia will likely use high quality fabric which will last for years, manufactured by people who will be treated ethically, enjoy the same rights and safeguards that other workers do and be paid a fair wage.
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? Probably by cutting corners in quality or exploiting someone.
This article was a real eye-opener for me, so I really wanted to spread the word and try to create an understanding in people. In our fast-fashion 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 M.E.L. Australia - 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