Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly "Shopping" Trip

Today was Get-Your-Head-Out-Of-The Clouds Day for my weekly retail field trip.  I wanted to go to a different setting than the 5th Ave, $700 pair of jeans crap and check out some mass-market stuff.  I went up to the 9-story Macy’s and the smell of cheap, grilled meat from the street vendors and sweet, European cologne from the fragrance department swirled through the air outside.  When I first went in, BAM, red.  Red, all over.  The walls, the displays, the things hanging from the ceiling.  Red.  RED = BUY… and they weren’t messing around. 

One thing I noticed is the lower the price point of a garment, the less quality and functionality was important and more weight was placed on first-glance appearance.  This almost doesn’t seem worth mentioning as, by default, I expected it.  Here’s an example of very similar coats with the same detail:

I have a bone to pick with clothing with details that masquerades as something it’s not (fake leather details and blazer button holes that don’t open, for example).

Earlier in the week, I got a chance to go to Fishman & Tobin.  They manufacture 90% of children’s clothing in the world.  Never heard of them you say?  Good, that’s the point.

Companies like Calvin Klein, Wal-Mart and Sean Jean enter into a licensing agreement with them for them to make and design their clothes and Fishman & Tobin reaps the value of an established brand name.  Of course, they also pay the licenser a fee.  A lot of clothes are made in this way.  Many times, the same factory will be making jeans for a company like Ralph Lauren and Kirkland’s (Costco’s jean).  The same fabric is used and the same people are making the jean.  The only difference is the fit and finish.

I also made it over to Gap, Billabong, Banana Republic and Zara.  At Gap, they sold selvage-edge jeans.

On a roll of fabric, it is bound by a selvedge edge which helps prevent fraying and is also where the weft yarn turns around to be woven in the other direction.  It leaves a finished edge that doesn’t require the edge to be surged.

American denim mills used these machines until around the 1950’s when there became a surge in denim demand and these old, rickety machines were bought up by a ton of Japanese companies.  The denim that it makes is very heavy and durable.  In fact, I have on a pair right now by Kunna.  So technically, Japanese denim is really just old American-style denim.  Gap was selling theirs for $88.  This isn’t necessarily a crazy good deal considering the fabric cost. A pair of their other jeans cost $55 and jeans need two yards of fabric…  think about it.  However, with people used to paying hundreds for Japanese denim (selvedge-edge does not mean Japanese denim, as ALL woven fabrics have a selvedge edge), they can easily command and get nearly double the money.

What I learned today is that mass-market brands are just as innovative as high fashion labels.  Where a 5th Ave. company may innovate with creativity and styling, mass market uses creativity as well in keeping costs down and working within strict controls to create something that is still extremely appealing.  There wasn’t as much I reacted strongly towards today as a large majority of it is simply diluted, fashion from two seasons ago.  I still had a good time and got a lot out of the day!

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