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Thread: Op-Ed | Want to Fix the Fashion System? Lower Prices.

  1. #1

    Default Op-Ed | Want to Fix the Fashion System? Lower Prices.

    by Eugene Rabkin

    "Last week, two makeshift consortiums of designers and retailers signed open letters agitating for the realignment of the delivery and markdown calendar. These moves have their roots in longstanding issues with the broken fashion cycle, and change is overdue. While it’s clearly absurd for consumers to shop for cashmere turtlenecks in August or shorts in February, the early delivery schedule also puts unnecessary pressure on independent designers. By the time May and November come around, most of their clothes go on sale, eroding profitability and brand equity.

    But there is an elephant in the room that nobody has yet addressed: one of the key reasons that markdowns happen so early in the season is pricing: in recent years, full-price designer fashion has become stratospherically expensive.

    Take a look at any luxury e-commerce site and you will see it peppered with $1,500 boots, $900 sweatshirts and $500 t-shirts. A cursory browse of Ssense, for example, can lead you to $690 cut-off denim shorts from Saint Laurent, or a $1,350 "destroyed" cotton hoodie from Givenchy. Over at Net-a-Porter one can purchase a Bottega Veneta leather coat for $9,800 or an appliqué dress from The Row for $18,000.

    In this way, luxury fashion has become the perfect reflection of the growing economic stratification that has gripped Western society. There is the 1 percent who can afford such prices, and the 99 percent who shop on sale. What we are witnessing, when it comes to discounts, is a cat and mouse game between the fashion industry and its consumers, one in which everyone, understandably, acts in their own self-interest.

    What's more, fashion companies know this. After all, a lot of big brands also control their own retail networks where they set the prices. And the rest provide retailers with a suggested markup that they are expected to adhere to. These markups hover around a 3.0 multiplier, making a $1,000 coat cost $3,000 in a store, and that is before the costs of shipping, duty and taxes are included and passed on to the consumer."

    Full article on BoF

  2. #2

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    I've also been thinking a lot about pricing recently, and how it became normal for clothes to cost as much as they do. A "designer" t-shirt when I was young (think early 90's) was around $35. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger. Not major brands like Louis Vuitton or Dior, as they weren't doing t-shirts yet, and even if they were it was something that wealthy people bought, not average kids like myself. Jump to Dior Homme in early 2000's and Hedi Slimane puts out the thinnest cotton t-shirts you've ever held, and they were $150 - $200. Jump to 2010 and Christophe Decarnin shows a $1600 cotton t-shirt at Balmain, complete with distressed holes all over. I remember going into a department store here in Toronto and overhearing the sales associate, a woman in her mid 50's who made a career selling to other women in their mid-50', laughing while asking "how the hell can I sell this?". But the more we've been shocked by pricing, the more normalized it's become. A $300-$500 designer t-shirt is standard pricing, regardless of quality.

    The elephant in the room ; I've noticed people don't discuss what they actually pay for garments as they used to. A compliment on a piece of clothing used to be followed with a story or an exclamation about what a deal you got on it. But while pricing has been skyrocketing in the past decade, rarely does anyone discuss how much they actually spend on their clothing. I can only assume most mainstream designer fashion is purchased on some sort of discount, as it's unfathomable for most of us to obtain more than a piece or two each year at full price with the current pricing structure. I rarely overhear anyone saying they bought a jacket resale, bought last season on yoox or waited until end of season clearance sales. An outfit from Rick Owens (pants, shoes, leather jacket, a t-shirt) would be minimum $5,000 USD at full price. Wait 3 months and it's $2500. One months more? It's $1800. But the consumer notion is no longer "I got a sweet deal and saved 70% on a $3000 jacket" - it's "I have a $3000 jacket". Perhaps we feel that paying less devalues what we've bought? Or maybe purchasing outside the normal channels reinforces that we don't fit into the image we have of the high fashion world.

    Add to the fact in our overly logo obsessed and instantly recognizable garment era, it's very easy to instantly price anyone's "look". It reminds me of myself wearing that $35 Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt to school for the first time in the sixth grade, hoping that people would notice and associate me with the "cool" kids. Even then I didn't tell anyone it was paid for with a plastic sandwich bag full of quarters saved from my paper route.
    Last edited by haydn; 05-18-2020 at 03:55 PM.

  3. #3
    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    /\ I love that story!

    I don't know what's going on IG these days - seems like that's where fit culture has moved to, but here we never really had a problem scouting for deals and sharing them with others. Actually, it was cool when someone spotted something that say wasn't their size and would share it here.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

    StyleZeitgeist Magazine

  4. #4

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    I honestly think there is a set of both producers and consumers that benefit from these crazy prices. The producer gets to run a low volume HIGH margin business and the consumer gets to show off their wealth...

    It's a weird game that has never sat well with me, If I'm going to spend thousands of dollars on something I wish it would at least have exotic materials or something with a story behind it that goes beyond the usual marketing stuff.

  5. #5

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    A quick thought after reading through the article, I agree that the pricing is ridiculous these days, but what I'm personally interested in is what caused such rise, yes of course, most of these companies are greedy and all but most of these businesses exist to make profit, and these companies charge ridiculous price isn't it simply because they know they can and eventually they gain from it? and the rich and dumb (not the most appropriate term but you know what I mean) simply will pay?

    A multiplier of 2.0 for the Japanese brands is something unheard of for me..

  6. #6

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    For big European houses, the spectacle and hype machine is partly to blame for rising costs. A large scale fashion show in Paris now means finding a venue that creates a wow moment (or building one that will only be used for a day), hiring models (I’m sure the Hadid sisters don’t come cheap), hiring a PR team to simultaneously pump out live content across multiple platforms, PAYING celebrities and “influencers” to show up, sending out clothing and bags to VIP’s so they are photographed in the brand while attending. All of that is in the millions of euros, even before runway samples are produced (at a cost, even when most won’t go into production). And for the top brands, this is done 4 times a year in their regular city, twice on the road (let’s fly everyone to Brazil for a cruise show!), not to mention presentation shows of the collections in Asia and the Middle East. The cost of all of that is subsidized by the $500 t-shirt.

    Salaries are also out of control. Raf Simons was paid a $17 Million annual salary at Calvin Klein. I can only imagine what Hedi Slimane negotiated for Celine. And these salaries are on top of their design teams, corporate boards, and the thousands of other people who may be employed by a big brand. Again, they all need a cut on that $500 tshirt.

    I’ve seen it done in the past, but it would be interesting now to see a product broken down from retail price to actual cost and where the money goes in the current fashion retail landscape.

  7. #7
    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    What I'm hearing is that it costs 20 euro on average to manufacture a sweatshirt in Portugal. Louis Vuitton boasts a 45% profit margin. Bernard Arnault made 35 billion last year, more than any other person on earth, including Jeff Bezzos, Warran Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. Make your own conclusions.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

    StyleZeitgeist Magazine

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Faust View Post
    What I'm hearing is that it costs 20 euro on average to manufacture a sweatshirt in Portugal. Louis Vuitton boasts a 45% profit margin. Bernard Arnault made 35 billion last year, more than any other person on earth, including Jeff Bezzos, Warran Buffet, Bill Gates, etc. Make your own conclusions.
    What also blows my mind is that brands like Louis Vuitton no longer pride craftsmanship and quality to justify the price of their bags. If you see a $1500 bag in a store you’d assume it would be of a certain quality material with craftsmanship to match. However Vuitton now makes bags in Texas ( https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-you...as-11571332220 ), where for $13 an hour recent immigrants to the country are given two days training before they start manufacturing your $1500 bag (made from coated canvas, no less). And it’s not even a secret - this was widely publicized! The bags are stamped “Made in America”.

    Thankfully most brands discussed on these forums don’t subscribe to this business model (although Rick is pushing it with the $240 cotton tanks).

  9. #9

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    Likely a given but I wonder if increasing prices on the 'real' clothes is the reason why the new type of clothes people aspire to are premium mediocre e.g. baseball caps, beach slides, plastic sneakers, etc. "Too expensive to save up for good design, so I may as well buy into the brand with something of poor/mediocre quality but that conveys the social status signifiers anyways", might be the new consumer logic.

    Similarly, I think increasing prices also made people interested in second-hand and archive clothing and why Grailed is so popular with the younger gen. Too expensive to buy new, so why not fill your wardrobe with pre-owned clothes from your favourite brands that people are eager to get rid of? Though this has obviously also further commodified and dumbed down fashion, and making it a double-edged sword. I have friends who do not follow fashion at all that are getting fashion meme pages recommended to them by the IG algorithm. And if you look at the comment sections and the account owners themselves it's clear that it's the same Grailed crowd - no nuance, no dialogue, just memes as an abominable semiological orgy.

    I went on a bit of a tangent but my point is just that these increased prices may also be affecting how the next generation is perceiving and interacting with fashion. If prices were more reasonable and within reach of a younger generation, it's very possible that the next generation perceives clothes more valuably and that Grailed never grows to what it is now.

  10. #10
    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    /\ Absolutely all valid points. I mention the rise of the second-hand market and premium mediocre goods as consequences of price insanity. Couple that with the fact that our pop culture places a lot of value on owning designer fashion (or at least flaunting it), and there are your consequences.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

    StyleZeitgeist Magazine

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