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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 04:55 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

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  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.

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    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

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  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

  11. #11

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    This thread is something I have thought a lot about in the past - where is the line between charging a reasonable price for something that has been genuinely well made (which does take more time and energy to make) and being blatantly overpriced.

    More often than not, I see some "high end" clothing sometimes and look at the fabric and wonder how much care and thought really went into this mostly polyester or nylon garment and how much did this really cost them to produce compared to the price tag.
    For example Last year I saw an Elena Dawson coat at Eastern Market selling for around 3K and it was lined with calico, one of the cheapest fabrics. One could say it is a 'design feature' so then you could say that the price tag is justified by the designer's status.

    Someone in my class at design school said once, "some people seem to use a high price point just as a marketing tactic, because if someone sees it's the most expensive, they will just assume it's the best quality"

    Personally, I think the only way to justify a high price tag is if:
    1. You have the mentality of buying clothing you intend to have for a long time and have less clothing in general
    2. you buy from a designer who is transparent about their processes and there is an obvious different in the quality (usually this means everything is done as much by hand or naturally as possible).


    I came across a small business called MATKA recently where all the clothing is handwoven and made in Nepal. The price tag is med-high, 300-700 euro, but to me I find it justifiable as the difference in quality is very clear.
    It also helps to preserve old worlds cultures.

  12. #12
    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sard.wonder View Post
    Someone in my class at design school said once, "some people seem to use a high price point just as a marketing tactic, because if someone sees it's the most expensive, they will just assume it's the best quality"
    Yes, it's called "market positioning"
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

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  13. #13

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    Before I got into fashion, I was well acquainted with buying second hand and shopping online because I'd buy used guitar gear on local classifieds and forums. In that market, it was common to find gear selling at 60% of it's retail price. To me, purchasing used was a no-brainer. I would save a substantial amount of money to purchase exactly the same product I was looking for, that retained the same level of functionality.
    I've never paid full retail for a piece of designer clothing before. I'm always shopping in person and online sales and clearances, and using Grailed and eBay. This is of course motivated by financial savings, but I think a similar mentality applies. Used or heavily discounted clothing retains the same functionality and aesthetic to the user. If you purchase clothing on platforms like Grailed, you get access to clothing from previous seasons which you may no longer be able to find at retail anyways, even if you're willing to pay retail prices.

    Where the distinction in gear and clothing lies for me, is that in the used instrument market, there is often a certain cache or aura to used instruments that is a cultural artifact of those products. Player’s often want used, distressed, or vintage looking instruments, and will pay a premium for instruments that look like they’ve been through the ringer. Use and age becomes part of its value, and the industry has seen this and commodified it. Some of the most expensive guitars you can buy are either vintage examples, or new guitars that have been painstakingly reliced and aged to give them the appearance of use. The implicit value in this, is that players want to be seen owning instruments that appear used, even if they did not play them into this condition.

    What Rabkin's article made me think of with clothing is that, in an age of social media and curated aesthetic presentation, the value of clothing to some consumers is that clothing retains some aura of just-off-the-rack newness. Participation in the latest season and the current trend goes hand in hand with immediate consumption. I think that especially with designer clothing, people are less inclined to convey their relationship with a piece of clothing. A fray, a snag, a missing button, a drooping pocket, these are seen as signs of misuse and imperfection, rather than beauty. Of course there are designers, Yohji, CDG, Rick, the Americana/Workwear market that valorize use and the beauty of an aged product. Of course brands want to retain high prices to retain high profit margins, but on the consumer side, if brands lower prices to make it easier to access their products, I could see a shift in marketing those products occurring if brands started valorizing their customers relationships with their products. All of this seems a bit antithetical to the current system of fashion consumption though.

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    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    It's a good point. Newness is certainly a central fashion tenet. But in some parts of the market, the collector mentality has set it and old clothing sometimes is valued more than new. Having said that, probably the better the condition the higher the price, so I suppose your argument about aging stands. People want the product to age with them.
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

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    Maybe this is getting off topic, but the other thing that this makes me think of is, how often have people here heard of people purchasing designer clothing and using it or styling it in a way that was very personal and that differed or even went against a brand's narrative? I'm thinking about this in reference to Faust's comment that "people want the product to age with them". I'm inclined to assume that someone buying a Gucci tracksuit wants this less than someone buying a pair of Iron Heart jeans or something. Certain products almost demand wear and age, and the brands promote this relationship. I don't know that say, someone buying a Yeezy 350 expressly wants a old beat up pair for some ageing related mojo.

    The high price of a piece of clothing is justified by the consumers' perception of that item. But the reasons they're buying it for can vary wildly, even with two people buying the exact same product.

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    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apoemofdisplay View Post
    Maybe this is getting off topic, but the other thing that this makes me think of is, how often have people here heard of people purchasing designer clothing and using it or styling it in a way that was very personal and that differed or even went against a brand's narrative? I'm thinking about this in reference to Faust's comment that "people want the product to age with them". I'm inclined to assume that someone buying a Gucci tracksuit wants this less than someone buying a pair of Iron Heart jeans or something. Certain products almost demand wear and age, and the brands promote this relationship. I don't know that say, someone buying a Yeezy 350 expressly wants a old beat up pair for some ageing related mojo.

    The high price of a piece of clothing is justified by the consumers' perception of that item. But the reasons they're buying it for can vary wildly, even with two people buying the exact same product.
    This comment is more relevant to another article I wrote - Buy, Don't Rent
    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

    StyleZeitgeist Magazine

  17. #17

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    I believe that in recent years, the brand's clothing is very expensive. People pay 70% of the price more for the brand than for the model and quality.
    Last edited by WhiteUn; 02-12-2021 at 08:58 AM. Reason: mistake

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