An article in today's NYT's style section discussed the prices of designer clothing and how they are justified. Their example featured a pair of Band of Outsiders' khaki trousers, with the price tag of $550. Basic khakis like that cost less than $50 at Gap. The high price for the designer khakis comes from high production costs: they are made in Manhattan, materials alone cost $54, and the average employee earns $13 an hour (20 people are involved in making a single pair). The designer doubles the production cost in order to profit from making the trousers, and the retailer uses an additional mark-up of about 2.5. End result: well-tailored, American-made, high-quality khakis that cost $550. This got me thinking about my decision to not spend $250 on a pair of clogs recently.
I appreciate high-quality clothing and shoes, but I don't want to spend money on them. I have a lot of respect for fashion designers' visions on the one hand, and skills of those who hand craft their items with love and care on the other, but essentially, I don't want to support their work financially. I got to thinking whether this standpoint is at all sustainable. As cheap mass production of clothes is becoming more and more popular, shouldn't I be showing my appreciation and respect to the sellers whose standards of creative work align with my values? Wouldn't it be easier to justify spending money on clothes if I knew I was giving something back to the forces behind them and making sure those gifted seamstresses got their $13 an hour?
This opens a huge can of worms. How do I know what the values of a particular designer are, apart from the likes of Stella McCartney? How do I know if I am supporting someone's creative vision, or their market-driven need to sell their product, or are the two just different sides of the same coin? Can I be sure that their employees work for a decent salary? Do I want to spend a lot of money on a high-quality, unique designer piece, knowing that my money will go toward things like marketing expenses of a business? The answer is no. No matter how I twist and turn the issue, I can't see the point of paying $550 for a pair of khakis. I wouldn't buy the ones at Gap either, and yes, you guessed it, I would thrift them instead. At least with thrifting, you are giving back to the environment, and possibly to a charitable organisation, which is certainly more than justifiable. This is not to say I will never buy anything new again, because I am sure I can come up with all sorts of arguments for a piece of clothing if it is something I really, really want. But there is no way that calculating production costs of a business is making me want to spend more money on anything.
Skirt: second hand / Salvation Army