Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rant: Modern Clothing Manufacturers are Skimping on Quality

In the drive to keep prices of clothing down for customers who demand it, modern manufacturers have to find ways to cut costs.  Many of those cost cutting measures result in lower quality garments.  This "dumbing down" of American fashion has been gradual over the last 15 years or so until a whole new generation of buyers have come to accept poor quality and throw away garments as the norm.

I have recently started noticing more press devoted to the issue of poorly made garments imported from overseas.  In my opinion, this is a very good thing.  But talking about the issue is just the beginning.  We as consumers now need to start fighting back with our wallets.  We need to stop purchasing "garbage garments" and use our hard earned dollars for quality, not quantity.  In doing so, though, you have to become a fashion detective.

Photo from Eileen Fisher
Here's an example.  I was perusing the Eileen Fisher website this morning.  I wear Eileen Fisher garments frequently, but I haven't purchased anything new from this brand for the last 3-4 years.  My older classic pieces from this company are holding up well, while newer Eileen Fisher garments in the last few seasons have suffered in comparison.  Take a look at this Round Neck Tee with Cap Sleeves that is newly offered on the site.  I am shocked at how ill fitting this t-shirt looks in the photo.  If it doesn't fit a model well, how is it going to work for me?  The cut of the garment is unflattering and when you zoom in on the photo, you can see that the "silk cotton" is thin and not tightly woven.  At $108, this t-shirt is hardly a bargain.  For that price, I would expect a garment of much better quality.

Let's look at a few details.

-  First, the fit.  Eileen Fisher says this shirt is "fitted at the bodice, easy at the hem."  Translaction? The side seams are straight instead of curving to fit the body.  It's easier to cut and sew a straight seam than a curved one.  That means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  "Cap sleeves" simply means they have taken a short sleeve and made it shorter and skimpier.  These cap sleeves aren't even shaped to the body.  They're simply cut straight across and hemmed which gives them an odd angled appearance.  Shorter length and cutting  straight across means less fabric, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  Take a look at the shoulder seam.  Now look at where the model's shoulder is.  There's about 2" less in shoulder width than there should be.  That means less fabric, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  "Banded at neckline."  Instead of using a dyed-to-match rib knit for the neckline banding, which would hug the body and not gap out of shape, this band is just a folded over piece of the same knit fabric that is serged to the neckline.  One washing and that will no longer sit flat on the body.  It's going to crumple and fall over.  But using the same fabric for the neckband means less fabric to buy and dye, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  Is it me, or is this t-shirt too short?  The fabric is 70% silk/30% cotton which can be "hand washed, but dry cleaning is recommended."  Translation?  This shirt will likely have some shrinkage in length when I wash it.  But a shorter hem means less fabric, which means it's cheaper to make.

The folks at Eileen Fisher are hoping you won't notice these areas where they've skimped to cut costs.  And they are not alone in using these methods.  Almost every manufacturer out there is hoping you'll accept their "garbage garments" in your pursuit of the latest fashions.  Will you become a fashion detective?  Will you keep your wallet in your purse in protest?  I hope so. 

Sorry, Eileen Fisher, I won't be buying this t-shirt.  And I have to say how disappointed I am that you would attempt to pass off this poor quality garment to a long time customer.  Maybe I should start to sew my own t-shirts again.