Friday, July 01, 2011

Is that all?

In catching up with the local news after vacation, I came across LAT's Buying clothing made locally. I buy sewing supplies from SAS Fabrics, an odd-jobber that buys fabrics and trims from area clothing manufacturers. I have noticed an uptick in the quality and selection of their offerings recently so I was not surprised to read that LA-area clothing production had started to grow slightly after years of decline.

I've even met two women making comfortable livings producing specialty clothing in small lots in my own neighborhood. (And that's not counting Renko.) What did surprise me was this quote.
L.A's Single brand can turn around 800 silk print dresses for Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor in as little as two weeks, now that 90% of its production is done at home. "We recently brought more of our production back from China," said Galina Sobolev, designer-founder of the $15-million brand. "The price difference was only about a dollar per [dress], and the quality control and timing were much better. We're also providing jobs and keeping domestic factories working."
It costs just $1 more to make a dress in LA than in China? I checked the retail prices at Single Dress and online retailers. That's $1 more for a dress that retails at $200-400.

In Deluxe, Dana Thomas wrote that her research showed that manufacturing costs account for about 10% of the price of luxury products; advertising and PR cost 11%. Manufacturing in higher wage countries (Europe and North America) costs about 20% more than in China.

The book came out in 2008 so Thomas' numbers are older than the statistic given in the LAT article. $200 is not quite a luxury price point. But, which is right? $1 or ~$5-10 price difference given by Thomas?

I asked Kathleen Fasanella, the creator of Fashion Incubator. She said that I should have read her more closely because she's been reporting about this for years. Kathleen is right, as usual, but she was so far ahead of my thinking, I didn't grock what she was saying until I read these links together in succession.


  1. Fwiw, you inspired me to write (yet) another entry on the subject [if only because I believe domestic designers are going to be in a world of hurt 12-18 months from now (two years ago, I said five years from now, but considering the economy, should probably refine the timeline)] even tho it feels like I'm flogging a dead horse. I feel like I'm repeating myself so much of the time -as in late 2005 and early 2006 when I said the economy was tanking; that housing was unsustainable etc.

    Interesting that you picked up on slow vs fast fashion; I also selected that link for my follow up piece (along with all the others you listed, great minds and all that rot). Another I picked was Recalibration, fast vs slow fashion, something to offend everyone.

    And I didn't say I told you so :).

  2. Don't the manufacturing cost differential numbers line up a bit better than you say?

    If 10% of a dress is manufacturing costs and the cost increase from China to the US is 20%, then the cost increase is 2%. 2% on a $200 dress is $4.

  3. Oh, I see where I went wrong. At the top end of the price range ($400) the cost differential would be $8.

    Still, I feel that $4-8 is not out of line with the $1 verbal estimate from the designer that you quote.


    I read the first link you provided and I liked this part in particular, "My pricing expectation was a bit of an eye opener. It’s been so long since I could find a good one that I didn’t know what a good one should cost."

    Certainly a generally applicable sentiment.

  4. Great amounts of food for thought here for anyone who thinks clothing is more than a t-shirt with a currently fashionable logo on it.

    I am fascinated by the upsurge in knitting designers, who seem to be making a decent living if you read their blogs. Increasingly knitting designers are marketing their wares directly to their markets. The interesting wrinkle: they don't have to find someone to manufacture their products, other than a small stable of dedicated test knitters, who seem to be willing to knit in exchange for the glory of being first and for free yarn (and money in come cases). Their market will make the goods. This paradigm would be much easier for the knitting pattern designer, who is selling a schematic and a formula, than a sewing pattern designer, who needs to sell a good, i.e. a paper pattern.


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