Since I started sewing about 18 months ago and have got more and more into it recently, I started looking more closely at the quality of the clothing I buy. I’d never before been that bothered by quality – in my eyes, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a garment from Primark and one from a high end designer. I mean, I hope I would have been able to, but I fear it would be a case of having no idea whatsoever! It meant that I was a frequent customer (and I mean very frequent!) of cheaper high street stores. There isn’t that much wrong with this, and you’ll still find me wearing these sort of pieces nowadays, but I do take a closer look at items of clothing I buy a lot more often than I would have done previously.
Ben and I have recently been watching A Shopper’s Guide to Saving Money on Channel 4 (Kate Quilton is one of my favourite people ever – she’s just so crazy…like me!) and were really interested by episode two in which they looked at the quality of jeans, comparing cheap high street and designer brands. Not only did they visit a tailors where the jeans were all hand stitched (oh my GOODNESS!), but they also visited a factory showing how various different branded jeans were made, many in fact going through basically exactly the same process whether they were £10 or £100. When they did a quick test on someone in the factory to get her to work out which jeans were the expensive ones, unsurprisingly, she couldn’t figure it out.
So according to that programme, it may seem that it doesn’t really matter how much you pay for your jeans – they all seem to come from the same or very similar manufacturing processes and same standard of fabric, stitching and “detail” process ie. bleaching, laser cutting the rips (this was awesome to see) and creating the faux “wear lines” at the hips. But it did get me thinking – then why are we paying so much more for some than others?! If it’s not the manufacturing process or the fabric itself, then what is it?
What people often don’t take into account when purchasing an item of clothing like this is there are so many other factors than just what you’re holding in front of you. Okay, you might consider the expensive advertising campaigns that have “sold” these jeans to you – the reason you might have decided to take the step to purchase the slightly more expensive pair of jeans over a cheaper one could be that you trust and recognise the brand based on its marketing and reviews, something they’ll have poured money into for this exact result.
You also need to consider the process of how the jeans found their way to you. A pair of jeans from Primark may have been designed by someone who is churning out designs all day long to a fairly generic pattern and standard. A pair of jeans from Levi is more likely to have had a more experienced or skilled designer (who thus costs more to hire) spending time finding a pattern that will better suit the specific shape or trend they’re designing for. This pair of jeans may have gone through several creative processes, with more trend research behind it, more testing throughout the design process and sampling afterwards.
Then you need to take into account the costs of the materials, the transport, the factory costs, the workers, the shop staff, the shop design, the branding, the marketing…so much more than I can even imagine as I’ve never studied or looked in too much detail into fashion retail or marketing.
So what’s my point here? I was watching the new campaign that SuperDry jeans have released with Idris Elba and a few thoughts occurred to me:
First of all, that’s another cost into the process – a celebrity designed and endorsed range of jeans. Second of all, the modelling and presentation of the Superdry jeans on their site looks miles better than you might see in other, cheaper stores – I’m a sucker for good advertising, but this really sells them to me. While at face value, if you laid out a pair of the Superdry jeans against a pair of Primark ones in front of me I might not immediately be able to tell the difference between them. But then looking again, thinking about the work that’s gone into that Superdry pair of jeans in comparison to the Primark ones, you realise it’s probably worth it – they’ll more likely be better fitting, the customer service might be better, there has been more work on an advertising campaign.
Obviously I can’t vouch for the quality etc. of every pair of Superdry jeans, and I can’t say that Primark jeans are terrible (in fact, I’ve owned several pairs myself and they’ve been fine!), but what I’m saying is, sometimes it’s worth spending the extra and considering what’s gone on behind the scenes in the items of clothing that you own, whether that’s a higher quality of fabric, more time spent on designs, a shorter supply chain or manufactured in the UK.