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Fashion: Quality vs Marketing

August 26, 2009


Antonio Valente fancy trouser features a seamless pant leg to keep the pattern perfectly positioned

Antonio Valente fancy trouser features a seamless pant leg to keep the pattern perfectly positioned

By what standards may quality be objectively measured and marketing dispelled? When looking at products that are recognized as the best, what are the common criteria found throughout all industries that communicate the highest levels of quality. Alternatively, what are the indicators among those companies that profess quality through expensive marketing campaigns but fail to realize their claims or even pursue them? For some people this is a moot point since they are blindly loyal to a small number of brands and refuse to question the validity of their devotion to a specific designer, but for others it is a relevant issue.

Materials and Fabric Usage. Only the finest fabrics, buttons, thread, pocketing and linings should be used to manufacture shirts, trousers, suits or sport jackets while matching should not be sacrificed in the name of maximizing fabric usage. Many brands will use inferior materials to lower their costs and drive their profits. Critically examine the details of a garment; ask yourself, for example, are fabric patterns mismatched from one front shirt panel to the other, do sport jackets have a seamed two-piece back rather than a one-piece seamless back, are the trousers lined with synthetic linings instead of silk, are the trousers made with crotch pieces, is the back waistband of a fancy trouser mismatched along with the belt loops? If at any time you answer yes to these questions, then you are looking at a brand that has cut corners. For signs of a garment’s quality, click on the link to our look book and flip to the last few pages.

Time Needed for Sewing. Nothing that is made quickly will stand the test of time. In addition to decreasing their costs by using low grade materials, many manufacturers limit the amount of time it takes to sew clothing by omitting materials or avoiding steps that are labelled unnecessary.  A high quality ready-to-wear shirt may take 60 to 90 minutes to sew; by comparison, under equal conditions, mid to low quality shirts take about 13 to 18 minutes to  sew. Some things to look for which indicate an abbreviated sewing process: collars and cuffs without interlinings on both the outward facing side and underside (if interlinings are only on the outer side of the collar and cuffs, they will pucker and wrinkle on the underside after laundering), buttons that are very spaced out to minimize usage (the standard number, including the top button, is 8 buttons on the fronts), a low stitch count per inch (some low quality shirts use as little as 10 to 12 per inch) or trousers with an inside front waistband button sewn to the loose curtain instead of the waistband itself.

Country of Origin. Where a  garment is made can be very revealing in terms of its quality. Germany, France, Italy, Spain, England, U.S. and Canada have built reputations based on quality whereas other countries like China, India, Indonesia and Turkey are synonymous with low cost and cheap clothing. Unfortunately, many European or North American based companies have decided to sacrifice quality in the name of lowering costs and have moved their production to countries like China or India. Be suspicious of labels that read “Styled in Europe” or “Designed in Europe”, both of which attempt to maintain associations with quality apparel made in the aforementioned countries while their production is taking place outside of those countries.

Performance .The best indicator of quality is the performance of a shirt, trouser or sport jacket over time. For example, if clothing is made properly from a fabric with a good thread count, such as a 2 by 2 ply 100’s for dress shirts and Super 100’s for trousers, it will last a long time while maintaining its original appeal even after much laundering.

Innovation. To maximize profits, a manufacturer would need to standardize production as much as possible, in which case, the world would be filled with white shirts and black trousers, all styled and sized in the same way. True quality is the constant search for excellence in fit, design and construction. Without continually offering new and exciting innovations, a brand may not claim to be makers of high quality fashion.

Price. Although true quality has a higher price tag than low end products, it isn’t always an accurate yard stick with which to measure quality. Many international brands carry expensive menswear but rely on their marketing rather than their clothing to convince their consumers of the presence of quality. By being informed, you may differentiate between the two and discover where true quality may be found.

In today’s fashion world, the market has been flooded with so much poorly made apparel that it has redefined our expectations of quality and has lowered the bar. Many consumers are content to hand over their loyalty to a brand, regardless of how it is constructed, but I say that only quality menswear is rightly deserving of this loyalty.


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