June 23, 2007

A Matter of Quality

If your clothes are poorly made, and you don't know...does it matter?

This was the big question that I was thinking about the other day, while browsing Forever 21. That store really scares me, and is really a wonderful example of why I went to graduate school to theorize about fashion rather than choosing to become a fashion designer with my Bachelor of Design in Fashion Design!

The thing is that Forever21 is forever basing its designs on that of others, but doing it quickly and cheaply. So whenever I go there, I see cute things that are incredibly affordable. However, I can't help but notice the poor quality of the fabrics, especially the jerseys that are so vibrant in color. Some of the trims have a terrible hand (touch) and I can't stand raw edges or serged edging. It just looks cheap to me, however cute the design may be.

During my last visit, for example, I saw a really cute woven top for $25 that I would have happily purchased even though it was made of polyester and wouldn't survive a few rounds in my washing machine...but then I noticed the zipper. At a moderately price store such as J.Crew or Banana Republic there would be a neat little invisible zipper. Instead, that Forever21 top has a cheap plastic zipper in a color that doesn't quite match the fabric (in fashion school they teach us that zippers should be slightly darker rather than lighter than the garment fabric). Why? I kept thinking: Why doesn't Forever21 spend the extra 25 cents in the factory to get a nice zipper sewn in? Doesn't that increase the value of the garment?

And then it dawned on me, they don't make the little investments in value because it doesn't pay off - most if not all of their shoppers either can't tell the difference in construction methods or wouldn't care.

Which is too bad, because even at that price point, a few of us do care.


Henna said...

It's true - if you can't tell it's not going to bother you... but what if you're only going to wear it once? Would it bother you then? I think that in a store like Forever21 the notion is that it's cheap so you can afford to wear and throw...

fashion theory said...

hi henna!

you're right - but i guess the thing is that as much as i love fast fashion, i'm not really a fan of disposable fashion. it's not really that cheap if you wear it...once. i would personally rather go one level up like to gap or j.crew and pay 3-4 times as much (or double, after sale prices!) to wear something for a season at least.

wouldn't you? if you like it enough to wear once, then shouldn't you want to wear it again the next day or week or month?

Rachel said...

soon we're gonna have clothes made of paper...one-wear-only..
i suppose 'quality' is not anymore in top3...kind of sad

Henna said...

We're all right - it's just a matter of preference right? I'm assuming some customers don't care (or can't afford to care) about quality whereas other customers do. Question (and maybe you can blog this soon): what stores do you go to for good quality goods, and where should other consumers avoid?

Sandra said...

I don't really shop at Forever 21 because their clothes aren't made for hourglass figures, the sheer volume and color palette scares me, but as you pointed out, the cost per wear isn't worth it.

But I will buy fun accessories there.

fashion theory said...

Hi Henna,

I really like, for cheaper nice clothes, Club Monaco and Zara. Also, I like to shop when places like J.Crew and Banana Republic go on sale. I know their clothes are so classic it doesn't matter what season they're from really.

Things to check out:
1. Fabric (see the tags on the clothes if you don't know enough about textiles to tell by the hand or touch of it alone)
2. Finishes - for example are the hems just serged/coverstitched or are they actually hemstiched? Also a 1/4 inch stitching looks cheaper in some cases than 1/8" hems or blind hemming.
3. Fit - sometimes it's worth buying something cheap (ie Old Navy Jeans) and getting a tailor to fit it perfectly to you...makes a HUGE difference
4. Trims - are the buttons cheap looking? Is the lining luscious or papery? It's these little touches that differentiate between nice and cheap clothes...

geekigirl said...

I second Club Monaco. They have fantastic sales, never buy anything full price from them.

Candid Cool said...

I 3rd Club Monaco, Zara, & BR