Last week we explored the idea of innovation as a necessary component of competitiveness for the U.S. sewn products industry. This week, I take up a topic which has been the downfall of the world wide apparel industry for almost 20 years–quality.
Quality as the Problem
Much has been written on the depressing collapse in quality of the fashion industry, most notably by Teri Agins in her book, “The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever.” In the 1990’s, one could easily find well made designer apparel at retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, such as fully lined women’s slacks of a
beautiful wool, with each pant seam allowance carefully completed with a Hong Kong finish. As Agins points out, the collapse began when giant conglomerates instead of namesake designers became the owners of major fashion labels. Instead of the designer mandating the quality of fabrics and construction; stock holders, demanding ever higher profit margins; began to cut more and more corners. They discovered that the majority of customers had forgotten what their parents knew–garments can be made with quality materials and workmanship and styled with a timeless look. Fortunately for the stock holders, customers had begun to disconnect quality of workmanship and materials from price. Price now became a superficial mark of brand distinction and nothing more. The advent of “fast fashion,” turning around new styles in two weeks or less, was the pit at the bottom.
Customers shopping for ready-to-wear have been well trained to expect poor quality new styles in the shops every time they go in. However, the manufacturing model which enables this system to be profitable is not possible in the U.S.
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Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.