As many of us have been reading over the last few months, there has been a major downturn in the business of major fashion retailers across the country. BCBG, BeBe, The Limited, Macys, American Apparel, Vince, and Sears are all closing stores. What is happening here? Don’t people still need clothes?
As a young-ish consumer to me the answer is clear. The modern consumer is looking for a completely different experience than what these companies are offering. They want to feel an emotional connection when buying.
At the core of the issue is this fact: major fashion houses tailor their styles to the needs of the major retailers and major retailers have taken their eye of the ball. Most major retailers are so price conscious and so risk adverse they have hamstrung themselves and now find themselves in a creative black hole. Fashion consumers are more often looking for “new”, “cool”, and “fun” than these major retailers give them credit for. Instead customers who walk around Macy’s see the same styles knocked off year after year.
Big retailers have to change the way they think to survive and fashion houses should push them. Sure new styles have a greater chance of flopping but they also can turn into the next bubble or bomber jacket. More than that, at least you give the consumer the feeling they are seeing something new and exciting.
When it comes down to it fashion is supposed to be fun, creative, and artistic and most of all make you feel good when you try on the clothes.
Large fashion house should set aside some time to take a look at the designers you can find on Instagram or with small websites going direct to consumers. Their sales might not be huge but they have the freedom and bravery to produce amazing new product. I think the fashion houses will be impressed - I know I am.
If you walk in to any high end restaurant here in New York City you are going to see a lot of information on your menu; where the food is sourced from, how it was cared for, and what techniques were used to prepare it. More and more, consumers are starting to care about where their purchases came from. They want to be educated so they can make better decisions going forward.
The question we are posing in our inaugural blog post is; “Is the same thing happening in the fashion industry?”
Here at District Leathers we work on the front line of domestic fashion production. Nothing makes us happier than selling leather to local brands, manufacturing their goods domestically, for global consumption. From what we have been seeing, the same thing is being expressed by consumers.
All of the sudden, and almost out of nowhere, the label “Made in the USA”, “Made in New York”, or “Made in Brooklyn” means something. We hear stories of brands getting picked up in as faraway places as Japan simply for having these labels. So what is this all about?
Well one thing that may be helping to spur this trend is quality. It has been ingrained in fashion consumers that “Made in Italy” denotes a certain quality in the product. As a domestic supplier of leather, we can say with firsthand knowledge that New York boast some of the finest leather craftsman in the world. The products made in New York’s Garment District by companies like Coyote Leather, Barry Martin Fashion, IVEL International, Square Foot Craftsman, Sherry Accessories, Clutchmade, and Baikal among others is so top notch that I would be confident doing a taster-choice test with any of the Italian manufacturers. New York manufactures are not inexpensive, but their quality helps to explain why.
Another trend we are seeing is that brands are starting to do the math when comparing domestic and overseas production. For most, the actual cost of CMT (Cut, Make, and Trim) is drastically less overseas. But as shown in the table below, after you factor in the price of shipping the goods back to the US, prices can often be comparable. Also, many brands are choosing to pay a small premium for having a manufacturer they can talk to, visit, and watch as they make their product. As anyone could imagine, having product made a block or two away provides brands with incredible control and communication during the process.
Below is a table outline what some brands have been looking at in terms of domestic vs. oversees production…
RAW MATERIAL COST (35 SQ FEET @ $4.00)
SUPPLIER PROFIT MARGIN @ 20 %
SHIPPING BY BOAT (INCLUDES DUTY, INSURANCE, BROKER FEES, DOMESTIC FREIGHT, ETC.)
ESTIMATE LANDED COST
We all know that price conscious brands are not able to think like this, just like McDonald’s can’t tell you how they get their burger meat. But for those consumer out there looking for a “farm-to-table” experience when buying a jacket this makes sense.