12 May, 2013

Gatsby Fever... Brings about a passionate conversation.

My friend and a great customer in Hop Sing emailed me the other day to see if I had seen "Gatsby"... I have not, however I certainly will. The cast is superb and the reviews are outstanding.

This period film is based upon The Great Gatsby, a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The fictional story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan during the summer of 1922. Fitzgerald's magnum opus and best-known work, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

The story is captivating... however,... The fashions are absolutely stunning... AMAZING!!!

In her email (and I paraphrase...) she proclaimed that , although she loves a certain vintage-inspired fashion label, she say's "I refuse to buy it because it's all made in China now"... The following is my lengthy response to her.

Dear Lisa P.,

Wow.. this conversation weighs beyond... heavy on my heart...

Yes, agreed. JW makes beautiful clothing. I thought that a portion of their line was still USA made, but since I do not carry it....??? It's unfortunate that so many of the favorite designs we love are made in China or other countries. There are a myriad of reasons why USA garment manufacturing has abandoned home soil... the obvious financial benefit's to corporations as U.S. production cost are astronomical and corporate tax rates are highest in the world. This, combined with our current economic frailty makes selling items at competitive price margins difficult, to say the least... If you can't sell it for more than it costs to make it, how can you make it? Financial incentives to corporations would help, but many of the skilled workers and machinery, even to make the exceptional and beautiful fabrics... are long gone in this country... we quit teaching/making them, or sold the necessary equipment to foreign manufacturers. The why, is a political matter... I don't talk politics.

Then there's the flip side of the coin... All to often, retail price's of outsourced fashion designs do not reflect lower production costs... Corporations have investors, investors need dividends... Etc.. So profits are expected to be maximized... The bigger the corporation, the higher the expectations... Crazy-high sales margins are so common in fast fashion, its just unbelievable! The ethics in the matter, stop mattering... Supply chains no longer matter, unless it's creates negative publicity (i.e.; factory collapse, death toll reaches over 1,000). Sweatshops, cloaked in multi-level factories frequently cram in thousands of workers in inhumane conditions and crank out lower-end fashions, day and night. These same fashions, which often retail at up to five times the cost of wholesale, as compared to a standard keystone markup plus a point two or three percentage to cover shipping on higher end fashions... The Forever's, Wal-Tar-K-mart's of the world.. as well as, far too many trendy lines found in departments stores and "boutiques" know what price points the masses are willing to pay... They know that a trendy top will sell at ten to twenty-something dollars, even though it cost two to five dollars wholesale. Even if marked-way down... (Sale!!!), they're most likely still going to more then double the cost of goods - possibly twice! The masses buy it and think they are being penny-wise, even though the majority of what they buy isn't made to last... or wear well beyond a wash or two, without looking strangely ill fitting, flawed or just plain shot.

Upscale or specialty, aka, contemporary fashions have far less profitability both in production and at retail sites. For one, producing these items require skilled workmanship, not disposable labor. The production chain to make specialty garments cost more... Why? Well, it can be the quality of materials/fabrics, added handiworks etc... and/or the desire or willingness to pay and practice "Fair"... Yes... (even in China and India there are better manufacturing practices, but producers must be willing to pay more)... Fair Labor/Trade groups watchdog companies who tout "Ethical and Fair" manufacturing, even if they are not USA companies... like Odd Molly, they're headquartered in Sweden and here is an example of a fair-wear agreement... http://www.fairwear.org/ul/cms/fck-uploaded/documents/socialreports/2011/OddMollysocialreport2011.pdf

Plus, and this is a major part of it... many of the details that you and I appreciate and covet in fashions are just not offered domestically anymore. Specialty details like hand embroideries, smocking, pintucking and crochet... most of the lace making and knits....if it's intricately detailed is rarely available affordably or otherwise, domestically. These details have gone the way of the dinosaur.... Except in China and India and Portugal mostly.

The retail side of selling these pieces is also more challenging. The specialty fashions market appeals to the middle class or upper middle class, single or working class families without excess of disposable income, but who appreciate quality. Specialty fashions appeal to woman who like to express individuality in their style, and want their fashions to last. That's also why up-scale fashion boutiques are fewer and further between then the mass-corporate chain type stores or trendy youth-oriented stores. As a retailer of upscale and specialty fashions I can tell you it's much less profitable then selling to the strictly-budget-consumed-all-consuming-o-so-willing-to-pay-minimally-masses... It's important to me personally, to buy better and buy less, to have a higher standard. It's a lifestyle choice and it's a real passion... As you know I proudly carry many made in USA brands, but they are harder to sell because they're pricey and mostly... for lack of a better word... plain..., but I digress... The sad truth is... Unless it's a t-shirt or denim, rarely more extravagant ... It's probably made abroad...

So as pertains to the Gatsby, vintage-y adornments on the fashions you and I love, the bottom line is... if it has embroidery or lace details, the fabric was most likely purchased someplace far away... and made someplace faraway... If it has special details and is made in the USA, then probably only the body of the garment was sewn in the USA, but hey! It's better then nothing! I for one will continue supporting USA made, but the fact is you can't avoid the made abroad... not if you want detailed or unique, unless you sew or buy solely vintage these days... But I do feel that we need to be very selective in our choices.

Sorry for the barrage and t.m.i....

I will look forward to seeing Gatsby. Period wardrobes are always an amazing feast for my eyes, and fodder for the imagination!

Lots of Love,

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