ask me anything question series #1


love this! (referring to new dress in IG stories)

why are your items so so expensive that middle class women can't even afford a single dress?


there are so many facets to this question and i could probably find myself discussing them all day, but i will try to do my best to address them! shopkeepers everywhere get asked a similar question to this all the time, and i think it could be helpful to hear more.

before i dive in, i want to give a broad round up of where retail is at right now. as you've probably heard on the news over the past 5 years, retail is suffering right now, both large and small retailers feel it - and there are so many reasons contributing to it. online shopping, large discount chain stores, millennials focusing on experiences over consumer goods, millennials having student debit or not being able to buy houses - this list goes on and it's way more complicated than just saying "amazon".

yes - online shopping has changed consumer habits - it's also altered expectations. a retailer used to to have all goods shipped to a physical storefront, and from that point, customers would make purchases and returns in store. now, all of that can been done from a computer. due to not being able to try things on in person, customers may have a higher return rate. many retailers, to help with the inconvenience of this, offer free shipping for the order and returns. depending on the size of the retailer, the retailer may be able to negotiate better margins or terms to allow them to be able to offer free shipping that doesn't effect their bottom line. smaller retailers, if they are a multi-brand shop, often end up eating the cost to keep up with the larger retailers. it is also important to note the time windows allowed in which online returns can be made - usually 10 - 30 once the order has left the retailer.  in the fashion industry, where seasons are shrinking quicker than you can count, a month is a very long time and chances are if 30 days pass, the retailer may have to discount that item when it's returned as it's no longer seen as viable new inventory to consumers. All of these things impact the cost of the item on the shelf, where ever that shelf may be.

but let's get a bit more specific - how does a dress get so darn expensive? first, it starts with the brands decision of what kind of quality garment they want to make and where they want them to be made. natural fibers cost more and last longer / wear better over time - synthetics are cheaper and don't age well. manufacturing in countries that have labor laws will be more expensive to the brand, countries where the labor laws are not as strict or don't exist at all will be cheap. garment construction also plays a big part in cost - how are seams finished - some methods are better than others and also contribute to cost. whether the brand decides to sell directly to consumer or to retailers also will impact the end price - brands who sell to stores that reach customers in person will always be more expensive than direct to consumer product.

let's make a pretend dress here in the US at a small workshop! the dress uses 4 yards of a nice linen fabric at $10 per yard. your fabric costs are $40. you are making a dress that has many pattern pieces, is fairly intricate, uses french seams, and you are a small brand an not doing a huge production run. A dress like this, in a factory setting, could take from cutting to finish garment i would guess between 2-5 hours but it depends on the garment and how many are working on the different components at once.  for me, it takes me about 3-6 hours to make something from scratch. let's say we are paying the person making the garment $12 an hour at 4 hours, $48, so our total is $88, we also should probably add in $20 of overhead costs, so now we are at $108. chances are the workshop factory will want to make a profit on this (i don't know how much honestly) but let's add on $30 for their margin - now we are at $138, that's the cost per unit to the brand. the brand then marks that up by roughly 2x , now that item is $268 wholesale to the retailer. without going into detail because then this will be really long, believe me when i say the retailers needs to do at least a 2.3x mark up from that to stay afloat. so domestically, that dress will sell in a store for $616.  but, if you are a store buying that brand internationally, you may need to account for a price that adds another 20-30% on top of that to allow for customs duties/ shipping for importing. so now we are looking at a dress that's around $739-800 if you are still doing a 2.3x mark up, but honestly once you start buying and importing and traveling to buy - you are going to start doing a larger mark up because the cost to get those goods is way more expensive and sometimes you will do a 2.5x mark up. so that's it, in a nut shell.

now i want to talk about the other side of this question as we've addressed how a price is determined. how is a middle class customer supposed to afford this dress? i am not in a place to evaluate anyone else's financial situation and it would be irresponsible for me to do so. what i will say though is you should never make any purchases (either clothes, vacations, going out to eat, school - anything!) if that puts strain on you or your family, never go into debt. my best advice to anyone is to live within your means and live simply. we all have things in life we justify spending money on - i for one rarely drink and have never spent money on this - instead i'd rather save up and buy a piece of clothing or crafting supplies. but i know people who would rather spend money going out to eat or traveling and would consider buying expensive clothes a luxury. the truth is neither approach is bad and we all have things we prefer or don't prefer to spend on, and it's not anyone else's place to to judge the other.  an $800 dress is not something that will be in everyone's budget and i completely acknowledge that.

however, i do want to talk about the amount of consumption that our world has gotten used to. back in the day, it used to be that a person would own maybe 2-4 outfits and wash and wear those continuously. those garments were often made in the family or by a local tailor. they were well made and lasted for years and were often mended. garments were not as frequently disposed of as they are today. our society throws out so many clothes that are still usable simply because they don't like them anymore or they have "gone out of fashion". fast fashion is hurting our economy, environment, and producing so much waste. we are constantly bombarded by the idea that if we buy more we save - but i think if we buy less and buy better made things we will save more on a variety of levels. shopkeepers are trying hard to spread this message - buy less and buy better quality and buy vintage - wear your clothes more and love them!

as a side note, i also want to mention, i do carry some lines that are in the $150-250 price range - so within the in the shop, i do hope people will find a piece that will work for their budget. i try not to sell certain kinds of garments below this price range because i am concerned about both the product quality and the worker's quality of life who made it.

i also would encourage people to learn how to sew - making your own clothes is fun and rewarding. i will be honest and say until i learned how to sew - i had no concept of how challenging and time consuming it could be. i didn't understand costing and factories before i started my business, but once i started working on those things, i realized how the numbers add up.

i hope this has helped, there is so much more i could easily talk about - please if you have any questions feel free to ask!