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Question about designers

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey all, Sorry if the title was confusing, I didn't know how exactly to word this question is so few words. Anyway, my question is why do some designers have other designers make clothing for them? Examples I can think of is Vestimenta making top-level Armani (Borgonuovo and Classico I think), Zegna making things for Armani, etc. I don't know if my examples were correct, but they were all I could think of. Who else does this? And what is the reasoning? To me, if Zegna makes an Armani line, it's essentially a Zegna piece. Does it mean that Armani wasn't good enough to produce those goods? Or do they just like the influences of another designer on their lines? I'm not able to figure this one out, so all responses are appreciated.
post #2 of 12
Firstly, I think you are confused about two things: a designer and a manufacturer.  A designer is one who works in a 'drawing room' drafting out new designs according to his own whims and 'inspirations'.  A manufacturer is one who produces according to a blueprint drawn by someone else.  They are two entirely different businesses, similar to the writer-publisher relationship --- a writer doesn't print his own books and a publisher doesn't write.   Zegna is a very big company which started out as a fabric merchant and later turned manufacturer.  They also have their own design department which makes clothes in their own factories --- thus the many clothing lines similar to a regular Milanese designer.  However, not all Zegna-labelled items are made by Zegna, one example being their shoes. Other manufacturers, from the top of my head, are Canali, Cantarelli, Chestshire Clothing, Corneliani, Hickey Freeman, Saint Andrews, Vestimenta, just to name a few that are well-known.  They all have their own design departments, thus you see clothings under their own labels; but their main business is still manufacturing.  There are various smaller manufacturers who do not have a large design department, thus less well known.  Having your own design department helps promote your image and your own products. Designers like Armani, Gucci, and a million others are merely designers who have no capacity of producing their own drawings.  Most designer items are made by Zegna, which have the quality level of their regular Zegna line, with the exception of Gucci's custom, which are partially made at the Zegna Napoli workshop; thus the you'd notice the beautiful custom double-breasted suit Domenico (Gucci's CEO) was wearing in the American Express advertisement --- now you wouldn't think this CEO would just wear a regular Gucci.   (Regular Gucci suits are still made by regular Zegna.)  To be honest --- hope I wouldn't offend Gucci fans here --- even Gucci leather goods are made from outside sources, with the final Gucci label sewn in Italy so as to justify the 'Made In Italy' label.  If you know what this outside source is, none of you would want to spend another dime at Gucci.  This would also explain why even Gucci shoes do not last. For higher end production one turns to Cantarelli (Huntsman), Castangia (Battistoni), Saint Andrews (Ascot Chang), or Chestshire Clothing (Turnbull & Asser).   All of them from Huntsman to Ascot Chang will only produces pieces from their own workshop if it is a custom order.  Luciano Barbera is now made in a Neapolitan workshop --- guess who? Corneliani and Hickey Freeman would fare somewhere in between.   The same theory goes with shirts --- Brioni's shirts from Burini, where Oxxford actually collects shirts from three different factories (and one of them right under our nose at Staten Island, NY).   And the same goes with shoes: Mantellassi makes for Borrelli, and soon Ferragamo will make for Zegna, Edward Green makes for Ralph Lauren, or Silvano Lattanzi makes for Brioni.  It is quite easy to spot Lattanzi's: look inside your shoes and you will find a 3-colour thread at the joint of the leather lining (goat skin, acutally) and the ankle suede lining, sewn from the top to the bottom --- and being a true Italian, guess what the 3 colours are. Having realised this fact, the bigger problem is to see how the manufacturers adjust to the 'needs' of the designers.  While you are looking at an Armani Collezione suit, I doubt if you could tell if it's a Zegna.  Shirts and shoes are easier, as the details are more obvious and variations few. As a well-informed shopper, you should always know who does what kind of business.  For example, buying a Louis Vuitton suit is quite silly --- actually, I would even consider a Louis Vuitton bag a silly purchase (unless you like the design, but that's something else).  Louis Vuitton makes trunks.  I wouldn't visit them for anything else.  If you want a good briefcase (or other kinds of leather goods), go to Hermes in France or Cellerini in Florence.  Unless your argument is one of design and aesthetic, then you could pretty much shop anywhere from K-Mart to Prada. The making of leather goods tells more or less the same story, with the exception of, say, Louis Vuitton or Hermes, who, in the case of Hermes, even owns a leather tannery (at Choisy).  But then we will be getting into the topic of raw materials: fabrics, leather, etc..  Luciano Barbera uses fabrics from his father's mill and makes his ready-made suits in Naples; Oxxford will be using some Holland & Sherry for their suits made in Chicago; Hugo Boss orders fabric from Loro Piana and has their suits made by some small (and not very good) Italian manufacturer; Hermes picked tribesmen from Niger to make their silver belt buckle which will later be finished in their Lyon workshop; ... ... ... It is, after all, a very small world.
post #3 of 12
Try not to think of designer clothes as someone with a sketchbook whipping off designs and having them sewn... the sheer volume of production these days means teams of people design the clothes, which are probably patterned on a computer, then sent to a huge factory to be made by the thousands with cheap labor. Large companies produce in large quantities, so if you can arrange a deal with another manufacturer to use their factory and make a similar product (which makes $$$ for both sides) why not? Think of it like the auto industry, parts are made by different companies which end up in a lot of the same cars, and there's lots of cross pollination between brands as well (i.e. when you're buying that Jaguar, you've got Lincoln/Ford underpinnings in there.)
post #4 of 12
I hope ya'll enjoyed that list while it lasted. I couldn't leave it up forever - too many trade secrets
post #5 of 12
Very informative and well-written posts here. One thing I was curious of was how those arrangements affect one's ability to judge across the board quality of a brand. For example, you said Ma.Co produces both Baldessarini and Brooks Brothers. Assuming you mean mainline Brooks Brothers, there is obviously a substantial gap in quality between the two lines. Is this a common occurrence among manufacturers (producing noticeably watered down products per the designer's requests) or does it over occur that a manufacturer will maintain strict standards and refuse a "lower-end" contract so as not to hurt its own image? Moreover, when manufacturers release their own house-brand suits, how does their quality generally compare with that of the licensed brands? If I were to see a Ma.Co labelled suit on sale, would it be more accurate to compare it with the higher or lower end of their production range? I guess what I'm saying is that for bargain hunters who places most of their clothes-buying priorities on quality, it seems like a logical strategy would be to look for a manufacturer and purchase their lesser known labels in order to get the same quality as the better-regarded ones (e.g. buying Dunhill to get Zegna quality or your Castangia example). I'm just trying to figure out whether this theory is accurate most of the time.
post #6 of 12
Actually the quality is fairly consistent. Of course some manufacturers have several tiers of quality. For instance the jackets Ma.Co does for Brooks Brothers have a canvased front, handpicked lapels and some other nice features but not handstitched buttonholes. The Sulka and Bijan suits however were a step up in quality and had the handstitched buttonholes. Ma.Co does not make the regular Brooks Brothers line - it does a (relatively) few suits for the top end of their range. In addition to sometimes having tiers of quality the manufacturers usually have a selection of models (cuts) to choose from. Sometimes they will even develop a special cut for a high-volume or high-visibility customer. A good example of that is the suits Cantarelli does for H. Huntsman.  
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Moreover, when manufacturers release their own house-brand suits, how does their quality generally compare with that of the licensed brands?  If I were to see a Ma.Co labelled suit on sale, would it be more accurate to compare it with the higher or lower end of their production range?
Usually the suits they sell under their own labels are of the best quality. But there are plenty of exceptions so it is best to evaluate each suit on its own merits. If you guys remind me I'll do a topic one of these days on some of the telltale signs that show a suit is top quality.
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I guess what I'm saying is that as a bargain hunter who places most of his clothes-buying priorities on quality, it seems like a good strategy is to look for a manufacturer and purchase their lesser known labels in order to get the same quality as the better-regarded ones (e.g. buying Dunhill to get Zegna quality or  your Castangia example).  I'm just trying to figure out whether this theory is accurate most of the time.
An excellent philosophy and strategy. It is one that I share with you. With a bit of hunting you will be able to find suits by top makers that were private label jobs for stores or ones that were made for obscure designers. Since these suits have (relatively) little name recognition they are almost always substantially cheaper. But, again, it's best to judge the suit on it's own merits rather than assuming it's good because "so and so" made it.
post #7 of 12
Very informative post. Your enneuendo of where Gucci leather products does make one think. Anyways I understand that designers have specific manufacturers for hteir various products. I know Ruffo makes leather articles for Versace, and Chester Barrie used to make suits for RL Purple Label. What about the haute couture lines of women's brands. I am thinking of such companies as Chanel, JPGaultier or Thierry Mugler. It would seem they make their creations in house but I am not to sure.
post #8 of 12
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If you guys remind me I'll do a topic one of these days on some of the telltale signs that show a suit is top quality....
Please do.
post #9 of 12
A Harris, why are you stating above 'too many trade secrets' and enjoy the post while it lasts? Many of the facts stated above about who manufactures for whom has been stated on this forum before and with some smart research, can be readily found on the internet, trade magazines or even speaking with knowledgeable salespeople. New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal and the like, even Forbes and Fortune magazines all have industry articles from time to time mentioning companies cancelling contracts and moving to new manufacturers for their clothing ...... etc (at least on a lot of the major players) But I for one thank naturlaut for being so concise about it all in one post.
post #10 of 12
Mr. Harris: which list are you referring to? Mr. Aybojs: > -- I have actually not visited a Brooks Brothers' store before, so I can't make the exact comparison you mentioned. However, bear in mind that a designer/retailer makes special orders from a manufacturer. While to you, there may be a disparity in quality, to the designer/retailer, they have balanced quality and profitability. For example, by ordering a line of suits without any hand-stitching on the lapel, the bottomline is lowered while the retail price is maintained. Most manufacturers are pretty obediant to their orders and they have no fear about compromising their reputation, because, honestly, unless you are as obsessive as some of us, one would have no idea that Brooks Brothers' suits are made by Ma.Co, or Paul Stuart's by Hickey Freeman. There are, however, some manufacturers who are very strict about their production that they insist upon certain details no matter how the orders are customised, such as Cantarelli; thus from Cantarelli's own label to Huntsman's model, the quality is very consistent. LabelKing: Most designers have a workshop devoted to women's haute couture, from Versace to Valentino. Hermes: while some information are made public (such as Hermes using Niger tribesman, or Vestimenta making Armani), some are purely my observation throughout the years --- for example, my 'discovery' of the 3-colored stitch inside a Lattanzi's shoe, Castangia's Battistoni (put both together and you will see the similarity Right Away), Paul Stuart's Hickey Freeman (from the weight of the canvas to the Union Label); and of course some of them arose from my inquiries to sales representives (like the obvious differences between all the Oxxford shirts, or disparaty in leather quality in an Hermes bag and Hermes shoes). I am actually a very ignorant person ... among all the media you mentioned the New York Times is the only one I read regularly, and even that I read only the 'summarised' version it has for the Palm.... . I am aware that they occasionally feature fashion articles, but are mostly about designer fashion.
post #11 of 12
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A Harris, why are you stating above 'too many trade secrets' and enjoy the post while it lasts?
A couple days ago I posted a fairly extensive list of "who makes who" based on my own experience with selling the items I referred to. However it is rather closely involved with my business so it's not something I want to be readily available on the internet. I edited the post and removed the list - sorry for teasing you guys with it but I've got to make a living
post #12 of 12
ah, a harris, i see what it was then, and i don't blame you one bit and naturlaut is correct, i guess you just learn these things bit by bit from sources left and right - i usually find the business sections of all sorts of newspapers have a tonne of information and even such magazines as 'w' has info every month on who is designing for whom and who is manufacturing for what label, not a lot, but another source
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