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What does one mean by "quality?"

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Gentlemen, I have an interesting philosophy of fashion/semantics question for the members of the board. What do you mean when you say a piece of clothing is a "quality" piece of clothing? It seems that a lot of people mean that a quality piece of clothing will last you many years. Following that reasoning, if an Old Navy polo shirt lasts me 5 years or longer, would it be considered "quality?" (I don't think anybody on this forum considers Old Navy reasonable quality besides myself basically due to the fact that it fits my pathetic photojournalist budget) What if I buy a Versace or Zegna shirt and the seams come apart after the fifth time I wear it? Is that "bad quality" or did I just happen to get a bad shirt? (Note: Any specific brand that is mentioned is used as an example and can be swapped out for its equal in another designer's line. I have to say that because if not somebody will always come along and say "Versace sucks anyway and you never should have bought it." You all understand). It seems that a lot of people think that so called "poor quality" items will fall apart, and as someone who has owned large quantities of what could generally be called cheap to middle line clothing, I have never had anything "fall apart" on me. Things will show noticeable signs of wear after 200 plus washings, but that seems perfectly normal to me. I could be wrong. In other words, what do you all believe are the requirements for something to be of good "quality," can those requirements change or be modified, and how price/brand specific do you feel they are?
post #2 of 5
I see quality in terms of materials, construction, and context. Materials can be high "quality", but it does not necessarily make them more durable - for example, cordura nylon is tougher than cashmere, but which would you rather have in a sweater? Higher quality materials are usually more expensive, refined, rare. Their colors may be brighter, deeper, or more sophisticated. They may possess certain attributes that make them desirable (softness of cashmere, wrinkliness of linen, etc.) Construction is a whole other thing, how a garment is made greatly affects its perception - take an amazing lightweight pinstriped wool and put it into a fused suit that's cut too big with mismatched lines, it won't look good. It wouldn't be considered a "quality" suit. With a shirt, neglect certain details like collar stays, the back yoke (missing or one piece in a check pattern are personal pet peeves), hand finished buttons, etc. may lead to a perceived lack of "quality". Here, I am equating quality to the extra care and precision taken to complete the piece. Another example: an inexpensive shirt will usually have serged seams, when an expensive shirt will have flat felled (french) seams. The former is cheap and easy to do with a serger and takes no time at all; the latter is difficult (well... simple to do with the proper felling foot on a sewing machine, but it's impossible to do by hand correctly.) With context, let me put it this way: to me, a t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt, you can make one out of silk and have it sewn by blind nuns in a convent in the shadow of the Andes, but it's still a t-shirt. Or my cordura nylon example above - that material works amazingly well in backpacks and mountaineering gear, but it would suck in a traditionally cut suit. Personally, I see quality as a combination of the above factors. Great materials put together in the best way, both chosen appropriately for the piece makes a something high quality (to me.) Durability does not necessarily mean high quality, though they are not mutually exclusive... and quality does not mean durability.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Good points Dave. I was hoping you were going to answer. Kevin
post #4 of 5
Remember that something at a high price point isn't necessarily quality. I bought a Prada shirt recently, and it ripped on the second wearing. A roomate of mine bought a different Prada shirt, and one of the buttons fell off after one wearing. Crappy quality. I think in terms of quality, the overall fit of the garment, which not unusually more expensive clothes DO fit better; fabrics used, again, more expensive clothes WILL make use of better fabrics; construction, this is where the discrepancy lies, I've bought relativly inexpensive shirts that are made great, on the other hand is my Prada example. The largest disparity is seen in suits; the more expensive basted suits will definalty last longer as opposed to the cheaper fused front suits. This is quality.
post #5 of 5
Definitely construction, fabric, and materials vary significantly among clothing designers and manufacturers, and among lines made by the same designer and/or manufacturer. I came to this board after searching for higher quality clothing and deciding that I am willing to "pay up" to buy higher quality clothing. I began my search because of my experiences with department store (Foley's, Nordstrom, etc.) clothing shrinking, fading, tearing and pilling after only one or two wearings and washes. The grade of materials, fabric, and the "goodness" of construction were just not there, and the wearing and washing performance showed. I also noticed that these clothes were made in low wage countries such as Sri Lanka, China, Macau, The Philippines, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Guatamala, etc. My working assumption is that certain designers and manufacturers seek to maximize their profits -- and there's nothing inherently wrong with that -- by sending low grade fabric and materials to low wage countries where they can have low income workers working in un-airconditioned sweatshops construct them poorly to low manufacturing standards and then export them to the United States where your Average American who only cares about buying the latest and greatest fad or fashion will pay whatever price is displayed at the mall for these items by charging them on their 18% APR credit card and worrying about paying for it all later, whenever that is. Then, the process repeats ad nauseum as new fads and fashions are created and the Average American continues to value these faddish fashion items more than his or her hard-earned dollars and makes the trade with Foley's, Nordstrom, etc. accordingly. I decided that I don't want to be the Average American and that the lower prices just aren't worth it -- you end up paying more in the long run because you have to keep replacing your clothes sooner. So, now I purposefully avoid shopping malls, department stores, and all clothing made in Southeast Asia, Middle Asia, South America, and Central America. That's my way of beating the odds that I will be sold a load of crap when buying clothes for me and my family. Now, I focus on specific designers and manufacturers who have demonstrated a track record of making good, high quality clothing that lasts and comes in styles and colors that I like. Then, I go about searching for places where I can buy end-of-season, overstocks, etc. of these specific brands. eBay has been one place, premium outlet stores have been another. So, I end up buying last year's Zanella, Dunhill, or Canali etc. made in Europe at 50% to 80% off the original retail price last year. Some brands I like, Faconnable for example, use good materials, good manufacturing standards, and good design but manufacture in different places including USA, Canada, and the aforementioned low wage countries. I'll still pick these up whenever I see a design I really like at a discount price, regardless of place of manufacture. So, in the end, "quality" to me comes down to the designer's and manufacturer's intent: Either... 1) sell clothes of good, timeless design, crafted from long-lasting fabrics and materials, and made to high manufacturing standards to discriminating buyers looking for long-term value, OR 2) keep a pulse on the latest and greatest fads, and then create cheaply and quickly designed and manufactured clothes so that we can get them into the U.S. malls where the Average American anxiously awaits with credit card in hand to buy them before the fashionable fad passes and his interest moves on to the next fad. Both intentions are good ways to make money from the designers' and manufacturers' perspectives. But, from this buyer's perspective, intention #1 is best.
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