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Built in obsolescence?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by johnnynorman3, May 11, 2004.

  1. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    I mentioned in an earlier post that I had cut open a suit and was shocked at why companies use fusing rather than just fully canvasing the suit, because it appears that the amount of time that it takes to canvas a suit is radically overstated. [Assume that it takes 3 hours, and assume that the workers are paid 20 an hour -- an outrageously high sum -- it seems like full canvasing would be worth at least $100 extra for retail. That would cover the labor, the materials, and probably still leave a profit of $20 or so].

    For example, why doesn't Armani canvas their suits when Vestimenta -- who makes Armani -- is fully capable of doing this? Same with Burberry via Hickey Freeman. So, here's my new theory. Major premise: Most men don't know the difference between canvas and fused, and neither do most sales people I might add. I mean, for god's sake, half the members of this board are still confused even after extensive posting on the subject. Minor premise: Fused suits don't last as long as canvas suits. Conclusion: Manufacturers fuse suits because they know that it will require the customer to buy more suits over a particular time span, and the customer will be unable to attribute the poor durability of the fused suit to its inferior construction. Therefore, the customer will return and the price he is willing to pay will not be diminished sufficiently.

    Built in obsolescence is well known in the auto industry. How can this not be a plausible explanation for what's going on in the mid-high to high range suits?
     


  2. FCS

    FCS Senior member

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    Keep in mind that there are a number of ways to attach the floating canvas. I've only seen the one with the V-shaped crow-feet stitching (handmade?). See Kabbaz's comment here.
    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Forum....=felled
     


  3. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    That just goes further to support my theory/argument.
     


  4. Carlo

    Carlo Senior member

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    The first page of the thread FC refers to has a photo showing the inside of an Oxxford and the inside of an expensively priced fused suit. More than built-in obsolescence I think the factor is profit margin.

    I've been to the suit factories and it really is amazing to watch the machines crank out suits. With a highly automated shop you'd be amazed at how little fabric gets wasted and how quickly they can pop out 100 suits.

    The well made fused suit costs roughly the same for materials but has FAR less cost in labor than say an Oxxford and they can produce far more. So when you see an Armani priced like an Oxxford (assuming each company marked up the same) the cost of the Oxxford is mainly in labor and the cost of the Armani is mostly in advertising.

    ...not a knock on Armani, they are huge and successful and have the name recognition like no other but it is about where they choose to spend the dollars. The fact of the matter is that MOST folks never hang out on fashion/menswear forums but instead get their perception of value from the advertising and prices.

    Anyone have any idea what Armani's advertising budget is? Has to be enormous.
     


  5. shoefan

    shoefan Senior member

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    Regarding the cost of the hand-work. My understanding of the typical mark-ups in clothing would lead to the following: additional irect labor cost $60 (I think this is probably VERY conservative; Union employees certainly have a total cost, including benefits, of well north of $20/hour. A $20/hour wage is only $40,000/year, by the way. Certainly you're not going to get rich getting paid that much. Generally, the labor overhead for a union manufacturing operation is as much as 70% on top of direct wages. This covers Social Security, paid vacation, medical/health insurance, disability, pension, unemployment tax, etc.).

    Manufacturer's mark-up: $60 (they typically will add an overhead charge and profit which in essence doubles the cost of the labor). So, the cost to the retailer is in fact $120 more. The retailers generally have about a 100% mark-up (i.e. the retail price is 2X what they pay). So, the suit would retail at a $240 premium to the non-canvassed piece.

    If the base wage is $20 hour, and the labor overhead and other mark-ups are applied, then the incremental retail cost would in fact be as much as $415.

    You can see why those suits like Oxxford with tons of hand-work are priced at retail north of $2000; the incremental labor costs add up quickly at the retail level. And of course this analysis leaves out the mark-up that an importer must charge to cover its costs for suits such as Kiton, Brioni, St. Andrews, etc.
     


  6. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    There are 3 ways to make the canvas: 1. Handmade canvas -- custom made with tailor's iron and shears to fit the client's shape exactly. Requires 6-7 hours min. 2. Machine made canvas in stock sizes. a. with Hand-felling -- the suit coat is attached to the canvas by hand. Requires 1.5 hours b. with Machine-felling -- the suit coat is attached to the canvas by machine. Requires less than 10 minutes 3. Fused -- Canvas (usually polyester knit) is attached to the coat using high-temperature glue. Requires less than 3 minutes Following is a detailed breakdown by brand listing which uses each method listed above: Handmade Canvas: Custom tailors only (and not all custom tailors.) Machine-Made Stock Sized Canvas, Hand-Felled: Oxxford, Brioni, Belvest, St. Andrews, Polo Purple Label, HermÃ[​IMG]s, Battistoni, Dunhill Machine-Made Stock Sized Canvas, Machine-Felled: Armani Black Label, Kiton, Polo Blue Label, Hickey Freeman, Alan Flusser, Mimo Spano, Domenico Bacca, Ferragamo, Dunhill, Martin Greenfield Fused Fronts: Armani White Label, Calvin Klein, Joseph Abboud, Donna Karan, Burberry, Chaps, Southwick, Prada, Gucci, Boss Brands not listed have not been disassembled for review and verification.
    http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Forum....=felled
    Wait...so then Polo (blue label / Corneliani) items are Machine-Felled, and not fused? I post an earlier thread and I was told that they were fused. http://www.styleforum.net/cgi-bin....magewis Jon.
     


  7. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    The Ask Andy post was old, back when Polo was canvassed. Now, since Corneliani started making them, they are fused, though they do have pad stitched canvas lapels, which makes them better than a suit that just has fusing in the lapels (like say Boss, I believe).
     


  8. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    Which company were Polo suits previously made by?

    Jon.
     


  9. DandySF

    DandySF Senior member

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    The choice to purchase a fused suit may depend upon a combination of economics and fashion.  For instance, I've seen any number of well-priced fused suits with great style and nice fabrics.  For somebody who wants a fashionable suit for a few years I'd think fused suits would represent a reasonable value, provided they're not sent to the dry cleaner frequently.  Do people really wear suits for 10-15 years?  Do we care how long a suit lasts?  I know that the suits I wore ten years ago are certainly not the ones I'd want to wear today.  My tastes have changed, the times have changed, and so has my body.  So, if someone is looking for a contemporary look without a large investment, I'd think a fused suit would be just fine.  For those people who appreciate the artisinal quality of a handmade suit, the issue of fusing becomes more important.
     


  10. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, although I think that for your "staple" items such as a navy blue suit or a charcoal suit, the slightly better appearance of the canvas suit will justify an outlay of $500 - $600. My new theory is that I'm going to try to have two to three canvas suits in my closet, a couple more fused suits with canvas lapels, and then fill out my wardrobe with designer name fused suits. With a nice collection of ties and Jantzen shirts, I will be set I think.
     


  11. HRHAndrew

    HRHAndrew Senior member

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    Good luck, I had the same idea a while back.  I found that I would only wear the canvas suits.  I would always say to myself that I am not going to wear a second rate suit when this nice Attolini is hanging right next to it.  As a result within short order all of my fused, name brand or not made the trip to the Salvation Army.
     


  12. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    My new theory is that I'm going to try to have two to three canvas suits in my closet, a couple more fused suits with canvas lapels, and then fill out my wardrobe with designer name fused suits.
    Good luck, I had the same idea a while back. Â I found that I would only wear the canvas suits. Â I would always say to myself that I am not going to wear a second rate suit when this nice Attolini is hanging right next to it. Â As a result within short order all of my fused, name brand or not made the trip to the Salvation Army.
    Tis true. But if you've gotta wear a suit to work everyday (like I do/will), then I just don't think I'll have the luxury of wearing only two or three suits all the time. Additionally, I quite like some of my fused suits -- I definitely have patterned fabrics in my fused suits that I don't/won't have in my canvas suits. If I wear a canvas suit 2 or 3 times a week, then those days will just feel like Christmas -- something to look forward to to get me through the week.
     


  13. HRHAndrew

    HRHAndrew Senior member

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    Ok, I assume by reading most of your recent posts that you are buying almost exclusively canvas, and are struggling with completely cutting the fused cord as we all have at one point. Just let us know when you will only wear a canvas suit. I also wear suit to the office daily, for which I say all the more reason to wear canvas. When you consider the longer life span, isn't that the reason this thread was started in the first place?
     


  14. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    HRAndrew --

    To some extent I agree that when you wear a suit to the office everyday, that is all the more reason to buy canvas. However, keep in mind these facts: (1) I have $100,000+ in education debt that I am currently paying off; (2) I am mid-20s, and therefore I cannot expect that my tastes and/or body won't change in the next five years (though I hope it is only the former, if either one does change.). (3) I am just beginning to build my "real life" wardrobe, and to be honest, if I went and dropped $3000 on some suits the wife would probably kick me out of the house. [Most women simply don't understand why or how a good suit can cost more than $200, seriously.] But, I can certainly get away with spending $1500, an amount at which I can easily get 3 fused suits and 2 canvas suits so long as I keep my ear to the ground. That would supplement the current 2 "half-canvassed" and one fused suit I already have. Then, I can probably get away with spending $500 - 1000 on new suits each year for the next couple years -- it would practically fly under the radar with the wife. So, voila, in 3 years time I will have 5 to 6 canvas suits. (4) I would rather spread my investment out over time, as opposed to sinking huge money up front. This is because I can be earning interest off the money I save and can also use it for other things that I don't want to put off (like vacations, buying a nice gift for the wife, etc.). (5) Just in case I change professions and don't have to wear suits every day (a distinct possibility), I don't want to be left with a closet full of $1500 suits with nowhere to go. (6) I actually think that at the margin, the difference between fused and canvassed is slightly exaggerated here. Is there a difference? Sure. Should you be embarrassed to wear a fused suit? NO. Fused and "poor quality/poor style" are not synonymous terms.
     


  15. regularjoe

    regularjoe Senior member

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    Until the day where I can afford a closet full of well-made canvas suits whether RTW, MTM, or bespoke, I still break out the fused suits for rough weather days like lots of rain or extreme humidity. I don't feel so bad about having happen to it and if it's irreparable, it gives me the perfect excuse to replace it. [​IMG]
     


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