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The myth of declining quality

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These types of discussions always fascinate me and I truly wonder how other people spend their money. I was talking to some new neighbors of ours who are on food stamps but just bought a house and had their first baby. We live in a small town outside Nashville.
Nashville has a surprisingly good custom menswear market (though "bespoke" as it's used here is a stretch in my opinion), though the off the rack and MTM options are great too.
I make low enough I think we might qualify for food stamps now with the birth of our second; we save somewhere around 40-50% of our income for a mixture of savings/investments/religious purposes. So I just, I dunno man. The mind boggles when I hear talk of low six figures in that way. I'd literally be rolling around in piles of cash with that much annual income LOL.
For years I had a "deal" with an Indian tailor who would fly into NYC and do 3 suits for me at $10,000 -- they were fabulous, BUT..... in less than 5 years the trouser legs were way too wide, the pleats were out of date, and I NEVER wore these suits for business when I traveled becasue those always ended up somewhat beaten up ..... So, I have several gorgeous suits with hand-sewn buttonholes on the trouser fly (the guy was adamant that bespoke NEVER used a zipper!) and working sleeve buttonholes that are ...... entirely out of date!!! So I went to TopMan and bought $399 suits that fit just great (now I am mourning their demise, albeit briefly, because it seems suits are so yesterday - all we need is drawstring pants or 'joggers' with a hoodie... (KILL.ME.NOW. !)
 

Spinster Jones

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I think an interesting discussion could continue around this quote: «drawstring pants or 'joggers' with a hoodie». This is a thread about declining quality, particularly towards well known industry standards, which in turn translates to hand-sewn garments in a quite rigid fashion (if one were to generalize).

Yet, I think the drawstring joggers/pants-example is quite a good one. For does one ever see a quality increase? Is there now a new marked for quality drawstring-joggers that there was not before? Are hand-made joggers on the rise? Or is there in general, in the entire business industry, a decline in overall quality?

People have already discussed this, I guess, but a follow-up question could be - is it a decline in craftmanship? And a follow-up question to that again might be - is it because the rigid industry is not pushing for innovation, but rather lagging behind and trying to keep up with - and responding to - trends?

When did you last see someone make a red suit with a fur collar? Or a hand-sewn techno-suited outfit with LEDs? Is it not the tailors job to push for innovation? Are they there to suit the customers needs? Should innovation be the pursuit of fashion houses?
 

Loathing

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I can’t find you a bespoke hand-sewn red suit with a fur collar, but I can find you’d a bespoke hand-sewn red suit and a fur collar.

AE83BD25-BCBB-4E3A-B744-E6DB0703B2E9.jpeg
5B797D80-3CBF-4571-B4ED-1079E62CC089.jpeg
 
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I think an interesting discussion could continue around this quote: «drawstring pants or 'joggers' with a hoodie». This is a thread about declining quality, particularly towards well known industry standards, which in turn translates to hand-sewn garments in a quite rigid fashion (if one were to generalize).

Yet, I think the drawstring joggers/pants-example is quite a good one. For does one ever see a quality increase? Is there now a new marked for quality drawstring-joggers that there was not before? Are hand-made joggers on the rise? Or is there in general, in the entire business industry, a decline in overall quality?

People have already discussed this, I guess, but a follow-up question could be - is it a decline in craftmanship? And a follow-up question to that again might be - is it because the rigid industry is not pushing for innovation, but rather lagging behind and trying to keep up with - and responding to - trends?

When did you last see someone make a red suit with a fur collar? Or a hand-sewn techno-suited outfit with LEDs? Is it not the tailors job to push for innovation? Are they there to suit the customers needs? Should innovation be the pursuit of fashion houses?
Perhaps the day that 'fashion' went to the streets for ideas was the begining of fashion trying to keep up with trends instead of setting them. In some sense they shot themselves in the foot: how does one charge 20 times the price for something that is already available everywhere and to an audience that has no audience for 'quality' anyway?
 

Spinster Jones

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Exactly. And when the «rigid style» then unavoidably dies off, what is there to replace it? How do you go from the brink of extinction to argumenting about people putting in 1000£ for a hand-sewn jogger with a «supreme» cotton quality? That’s an argument they can’t win, so they rely on pushing a style that’s quite rigid - and try to play it off as the «right style».

Also - when the style moves away from the “right style”, and the quality in new trends shrinks to a bare minimum, how do you even begin to educate buyers towards investing in something that’s just a copy of the piece that’s popular, but 20 times more expensive?

That’s when one has the opportunity as a buyer, together with a tailor, to push for innovation and quality increase. But even then tailors might push one towards lighter fabrics, IE. lighter and worse off quality, or a style that they’re comfortable in doing. Or it’ll hurt your pocket even more than something more “standard”.

The thread is called «myth of declining quality», but I heavily believe that it’s a spiraling downfall of craftmanship and innovation, and therefore quality.

I’ve even asked around here for options in a sort of “living suit” that’s as hard-wearing as it gets, ala heavy 1930’s woollen suits, and the first thing people point out is that it’s not in style and that it would look like a costume. But I, of course, heavily disagree; I believe that the main point IS the quality, and following that is the fit. But that’s a fashion trend that’s not yet there, and something I have a hard time conveying.

A question to a tailor could then be: how do you make the most out of the best “quality”?
 

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Mahatma Jawndi
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There are still a ton of areas in fashion where there's a large component of "craft." In the documentary Dior and I, there's a great scene of the dressmakers working to put beads on a dress -- one by one, by hand -- before a fashion show. Andrew Macdonald is a Lobb trained shoemaker that makes avant garde shoes. Savannah at Savas makes bespoke leather jackets with toile. Many examples of contemporary style and craft convergering.
 
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Exactly. And when the «rigid style» then unavoidably dies off, what is there to replace it? How do you go from the brink of extinction to argumenting about people putting in 1000£ for a hand-sewn jogger with a «supreme» cotton quality? That’s an argument they can’t win, so they rely on pushing a style that’s quite rigid - and try to play it off as the «right style».

Also - when the style moves away from the “right style”, and the quality in new trends shrinks to a bare minimum, how do you even begin to educate buyers towards investing in something that’s just a copy of the piece that’s popular, but 20 times more expensive?

That’s when one has the opportunity as a buyer, together with a tailor, to push for innovation and quality increase. But even then tailors might push one towards lighter fabrics, IE. lighter and worse off quality, or a style that they’re comfortable in doing. Or it’ll hurt your pocket even more than something more “standard”.

The thread is called «myth of declining quality», but I heavily believe that it’s a spiraling downfall of craftmanship and innovation, and therefore quality.

I’ve even asked around here for options in a sort of “living suit” that’s as hard-wearing as it gets, ala heavy 1930’s woollen suits, and the first thing people point out is that it’s not in style and that it would look like a costume. But I, of course, heavily disagree; I believe that the main point IS the quality, and following that is the fit. But that’s a fashion trend that’s not yet there, and something I have a hard time conveying.

A question to a tailor could then be: how do you make the most out of the best “quality”?
"Fit"? What's 'fit' when almost everyone is 'fat'?! Our best hope is a $1,000 Loro Piano sack to wear.......
 

Spinster Jones

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There are still a ton of areas in fashion where there's a large component of "craft."
I agree, absolutely, and there will always be that for people with money to spend on those efforts, which - in the grand scheme of things - are fewer and fewer. Which again proves the point that overall the quality is decreasing, as fewer people have the means to seek it.

I just think that nothing will change regarding quality, until the whole system is turned upside down and focused on quality - rather than trends, fit, seasons or such buzzwords. And for that to happen I believe the people pushing for quality have to create a trend - which, I assume, can’t rely on what already exists - and therefore one has to innovate.

What would happen if tailors suddenly switched to using aramid cloth and championing things to last forever, and that they should be the one to create your entire wardrobe out of it? Or maybe all you need is an aramid poncho?
 

emptym

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But you can't build a bespoke wardrobe on a budget of $5k a year.
...
You can. It just takes more time and/or cheaper makers. Will's budget of $19,000 a year assumes Savile Row suits and Jermyn St. shoes. But you could get a nice bespoke wardrobe for 1/2-1/10 that price.
...Yet, I think the drawstring joggers/pants-example is quite a good one. For does one ever see a quality increase? Is there now a new marked for quality drawstring-joggers that there was not before? Are hand-made joggers on the rise? Or is there in general, in the entire business industry, a decline in overall quality?
Imo, the market for for hoodies and joggers is a lot like that for jeans: the middle is lower, but the highs are as good or better than they ever were.

20 yrs ago, sweatshirts/pants were just workout clothes. But Silicon Valley, the athleisure trend, and general casualization of dress has made them business and casual wear in a lot of places. So brands like Thom Browne, Paul Stuart, and Zegna have stepped in to make some really nice things out of fine cotton, wool, and cashmere. But as w/ jeans, the old heritage brands like Champion and Russell don't seem to make them like they used to. That's why for a long time I would still get old made in the US sweats on eBay. But recently I've gotten some by Zegna techmerino and cotton stuff by Vince and Land's End's Serious Sweats, and imo they're as good or better than the old MIA Champion and Russell stuff.
 

Peter1

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I think an interesting discussion could continue around this quote: «drawstring pants or 'joggers' with a hoodie». This is a thread about declining quality, particularly towards well known industry standards, which in turn translates to hand-sewn garments in a quite rigid fashion (if one were to generalize).

Yet, I think the drawstring joggers/pants-example is quite a good one. For does one ever see a quality increase? Is there now a new marked for quality drawstring-joggers that there was not before? Are hand-made joggers on the rise? Or is there in general, in the entire business industry, a decline in overall quality?

People have already discussed this, I guess, but a follow-up question could be - is it a decline in craftmanship? And a follow-up question to that again might be - is it because the rigid industry is not pushing for innovation, but rather lagging behind and trying to keep up with - and responding to - trends?
There are about a dozen Japanese brands like Warehouse that are making exceptionally high quality sweatshirts and pants, certainly even better than Champion old US made ones. You'll pay dearly of course, but there is a real international market for that kind of craftsmanship, even for something as prosaic as a sweatshirt or T.
 

Peter1

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Another story: I know a local gent, a Latino patriarch, interested in raising sheep for wool. Two weeks ago he traveled to Taos to gather some information. The wool culture in Taos goes back before history. His report: most throw the wool away, it's not worth anything.
Almost all the wool that gets sheared in France is burned. It's not that there's no market for wool per se, but most of us don't want scratchy, rough wool blankets or clothes anymore. I sure don't.
 

Spinster Jones

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There are about a dozen Japanese brands like Warehouse that are making exceptionally high quality sweatshirts and pants, certainly even better than Champion old US made ones.
But this sorta proves the point I was trying to convey. The japanese culture has several words for their ‘search towards perfection’ - kodawari, kaizen, shokunin etc. All in general meaning, as I’ve understood it, the continous search for improvement. And it’s this cultural understanding and pursuit that align perfectly with quality. Which again is seen in Japan’s designation of some artisans as living national treasures. Simplified quite a bit, what they often have in common is their search for quality first, and everything else second.

The noodles should be perfectly boiled, the consistency quite right, and the flavor sublime - yet it’s presented in quite a modest fashion. Jiro wishes for the quality of the fish to speak for itself, and try to use his craftmanship to disturb as little of that as possible. Or creating cloth from banana fibres.
 
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dieworkwear

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But this sorta proves the point I was trying to convey. The japanese culture has several words for their ‘search towards perfection’ - kodawari, kaizen, shokunin etc. All in general meaning, as I’ve understood it, the continous search for improvement. And it’s this cultural understanding and pursuit that align perfectly with quality. Which again is seen in Japan’s designation of some artisans as living national treasures. Simplified quite a bit, what they often have in common is their search for quality first, and everything else second.

The noodles should be perfectly boiled, the consistency quite right, and the flavor sublime - yet it’s presented in quite a modest fashion. Jiro wishes for the quality of the fish speak for itself, and try to use his craftmanship to disturb as little of that as possible. Or creating cloth from banana leaves.
Perhaps I don't understand what you're trying to convey. But I think there are still high-quality clothes out there and many are being produced with some notion of craftsmanship.

For tailoring, I'm personally not that interested in "innovation." Meaning the mentions of suits with LED lights or fur collars or made from kevlar. I want very traditional-looking things.

My impression is that quality in the bespoke trades has shrunk partly because there's a smaller labor pool. Bespoke clothes and shoes are also much more expensive nowadays because we've shifted towards a post-industrial economy. People have to make enough to pay for housing, food, necessities, etc. If your tailor lives in a big city, you have to pay for 40+ hours of labor for them to make a suit, which is a lot of money.
 

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