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Unfunded Liabilities: a/k/a The Cloth Thread

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Manton, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. bamboo

    bamboo Senior member

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    I think that is what I got. It is a nice stuff.
     
  2. luxire

    luxire Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Expected noise, this was a below par performance from you though. I do pay 100GBP per meter but many sadly cannot afford that cloth because your sticker for it is 400GBP. Must make you feel good and shoot some more fat.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  3. luxire

    luxire Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    If I were to name one mill that has "everything", it would be EThomas. I share close relation with the family that owns/runs it. A bit disclaimer.

    Among the British, Dugdale is indeed good.

    But, I gladly wear garments made in fabrics from VBC, Campore, Drago and do not find them inferior in any ways.

    Delfino is not among my favorites.
    -------------------
    Drago used to be among the largest wool yarn processors in the world, before getting into weaving.

    Most mills have access to quality yarn as there exists a commodity market for it. Weaving technology is more or less uniform and processing is standardized too, though each aspect has its variations.

    So, the challenge is not for the mill to make good cloth but just the market they cater to.

    They get fabrics designed and made in different types and designs and they offer them to their customers like us. We order them in large quantities and get volume pricing. The cloth is usually made only after the order is confirmed. Limited risk to mill.

    The market "we" are in, is dominated by traders, H&S, Delfino, Minnis (HFW), LP, Harrisons and a few others.

    They get their designs made by the same "budget" mills, with their own selvedge and offer the cut length service to us. They take the risk of unsold inventories and hence need a higher markup.

    This is all good as different business models. The myth of brand superiority etc is good as it is a part of the model itself.

    Opportunity to move beyond the myth and pomp.
     
    4 people like this.
  4. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    I agree with all points. Middlemen are useless bottom feeders who do not add value to any industry.
     
  5. luxire

    luxire Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    They sadly do. They invest their money and make the cloth available to us.

    Without the middlemen, we would have the mills that would keep waiting for the bulk order from us, we will keep doing our "fabric clubs" and live with the extremely limited choice.

    The game is not about not buying from the middlemen. It is about not buying from the mill thinking they are "budget" even though they may be the same as the pompous, wax stamped length that make the heart proud.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    I don't think we are talking about the same middlemen
     
  7. bamboo

    bamboo Senior member

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    Price or Price/Value ratio discussion is sometimes interesting but tends to be pointless. Price of cloth is different depending where you live and who you are.
     
  8. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    ^ That's because of the middlemen (agents/distributors/jobbers, which is who I was referring to.) Fabric merchants add value by functioning as designers. Distributors once added value pre Internet age and mass logistics, but like every other industry it's barely needed today and creates gridlock and prevents access to resources.

    I've had to buy the same piece of fabric from a different jobber in a different country because whatever agent governed the particular feifdom of my neighborhood had imposed some quota on that material, deeming it "no longer in inventory," even though it was stock supported by the actual merchant and mill. That is incredibly stupid and ultimately screws the consumer in a kind of "tragedy of the anticommons" way.
     
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  9. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    I'm sure tariffs are somehow implicated as well, but the agent system just encourages price fixing and controlling supply demand IMO.

    Not advocating buying direct from mill, for any number of reasons. But this is all sorely in need of a logistics overhaul. They still manufacture cloth books by hand [​IMG]
     
    2 people like this.
  10. bamboo

    bamboo Senior member

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    @sprout2 I see what you mean, but as a matter of fact "law of one price" is not prevailing in the industry partly due to the reason you mentioned. I see the industry is run in a "traditional" (aka old fashioned) way, but cloth is different from a standarised products like what I see on the screen is I get. I was suprised many times when I received cloth bought online. Agent or wholeseller who has samples or inventories adds some value IMHO.
     
  11. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    Not necessarily one price, but artificially inflated.

    This may be a bit pie in the sky, but what if the inventory is all scanned online and no cloth books are made, except for those with a specific need? The entire user base is not tailoring, but also MTM, RTW, upholstery, and other applications. What if ordering a unit of swatch inventory online triggers a NC loom to weave a small 3x3cm of fabric that is pick-and-packed and shipped to consumer? Would that be more or less efficient, in terms of reducing overhead associated with swatch books and manual processes? Maybe it works out the same. Sort of a 3D printing house for fabric, where the blueprints are wired in. This would also make it much easier for the end user/designer to prototype and make the concept of "cloth runs" much more viable and less costly. Obviously not going to work for ye olde wooden shuttle loome but for anything modern.

    The argument usually made is that weaving fabric is prohibitively expensive and requires large outlays of materials and set-up processes, but I can't help but feel that at least some part of this is part of the lore used to justify prices.

    The old fashioned way persists because a lot of the processes and knowledge are extremely arcane and (the knowledge included) not scaleable. But you also have a lot of brain drain (why would a young designer want to bust his hands working a loom), small mill operations that cannot meet production demand even as they service global fashion houses, interiors, etc. (result = long lead times), and not that much variety in terms of type of fabric. Maybe if the mills/cloth houses shifted from the traditional model into the 3D printing model (i.e., being custodians of the machinery), there could be an influx of original fabric ideas from prototypers who don't need to invest in infrastructure.

    Just a thought. Maybe I'm wrong. It is fun to dream.
     
  12. luxire

    luxire Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Some of it is remnants of the pre-internet , "pre-Asia" age.
    No one knew the mills, the agent was responsible for selling and would travel counter to counter to make the sale. Still happens.
    Gradually, the brand would be popular and the agent+brand would reap the benefits.
    So, the mill would usually not bypass an agent and route all sales to the territory through the agent even if he had no role in the transaction.

    Now, internet sales can traverse through boundaries and multiple agents can be affected.

    The mills/brands have not been able to move to a newer system. No one has dared. But these boundaries will be difficult to maintain.
    .
     
  13. Leaves

    Leaves Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Your comment doesn't really make sense (to me). It's like saying it's not ok to make money. If there's a market for it and people are willing to pay for it, why is that bottom feeding? I would say that some agents and distributors have played their part, and their business is probably waning, with Internet brining such transparency and ease of access. Some would say the same thing about retailers. But unless you are a huge brand, you will need "middlemen" to bring your merchandise to the consumers.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  14. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    And consumers will need middlemen to find the goods or services. Up to a point.
     
  15. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    That's exactly right -- I was thinking about that afterwards, in a larger market sense: the justification for all of these things (any thing) is that they make money (for somebody), so evidently it must work in a free market sense. But you don't have to add value to make money. It's enough to just rip off the ignorant or innocent, and in so doing create gridlock that frustrates the end user. Granted, one of the great tenets of business is that a sucker is born every minute.

    It's bottom feeding of the talent/value pool, not of the money pool, since they often make handsome sums. But if you just bundle together other stuff in a basket and mark up the price because of the "service" you provided, you have not accomplished much other than outwitting some percent of consumers. That's a very low talent on the totem pole. It's the same as record labels today. Artists do not need them when they can connect directly to an audience and generate the same or better returns. The record label at best has some promotional capacity, but the artist can almost always market themselves. Apples to oranges maybe, but my point is that aggregators of information only serve the clueless.

    Also: in your country maybe there is one global agent for X fabric merchant. In some cases there is a Byzantine spiderweb of agents controlling specific things, more of them to go around, and it's always some side gig for some bored accountant somewhere who has a circa 1990 e-mail domain which he may or may not deign to reply to.

    I was comparing the virtue of something, not the economic rationality. There are lots of markets for things that people are willing to pay for: for example, reskinning generic Candy Crush style iPhone games based on hedonic treadmills of reward, with just enough microtransactions for the user to pop like happy pills while the "developer" (the reskinner, who can hardly be called a content creator -- it's trivial to just templatize these things around an existing codebase) laughs all the way to the bank. I'm not saying it's a good business model -- in fact, you can get loaded with it -- but it's utterly banal and (arguably) predatory. It also erodes the ecosystem for real content.
     
  16. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    This goes back to the information era thing. All of these models of commerce were totally valid pre connectivity. You did not have information or logistics to support the end user going at it alone. Now that you do, those middlemen increasingly seem long in the tooth.

    To any middlemen reading this and getting offended: get bent

    Edit: in b4 "groan can we pleeez talk about top 10 fresco hopsack blazer fabrics guys"
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  17. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Senior member

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    Another word for middleman is vendor. Are you suggesting that all vendors should be closed and people should only buy direct from the manufacturer? What if someone contracts out their production to another company? Are they then not a middleman?

    I feel that there are a lot of shades of gray that you simply arent acknowledging here.
     
  18. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    No, I want them to amalgmate and create an agnostic distribution platform in which they all participate and collect fees.
     
  19. sprout2

    sprout2 Senior member

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    I think we can all agree that the manufacturers of this stuff do not have good client-facing capabilities, and often not even good design skills, so buying direct from the manufacturer is not the desired outcome. It's just about getting rid of the dead wood of extreme downstream vendors that add no value. (As if that would ever happen).

    My thesis is that the distribution mechanism is primitive, secretive, and inefficient, and saddled with too many participants fighting for slivers of the pie. What do you think?
     
    1 person likes this.
  20. bdavro23

    bdavro23 Senior member

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    Sounds like the market has an opportunity for growth. If someone builds something better, the market will embrace it. Let me know when you are ready to go live with your replacement platform.
     
    2 people like this.

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