The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Foreign Sewing

I just finished reading an interesting article in yesterday's WSJ. (Friday, December 15, 2006, The Jetrosexual Look [Don't look at me, I didn't name the article. But that's what you'll have to search for if you want to look up the article yourself.], Loretta Chao and Mei Fong.) It was about how people were taking designer clothes/pictures to Asia, and getting them knocked-off by tailors there. Some highlights:

  • The article did have some interesting information on making knock-offs: Make a jacket that looks just like an Armani? Fine. Put an Armani tag on it? Wicked, wicked. Under proposed Federal regulation--make a knock-off for sale of a design not yet 3 years old? Big trouble. Take the same design and make it yourself or get a tailor to custom make it for you? Green light. Sort of. There are always those that tie themselves in knots. The executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America says, "I don't like the word unethical, so I don't want to use that word. But it's unfair." Please pardon me while I roll my eyes. Armani itself has no problem with it; a spokesman said it had no impact on business, and that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." In fact, most designers quoted in the article were quite reasonable. According to the article, Steven Alan, one designers who was getting his designs custom knocked-off, says copying his shirts is difficult because he uses expensive, hard-to-find fabrics, but he doesn't mind if an individual tries to copy older items. "If I had a great coat and it wasn't made anymore, I would try to have it made again, too," he says.

  • The reviewers obviously had no concept of sewing. Some disappointments were not being able to find the exactly right fabric (duh!), having it take too long (they were there for all of 4 days, and the shop had to mail the shirts--four days in which to find the fabric, re-construct a sewing pattern, fit the pattern, and actually sew the thing together. I'm not surprised they had to mail it), and too many fitting sessions (four, for a burgundy-and-gold evening suit, which I some how can't imagine is the easiest thing in the world to sew). The reviewers might be a little naive, to boot. Important tip? Don't trust the concierge; some take commissions from the tailors. Guess how they found that out? 4 concierges sent them to the same cruddy tailor.

  • Biggest "surprise"? The quality. Of course it varied quite a bit from shop to shop, as did price (some places "knocked-off" for the same--or even slightly more--price as the orginal, and some were quite cheap). But in several cases, the knock-off was deemed of even higher quality than the orginal. This is no doubt a shocker to some who still cling to the notion that anything made in China is worthless. But as the article pointed out, "Even the high-end Italian manufactures are getting their stuff spun or woven in China now," says Phillppa Watkins, a textile specialist at WGSN, a London-based textile and apparel research firm. "As the Chinese production gets better and better, it's putting European mills out of business." I've met a lot of people who think that anything made in the USA is de facto better quality than anything made in China. They think the only reason why anything gets outsourced to China is the cheaper cost. The fact that the Chinese might know what they're doing doesn't even cross their mind. Obviously plenty of "cheap" things are made, but I have far more doubt in American production quality than I do the products coming out of Asia--because the Chinese might know what they're doing, and the Americans obviously have no idea what they're doing--if nothing else, at least as far as textiles are concerned. (As evidence against me, somebody might dredge up some fancy polymer fabric being made in the US--to which I reply, case in point! Natural fibers rule!)

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