I recently took a little journey through
retail land. The purpose was to find a
simple, elegant grey suit. What I found
along the way were a broad array of
options. The majority quite comparable
in style and quality. Fabricated of lovely
wool serge or flannel, each had a similar
"hand". The only thing that truly differed
between the lot was the price tag. Priced
from as low as $500 to as high as $5,000
it was very difficult to tell the difference.
And while I work in the fashion business,
I left my exercise in exploration confused.
The devil is in the details
There used to be a dramatic difference
in the quality of goods by brand and
that's what made retailing great. You
trusted a name because they delivered
style and quality and a commensurate
price. However slowly over the years,
international manufacturing dramatically
challenged that theory. For instance, in
days of yore the sign of a quality suit
was a delicately hand picked lapel edge.
Today, you can find a beautifully hand
picked lapel on a fairly decent suit at
H&M for under three hundred dollars.
Clothes make the man
In the old days, tailoring separated
the wheat from the chaff. That and
the fabrication of one's tailored togs
immediately indicated social status.
Today a blatant display of branding
telegraphs who's who. Aside from
large logos there's little difference
in the actual apparel beyond the
price one pays to carry their posh
shopping bags. Is that enough?
Shop and compare
Maybe I should buy six or seven
suits, gather some guys, and do
my own market research. In the
end I doubt whether anybody
would be able to see or feel a
difference. Given there is little
difference, what difference does
it make where one shops?!
Service used to be one of the key differentiators. However during economically challenged times, one must question whether a free bottle of water is enough to merit the four thousand dollar gap. If one is truly honest, the decor and demeanor at Bergdorf Goodman are not that rarified as compared to Massimo Dutti. And happily, neither is most of the apparel. So beyond shoes and watches I may just trade down. Imagine that!