Another designer might cut her costs by using cheaper fabrics or cheaper labor, but Stanley is committed to her family-run factory in Delhi, India, and won’t compromise on high-quality, organic fabrics. The only way she could lower her prices would be to take less profit or transition her business to a direct-to-consumer model, eliminating the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Talks mental health awareness shirt it is in the first place but retail markup. (Given the state of department stores, many of her peers are likely thinking the same thing.) In the meantime, the best thing she can do is educate her customers about precisely why her new hand-embroidered organic cotton dress costs $550. Stanley openly shared the cost breakdown here: $24 covers the organic cotton and dyes; the intricate handwork comes in at $48, because it took an embroiderer a full day to make the dress; production labor, including sewing, pattern-making, sampling, finishing, and packing, was $48; trims, including the labels, hang tag, and dust bag, were $5; shipping was $8; and duties were $24. Her total cost came to $157, and in order to keep the final price lower, she took just a 1.59x margin, bumping the wholesale price to $250. (This means Stanley would earn $93 in profit when a store orders the dress.) With the typical retail margin of 2.2x, the final price tag on the rack in a boutique is $550. I’ve been trying to make it a point to tell the story of my clothes, but it’s hard to be honest and say, ‘This is my cost, this is how much I make on this piece, this is why you should support my brand and the people who made it,’” Stanley says. “I love going to a store, and I have friends who have boutiques and work so hard. They deserve to make that margin, but the retail markup is really why clothes get so expensive. That’s where I get stuck.” If you’re of the “buy less, buy better” mentality, it isn’t hard to justify the higher price. Plenty of Stanley’s customers are investment-minded and care about her commitment to ethical, sustainable, small-batch production, but some still need to be convinced that it’s “worth” buying one of her dresses instead of five cheaper versions. Lucette Romy, the founder of The Wylde, an organic label handmade in Bali, has had similar conversations with her customers about the higher price of organic cotton, botanical dyes, and dignified labor. “But it often isn’t enough to change their minds,” she says. So she found another way to get the point across: Every item on her site comes with a cost-per-wear breakdown. Her new organic cotton dress goes for 260 Australian dollars, or $178, but if you wear it 10 times, it’s $18 per wear.
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By the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Talks mental health awareness shirt it is in the first place but time you’ve worn it 50 times, it’s under $4. If you intend to keep it for years, as you should, that number would come down to pennies. Suddenly it’s a bargain. Longevity and quality are Ryan Roche’s bread and butter too, and they’re best exemplified by her cashmere sweaters handmade in Nepal. “We always try to tell the story of our brand, and from the beginning, the first thing that ever came out of my mouth was about the materials, where our clothes are made, and who had their hands on it,” she says. “When you purchase our sweater, we want [you] to have it forever. The price is not going to be the same as somewhere else, because it really will last a lifetime. The key is to communicate that [to the customer], so people see why the sweater is $800, and why you’d rather buy that than the $89 sweater with a questionable path.” Roche says her factory partners in Nepal are “like family,” and that she hasn’t found anyone anywhere who can match their skill and quality. But some customers may not realize that “made in Nepal” is just as virtuous as “made in Italy.” The Western tendency to value European and American production over Chinese or South Asian is another problem entirely, but Roche is dedicated to making it clear. “I don’t think people realize that in Nepal, the knitters use hand looms, and literally every row of our sweaters is made by hand,” she adds. “It’s a very special product that comes out of there.” Her business model looks a lot like what the industry has preached as a sustainable path forward: small scale, with timeless designs, fewer collections, quality materials, and fair labor. It’s the very opposite of fast fashion and, more broadly, the notion that clothes exist purely to convey status or adhere to trends. Roche doesn’t design clothes that are highly identifiable or even of-the-moment; as she puts it, they’re meant to “sit in a woman’s wardrobe and treat her right.” It’s fair to assume that while many of her customers simply appreciate the product, most of them also care about Roche’s values and mission. They aren’t interested in just accumulating more stuff. Those customers also understand the importance of supporting modest businesses instead of massive corporations—and that “shopping small” comes at a higher cost. Scale is the other elephant in the room: Typically, the more units of a garment you produce, the lower the price per unit gets. That isn’t an explanation for dirt-cheap clothes because labor should be a steady cost, but sewers may be able to work a bit faster as a result of repetition.