Wednesday, February 01, 2012

on trust and expectations

amanda recently raised an important question about declining quality in many of the brands that we love and save our pennies for. maybe they were trustworthy in the past, but perhaps quality control has fallen by the wayside in recent seasons. many of us shop online and rely on fit and quality reviews, but even trying on and purchasing a much coveted piece in a brick and mortar store can lead to regret later on.

it has been a while since i've bought anything besides hand-made clothing, so i can't attest to the current quality of my go-to brands. i try not to post items that are all looks and no substance, but it's hard to know which brands to trust without trying them on and living with them for a while. for example:
  • my no. 6 clog boots recently fell apart. the staples came undone. it's easily fixed, but i'm a little annoyed.
  • i never buy knits from jcrew. i also will not buy anything from jcrew unless it's at least 50% off, because that's what i think it's worth. most of their pants don't fit me. i find that madewell's quality is worse than jcrew's.
  • in the past 5 years i haven't had a single issue with Steven Alan shirts.
  • i have a corduroy A.P.C. dress that keeps coming apart at the seams, but the rest of my A.P.C. pieces are fine.
  • hand-made clothing is typically better made, but you may end up more disappointed if the fit isn't perfect on you.
  • my mom gave me her new LV bag, and after a few months of infrequent use, the surface coating on the handles has rubbed off in patches.
  • a longchamp bag developed holes in the bottom corners in less than 6 months.
  • i've never had an issue with my frye paige riding boots in the past 3 years.

in general, i buy fewer things these days. i don't really know what the investment pieces and brands are anymore. maybe that's why i've been focusing on sturdy basics that aren't necessarily the prettiest or most interesting things out there. i used to be more cavalier about shopping, but these days i really hate the idea of wasting my money on clothing that disappoints after a few wears, or even after a year or two.

which brands do you trust? or do you believe that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to quality, regardless of the price point? how long should an article of clothing last, anyway?


erica lorraine scheidt said...

thanks for this post, erica. even the steven alan shirts i've bought secondhand have been workhorses. and the small labels, like Filly Designs, is so thoughtfully constructed and long wearing. plus, i know where it was made and can feel good about that.

amelia said...

I also find it's so hard to find anything that lasts these days, which is perhaps why I've started buying almost all of my clothing vintage—I find that even if something is very old, it often holds up better in the long run than a new piece. I also choose vintage because it's often less expensive than buying hand-made. I absolutely wish I could assemble a wardrobe of handmade pieces, but I don't make nearly enough money. It's a tough bind: I feel like cheap, poorly made clothes are often the only thing accessible to me, but am constantly frustrated when I have to replace them often.

Nhu said...

Most of my APC clothes are still in good shape. I also like Patagonia. Their ethics seem sound as well. And vintage, as a pp wrote, seems to hold up well, too. But I have sworn off J Crew sweaters and was disappointed in the fabrication of a Madewell skirt I bought final sale.

erica said...

erica--i'm glad to hear that the SA shirts have lasted for you, too. my new jcrew button down feels so flimsy in comparison, i'm afraid it's going to fall apart after the several washes.

amelia--i agree that vintage is a good way to go! i wish i had the patience to comb the racks and try on things.

i try to focus on 2-3 handmade pieces per year (especially knits and dresses), and will stick closely to my budget no matter what. everything else is usually bought on massive clearance. i find that the more dissatisfied i become with what's out there, the more content i am with what i already have. i used to have an almost unrestricted clothing budget. thankfully i've learned to live within my means since then.

popcorn plays said...

this raises a lot of great points. i have stopped buying jcrew years ago because to me the quality is akin to gap or old navy - very disposable. every sweater / cardigan of theirs i've purchased has fallen apart at shoulder seams, under the armpits etc. i sew them back up but it looks just awful. i can't deal with it.

i rarely spend a lot of money on clothes, preferring to thrift cheap stuff. the pricepoint at madewell is laughable to me, that stuff is so cheap-looking and homogenous. the few splurges i allow are on items that i don't wear that much anyway so it's hard to know about quality/durability, but i have always admired the construction and quality of my mociun + rachel comey + a detacher pieces.

as for basics, my levi's denim jacket hasn't changed one bit in the 8+ years i've worn it, as have all of my levis jeans. the pendleton flannels i've thrifted are invincible, super thick and cozy. paper denim and cloth makes really thick, sturdy, non-stretch jeans that just last and last. acne, too. acne has great jeans that don't rip or wear out.

however i would LOVE to find a more durable brand of tights/ socks. right now i buy all my over-the-knee socks from american apparel because i'm obsessed with the fit and look but they get holes/runs after a few months. i'm constantly replacing them! if anyone has any tips for stylish, basic, affordable tights or socks i would love to know.... !!

erica said...

quinn--yes, i'm a diehard patagonia fan, too! even if the quality is less than great, you can always return it.

nordstrom also has a fantastic return policy, but they don't really carry anything that i love.

erica said...

popcorn plays--
muji makes very nice affordable socks, but they're hard to find if you don't live near a store. i used to work in hosiery, and i think falke's thick tights hold up very well (but i prefer the fit and fabric of kunerts). i also still have 3 pairs of american essentials knee-highs that have lasted nearly 10 years. i don't know if the quality has changed since then. calvin klein used to make very good socks, but i think they changed manufacturers in the past 5 years or so. smart wool is pretty good, although i have a pair that's wearing thin at sole after 2 years. maybe i should lanolize them?

i actually spend quite a bit of time darning my wool socks. it takes a lot of time, but it seems sad to throw away something that's worn out at the heels.

popcorn plays said...

erica-- nice! i am stoked to check out these brands.

and yes, i darn all my socks too, but i am really bad at it so it looks super shoddy and raggedy ann-esque. in montreal, when everyone takes off their shoes to go inside, i get super embarrassed about padding around in my patched-up socks!

erica said...

popcorn plays--
i just looked up american essentials, and it doesn't look like they offer much for women compared with 10 years ago.

wear your darned socks with pride! mine look a wreck, too. there's definitely an art to darning socks that i have yet to master.

joyce said...

i'm having a really hard time finding sweaters that don't pill within the first month of wearing. to me, knits are the front line of quality testing for a brand. lately i've found apc to be pretty inconsistent. last year's cardigan looks like a shaggy dog; this year's crewneck is still ok (fingers crossed).

handmade clothing is wonderful. my wiksten pieces have stayed exactly the same. but availability is so limited -- yes, it's understandable -- that i think one has to rely on a mix. my go-tos are steven alan and rachel comey, but only if they're at least 50% off. other wise i can't afford their stuff!

jenny gordy said...

It really irks me that designers I like are putting acrylic and polyester in their sweaters and charging $600 for them! Gross. Wtf? I agree that these days some designers I used to like are leaning a little too much on their brand name and scrimping on quality, while charging exorbitant prices. At least A.P.C. seems to be sticking to natural fibers. I like A.P.C. knits a lot but don't buy anything else from them because the fit isn't right for me.

I agree that Madewell quality is worse than J.Crew, so I don't buy from them anymore. I buy J.Crew only if it's on sale. I've bought cashmere boyfriend cardigans on sale from them that I've worn hundreds of times, and they've held up nicely though.

Swedish Hasbeens are better quality than No.6. I've had some problems with No.6 clogs, but I still love them nonetheless.

I've bought some handmade stuff that's fallen apart, and I was so disappointed. I don't buy handmade clothing as much as I should because it's hard to know when to trust the quality. Not all sellers are equally experienced/skilled.

I bought an expensive garment from a small company (not handmade) last summer, and it immediately fell apart. I was so bummed, because I love the company.

Out of everything in my wardrobe, the Steven Alan stuff has lasted the longest. I haven't had any problems with any of it, and I wear that stuff a ton. The designs are classic enough that they last for years too.

I have some L.L. Bean merino socks that are amazing. So warm, not itchy, I wear them every day in the winter and they never seem to wear out.

jenny gordy said...

I just want to add that even good quality sweaters can pill. It just depends on the type of yarn. Sturdier yarn like 100% wool holds up really well but can be itchy. Any super soft, luxurious yarns, like merino or cashmere, are incredibly comfortable to wear but will pill. The softer the yarn, the more pilly the sweater. Nothing that a lint-shaver can't cure. However, a sweater that gets holes is a different thing. That's a deal-breaker. I'm talking to you, J.Crew.

I really want a Primoeza sweater! They look like they have lovely yarn and craftsmanship.

Cam said...

thanks for posting this too!

i haven't bought stuff from apc in awhile (and those were all super sales) so i can't really gauge how their quality is anymore.

as for madewell, i buy their ex boyfriend shirts because they fit me well, i own a cardigan (from 2 years ago) and a sweater which are decent, but some of the other stuff seem to be so-so, and usually just buy other brands they have in stock (like pendleton stuff, ha)

i do like steven alan's quality as well, i will probably have to pick up more shirts from their sample sale in the future.

my friends and i agree how bad j.crew has been lately, and will not buy sweaters from them really.

as for tights, i enjoy hansel from basel tights, and socks from uniqlo, but i should try ll bean too!

i like ace and jig's quality/fit for dresses!

i want to save up money to buy a primoeza cardigan or sweater for the near future!!!

Cam said...

ok i lied, i forgot i bought an apc madras dress for $40 a few weeks ago ha!

Moya said...

Sticking to the positive, I give two thumbs up to Fiorentini and Baker boots. Granted they rarely go on sale but there is a reason for that. My pair have only recently had to be reheeled after two years of heavy wear and the sole is still going strong. The leather is thick and ages well. While they are more hipster/fashionable, the quality is that of an old fashioned heritage brand which is why my next big ticket spend will be a pair of their ankle boots or mid calf strappy boots (depending on which ones fit the best and feel the most comfy).

I've had some luck with J Crew cashmere but it's hit and miss. I never buy it unless it is 50% off. Their cashmere boyfriend cardigans and the plain round neck cardigans are also good and hold up well to a ton of wear. I have one J Crew bag and the quality is amazing and the leather actually gets better with age. I bought it on sale for a shade over $100. Their opaque tights (the thick supportive ones) are the best.

APC never fits me. It's not good on tall broad shouldered girls.

Steven Alan shirts are great but the proportions on their dresses don't often work when you are tall.

Club Monaco's cheaper cashmere isn't great but their thick expensive cashmere sweaters and cardigans are amazing--you have to be very patient though as they don't often go on sale. I have a wonderful thick boyfriend cardigan in tan cashmere that refuses to pill--the only snag is it isn't as soft as some.

Lyell was wonderful--amazingly well made and was made in the US. I still wear my favorite shirt and peacoat from 2005 and both have worn well and drape beautifully.

I agree about Madewell in general but I did get a plaid shirt their this summer that's amazing and that I live in.

Mona said...

the problem is frightening, new generations do not even know about quality.
A.P.C. is not good. J Crew cashmere is better than my A.P.C. cashmere.
Frye is still amazing I agree
I am impressed by J.W. Hulme. I got a mini legacy on sale at Barneys that is beautifully made.
All brands are slowly sacrificing quality in a way that leaves very few choices...

julia said...

I tend to wear things (with an exception of shoes) pretty lightly. My apc coat has held up fine, even the lining seems to be in good condition after pretty frequent use. I'm sad to hear about the staples falling out in your boots - that hasn't happened to me yet and I'm crossing my fingers it won't - but still, a major bummer. The one thing I have that is really going strong after 8 years of NE winters are my orla kiely wellies. I've worn them to the ground and they're still great - sadly I don't think they make them anymore.

On a similar note, no matter what clothes or shoes Jesse has bought, he always needs new things within a year. (Maybe this is a guy-who-bikes-everywhere thing?) Granted he doesn't have as much in circulation as me, but it's interesting to think about. At first I tried to talk him into that if he spent a little more for quality it would last longer - but he keeps proving me wrong! His shirts from Muji do last longer though. I try to mend a lot of the things that wear out - and I admire you guys for darning socks - that takes patience :) I guess at this point I'm not convinced that price is tied directly to quality, though in someways I wish it was! I feel really happy if I get a good 5 years out of an item, it seems like a good average for me.

Moya said...

I"ve also had some good luck with Rag and Bone pants and shirts.

Jocy said...

Thank you for this post, Erica. Lately, I've been lamenting the decline of most brands to which I considered myself loyal. I almost never buy clothing at the mall anymore, including J. Crew. Despite my attraction to their punchy clothes, I don't think the quality is any good. For one thing, I see the quality of these items, which I find in local markets in Cambodia (so many manufacture here) and it is all just crap.

I once believed that if I bought a high ticket item, it would last much longer than my throw-aways. That, unfortunately, is becoming less and less the case.

This has made me reluctant to buy anything other than handmade these days. But some staples in my closet remind me that good quality clothing exists.

All of my 3.1 Lim pieces are very sturdy and well-made, but I haven't bought any of his new seasons, in over a year.

My vintage Frye boots have lasted me 8+ years and I've worn them everywhere during travels. I found them used. Good. Quality.

My Rachel Comey shoes have always held up.

Good to know about the SA shirts.

Bummer about your No. 6 boots. I'm so close to buying a pair of their clogs, but reading your post made me wince.

Amanda said...

I just wanted to add that I have two Primoeza sweaters and they have held up remarkably well. The ones I have are alpaca wool though and they tend to be more scratchy than I would like.

My gripe with handmade clothing is that they seldom fit well, particularly those that you get online. I've had to re-alter a custom made dress and that put the price tag way beyond expensive.

I would expect sweaters to last at least 5 years, everyday t-shirts and shirts for at least 4 and jeans for at least 7! Is that pushing it?

The best sweaters I've ever bought recently that didn't leave lint and has yet to pill are vastly overpriced - a CdG Play grey pullover and a Derek Lam black sweater that while Made in China, is vastly superior to anything I've seen in a long long long time.

accentuate said...

Complicated thing, this clothing lasting business. I have a loyal list of brands, but they don't always come through for me. I cycle everyday, so for me, it's an ultra test, so I tend to wear everything hard.

When Jcrew fits well, it fits better than any of my other clothing, but I've only had the jacket not fall apart on me. I never buy button-ups from them anymore and or really rarely anything, unless, like most people say, it's on super sale. It's just made to be a very mediocre kind of quality.

As for APC, I have more APC in my closet than anything else. I have jackets, shirts, sweaters, etc. One of the jackets pockets recently became undone after 3 years of use, which I think is very very good. The shirts, both knit and cotton, I hand wash and they look fine. The sweaters, well, this was my biggest disappointment! Great fit, navy, cashmere and some other wool, oh my god, I think this is the pilliest sweater I have ever owed, just never again. It's embarrassingly pilly, after like a week of use! I feel like I can't even wear it outside, it's just way too ridiculous unless I spend hours shaving it.

I also tend to wear a lot of Acne, mainly bottoms, as in jeans and shorts. They're holding up great, particularly the jeans.

I've got some Rachel Comeys, which are beautiful but I'm pretty damn sure they weren't worth the $300, considering how thin the leather is.

I've learned that the best thing for clothing is this: hand wash or cold wash, no dryers, don't wash that often. All clothing, it just doesn't seem to like the constant agitation of the washer, it's very rough on clothing. It doesn't seem practical a lot of times, but this is really the best way I think. I always say to myself, if I 'm not willing to hand wash it, then I shouldn't be owning it. Also, owning fewer things works in this regard.

It's really really hard to trust any clothing. I don't believe clothing should only be "lasting you a year", that's absurd for a item you're paying hundreds of dollars for, particularly when companies seem to have no problem charing $250-300+ for things like .. a dress! 3 years is fair game for meI wish there was more of a middle ground a lot of the time.

erica said...

so many great comments!

i'm glad to see that others agree that handmade clothing is not always the best solution. fit can be iffy unless you try them on, and somehow the stakes seem higher.

that said, my wiksten pieces wash and wear amazingly. my primoeza cardigan has pilled (alpaca), but it's incredibly sturdy and beautifully made. i will say it's a bit too short in the torso for me, but i should have been more careful with the measurements.

thank goodness for Steven Alan, too!

i have two Theory cashmere sweaters from 5-9 years ago--no pilling, no holes, no unraveling.

i will definitely check out the Swedish Hasbeens. i'm pretty bummed about the No. 6's and basically live in clogs.

being gentle on your clothes is probably the best option, but again, you don't want buttons popping off or seams unraveling on a regular basis. i am pretty strict when i check clothes out in person. i stretch the fabric, toggle the buttons, scrutinize the buttonholes, bend the leather and soles, etc.

i would love to wear more delicate pieces, but i need sturdy things that work with my lifestyle.

oh, and julia, matthew is the same way! he has super pointy elbows and knees, so he wears through everything really quickly. i'm almost as tough on clothes as him, but i do have my special pieces.

i think coats should either be work-horses (3 years), or you need enough to keep them in rotation for longevity's sake.

Cam said...

oh goodness i said pendleton instead of penfield! (not that it matters)

i do agree about handmade stuff varying degree of fits and sometimes best to try it on if possible at any store. but i do rely on bloggers who own some of the items (such as yourself) to figure out the fitting issues haha.

it's crazy, the swedish hasbeens that h&m had awhile back were even nicely made for such a cheap pricepoint, surprisingly!

evencleveland said...

I live in my SA shirts, and they have completely won me over. Plus, SA sales are good. I also have had good luck with Frye. I miss the days when Banana Republic, Gap, and J. Crew had quality basics - I have an old dark green silk blouse from BR that is still beautiful after 10+ years. Those days are gone. Quality has declined across the board.

I try not to shop online unless I have seen something in person first, and I also almost always wait for sales. It's hard to justify full price for anything. Even if you are willing to pay, it can be impossible to find what you need. I wanted a pair of plain trousers this fall that weren't jeans or leggings under $300. It would have been easier to find a flying pig.

Nhu said...

I should add that some of my APC things are not so good. I got a cardigan in the summer that snags on everything and which has stretched out solely due to its own weight.

My Rachel Comey dresses and tops have held up admirably well, though I haven't really put them through their paces yet. But they seem well made and sturdy, and they were made in New York.

All the good reviews on Steven Alan has made me want to try them. I'm wearing button downs more these days, so maybe with the next big sale . . .

Unknown said...

So far, only Toast (UK) have given me continuous quality, but sadly their clothes often swamp me, and they don't even stock my shoe size! I'm drawn to their 'code of ethics' and feel that their coats, bags, accessories and separates hold up extremely well over time. The quality of their organic fabrics/wool is exquisite.
The prices are accessible, although may appear a tad over the top if you are used to purchasing high street.

And speaking of which, I have a small collection of old high street pieces which have never let me down. Unfortunately, many of them are rather old, and the newer pieces are appalling in contrast.

A fan of apc here, they size a bit large (for me), but I have had decent luck so far. I am currently seeking info regarding their sourcing/production methods. Keep hearing conflicting opinions about this.

jennifer said...

Dangit, it looks like blogger lost my initial comment! anyway, I'm definitely of the belief that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to quality, regardless of price point. I feel like many brands rely too heavily on their name recognition. There isn't a single label I can think of that consistently produces well-made items. I've had high-end bags and shoes break for no apparent reason while an old crappy t-shirt from H&M has lasted me for several years.

I guess I appreciate that many higher-end places stand by their products. I contacted Chloe after one of their bags broke on me and they fixed it immediately. I know that a lot of designers might not offer the same type of customer service, but I was really pleased by how Chloe handled the situation.

As for J.Crew, I know there are a lot of haters out there, but I personally really like J.Crew knits (though I also never buy them unless they're discounted)! For a mall brand, J.Crew sweaters and t-shirts look nice and fit me really well. More importantly, I like that they primarily use natural fibers--such a rarity for similarly-priced mall brands. They definitely don't feel as substantial as my sweaters by higher-end labels, but they seem to have held up just as well (no rips, holes, etc.)...though their cashmere seems to pill a lot more than my other "fancier" cashmere sweaters.

erica said...

Lapinde Lune--yes, Toast's quality is pretty good, but the fit doesn't work with my body, either!

jennifer--that's exactly why i end up buying a lot of basics like tees at Jcrew. i've had nothing but bad luck with their knits and the fit of their pants, though.

stephanie--affordable plain trousers, that's really the holy grail, right?

quinn--i consider rachel comey to be in the department of 'special' pieces, so it doesn't need to pass my rigorous wear and tear test. i know other people wear RC on a more regular basis, but i tend to gravitate toward a simple uniform. it's disappointing to hear that APC's quality has been spotty, since they provide more of my uniform staples.

romaine said...

I have more APC in my wardrobe than any other brand because I like the styles, fit and it is easier to find on sale than other brands I wish to own. Maybe I have been very lucky, but the quality hasn't been spotty at all for me. I have a coat, several tops, 4 sweaters, a pair of shoes and jeans. The sweaters I have are wool, not cashmere and they have pilled very little despite wearing them quite often. I may be more gentle on my clothes than most people though since I always change out of my good clothes when at home where I only wear sweats, fleece and old tees. I also only hand wash the tees, knits and more delicate things, wash the sturdier wovens on cold/gentle cycle in the washing machine and don't put any of them in the dryer.

Like everyone else, I have had great luck with the quality of Steven Alan. And like some others have had no luck with jcrew lately, though I haven't given them many tries the last 10 years or so. I did buy their stuff a lot in the 90s though when I liked the styles, fit, fabrics, and quality much better.

Unknown said...

Love this whole post and thread...seriously feel like there is a huge hole out there that needs to be filled for cool, everyday, wear into the ground Steven Alan as well and usually buy one or two cotton day dresses & skirts there every year but am a little disappointed with the last two seasons...not crazy about the use of silk and the shorter dress lengths...still buy a lot of J Crew only because it's hard to find those everyday pieces with good styling elsewhere but agree that the quality completely sucks in the past few years...bought tees this past summer that literally lasted 2 months and then had holes...ugh...
huge fan of lots of small, independent & handmade collections but wish so many of them would use something else besides silk...would much rather spend $300+ on a cotton piece I could wear everyday instead on splurging on a precious piece that idles in my closet...

romaine said...

Forgot to review my Swedish Hasbeens. I have a pair of the ankle boots which still look perfect after 2 falls/winters. The weather here is very dry though so they don't go through much snow, rain or mud. They are also the most comfortable fall, winter, spring shoe I have, though I only have 3 others to compare with.

L.P. said...

Great post and comments! This is a subject close to my heart. I'm trying very hard to get my wardrobe down to a few well-made things I can wear every day. And they have to last, I can't afford to replace things. It can be frustrating.

I have been slowly buying pieces from Le Vestiaire de Cle over the past few years-- everything has held up really well, beautifully made, although she's started to use thinner fabrics lately, so we'll see. Agree with Fiorentini + Baker boots (workhorses) and Swedish Hasbeens. Yes to vintage! And I totally agree with Pretty Mommy-- give me sturdy cotton!

Sarge in Charge said...

Let me be the millionth to voice my disappointment in the quality of J. Crew over the past 5 years, as well as its newer sister Madewell. My J. Crew clothes now last one season, if that, whereas I still have sweaters from nearly 10 years ago that look fine. What really gets me are their shameless attempts to disguse cost-saving measures - using flimsy pathetic material and calling it a "tissue tee" (why in god's name would anyone want to wear something with the consistency of Kleenex) or branding cheap wool blends as "Dream knits" (hardly). Lest I sound completely like a bitter old lady I will say that I have been very happy with Madewell denim and the J. Crew men's "secret wash" shirts... but that is it.

Also, one more vote for Steven Alan shirts. I do not hesitate when I see them on sale because all of mine have survived weekly wearings and washings looking as good as new.

Jade said...

been wanting to comment on this issue for a little while, but i've been out of the country and my tiny phone screen would not do!

i would have to say that maybe 95% of my clothing is eco-friendly and i find that fabrics that are organic and sustainable tend to fare better than their non-eco counterparts! i also think that the use of deadstock fabric that has already survived many years in the construction of eco clothes helps to maintain the quality of the pieces.

i love mociun, feral childe, loup charmant, stewart + brown, and linarennell pieces for this reason. i agree that comey pieces wear nicely, and also that heritage brands such as pendleton and frye are also quite dependable. i've had a pair of frye boots for 4 years now and they look as good as new. and ironically i have an adidas jacket i bought in 2006 that doesn't look any worse for wear.

i scarcely buy big box, and wore jcrew for a short while in college though i wasn't a huge fan. i find that by buying little by little, i can get what i want and construct a wardrobe that is quality and can take lots of wear. i do wear silk in my everyday wardrobe, and not just for special occasions because i sometimes find it is stronger than cotton. though, i am a HUGE fan of bamboo. i have 2 mociun skirts that are bamboo and i feel like i can climb a mountain in them and they'll never rip!

as for sweaters, i love my primoeza pieces and i have a great cardigan by stewart + brown that has held up really nicely over the years.

caroline said...

I love this post. And I love reading everyone else's comment.

Ever since I've worked in the fashion and merchandising industry, I have lost faith in clothes. Sounds sad right? I worked at a company that sold their products at boutiques and department stores and I was shocked at the production process. Uggh, about 2 years after starting, I seriously stopped buying clothes because I felt like I was getting ripped off.

But that feeling eventually fleeted. And now I try my best to buy quality pieces, but convenience always seem to overrule. The sad thing is all these items get loose thread or just change in fabric. It makes me so sad, so now rely on vintage.

But wondering where you would recommend for basics. I can't find good basics

mai said...

I love my APC coats and have 5 of them, but all (ALL! crazy I know) of them had buttons come loose within the first few weeks of use. I can't understand it and am amazed at how poorly their buttons are done.

My biggest heartburn recently was having the heel of my Isabel Marant dicker (I can't remember the exact name it was from a few years back but not in heavy use) boots had the heels peel, and what I thought was a stacked heel was actually a veneer over white plastic -- just like the H&M boots my sister wanted to get, although the veneer of IM was prettier. Not good, for $600.

Also, why the variation in sizing from season to season, isn't that weird?

Claire said...

I've been thinking about exactly this! This winter I wore - again - an APC coat I bought 18 years ago! Crazy I know. It's such good quality, I've worn it consistently every winter and the only thing that has happened is the magnet fastenings to close it have fallen down inside the lining, so now I just belt it. That's not only about quality I know, but the consistency of their style. No one would know it wasn't from this season.

BUT - I have stopped buying APC this season. They always used to do a good cashmere sweater every year, but this year the same sweater is just wool - but the price is what you'd expect to pay for cashmere. I understand why, but as APC's price point has risen so much in the past few years, I wonder what the difference in margin is - I know the cost of materials is higher but... I've been a bit underwhelmed - I think it's that I used to go to them for something really simple, but it would still be special because of the quality. That's no longer always the case.

Anyway I probably have enough APC that I start to look boring!

Also interesting is all the luxury brands like LV and Chanel raising their prices by 30% last year. Even Miu Miu (who I've worked for) have hoiked their prices so much that it's out of my range now. As in, over £1000 for a bag. Same with Isabel Marant - pricing early core customers out seems so cruel!

Rant over!

erica said...

i definitely feel like they're pricing us out! granted, i make more than i did 7 years ago, but the price increases are impossible to stomach.

does anyone have thoughts on FWK engineered garments? the prices aren't insane, but i don't know if the pieces will hold up over time.

kori said...

Wow, I really appreciated reading this post and all of the comments. This topic has been on my mind for awhile too and I also wrote about it. Although I've heard of most of the brands mentioned here, they're way out of my price range. It's at once a relief but also disheartening to hear I might not be missing out on as much as I thought if the quality is lacking (especially with the Madewell brand, which is so hyped on a lot of blogs). And I've recently heard so many great things about Rachel Comey shoes but now the quality may be inconsistent there too. So really, you have to look at everything with a skeptical eye. What's in a name? These days, not much.

dp said...

I need a lot of professional pieces for my field & highly recommend Piazza Sempione. Blazers, exceptional. Tailoring, impeccable.

After too many losses due to no returns policies & re-tailoring efforts, the closest I'll get to buying anything handmade these days is Makie Clothier.

Most of my favorite things are from right before the recession when the investment into tailoring, fabric, etc. seemed (at least to me) to be at an all-time high.

I don't love with my No.6 ankle boots, but I DO love a pair of Sven clogs (the makers of No.6) that were a major score on Ebay 2 years ago, new, for $15. They wear extremely well.

kay w. said...

this is such an interesting post as i've been noticing the same things, too. and amen on the knits issue from j. crew. i've had many cardigans purchased in past years from j. crew that have ALWAYS fallen apart at the seams; i'll sometimes take them back and they'll have their tailor fix them for me free of charge, but the entire process is just annoying.

i have a few things of steven alan and i agree that i haven't had any issues with them; they also retain their shape perfectly after the initial wash. i hear great things about RC shoes, too, but in my personal experience it's hit or miss - a pair of beaded sandals i had came apart at the beading several months after infrequent use, even more frustrating since i lost several of the beads and can't find replacements to match. i don't have much a.p.c. (i find some of their clothes to be a little too basic and i can find alternatives for fractions of the cost) but i know my bf had a pair of a.p.c. raw denims that came apart at the crotch only a few months in. outstandingly, the one item that i have that's lasted through years of continuous wear and tear are my minnetonka moccasins - the sole still has a ton of wear left and the leather isn't even close to thinning, and they're probably on year three or four or regular wear and abuse.

Sandra said...

i'm so happy to stumble upon your blog!
it makes me feel a little less confused about buying new stuff knowing that others are noticing the same problems that i do - decline in fabric and construction quality, questioning the longevity vs price etc.

excellent points and such inspiring comments!

i do agree that the knits/shirting issue seems to be the most tricky part; i have a dior sport chiffon blouse i've worn for 12 years and still looks new and my sturdiest knits have been 2 cashmere sweaters from the 60s i found on ebay - 3 years of constant wear and they still look amazing.

also, i haven't bought new shoes (other than vintage/thrifted) in 3 years because i'm always skeptical about the quality.

reading naomi klein's no logo also offers a little perspective on what we're experiencing at the moment.