We've all been there: Walk into our favorite retail space, wandering the aisles for the latest in wavy wares, when we run across an item we love, like an off-the-wall velour striped turtleneck sweater that captures our attention. We grab for the tag, only to scowl at the price. “Why on Earth is this piece more than $100 more expensive than I had anticipated? Wasn’t there one just like it at Zara for less than half the price?”
There very well may have been, but you may have yet to consider all that has gone into getting the piece in front of you before it hit the rack. It's not entirely your fault, either; not many companies are totally transparent about their pricing structure. But, Noah, the menswear label from Supreme alum Brendon Babenzien, is trying to be.
An interaction with a potential customer at Noah’s in store shop-in-shop at Dover Street Market London apparently struck a chord with Babenzien, who took to his blog and social media to give his followers a quick lesson in fashion production and pricing. The focus of the impromptu seminar was Noah’s Two-Tone Parka. He even included a helpful infographic.
The parka’s Sea Side Cotton is sourced by reputable and environmentally sound suppliers in Japan, at a price that breaks down to $32.81 per jacket. Nylon and mesh used cost $4.24 and $2.18 respectively. From there, the fabric all made its way to Italy, accumulating $26.12 in importing fees for duties and transport. There, they were assembled by Italian garment producers, earning a fair wage (and maybe more vacation time than you and I) in relatively modern facilities that incorporate solar energy. The total cost of assembly for each jacket is $122.29. Add in crowning hardware and functional detailing such as zippers, Velcro, snaps, and drawcords at $16.88 per jacket. Before reaching New York City, where Noah is based, branding patches must also be applied for both Noah ($0.65) and the accreditation of Sea Side Cotton for their stellar fabric ($0.75). The 72 jackets then made their way across the waters, stateside, racking up roughly $1470 ($20.55 per jacket) in logistics costs.
Ultimately, each jacket cost Babenzien and company $226.47 from start to finish. How do you get from that to $448? For those who read the fine print, Babenzien points out the costs related to the maintenance of both the brand’s physical and online retail spaces, in addition to the salary and health insurance for his staff and the brand’s marketing efforts.
Why does all of this matter? We are now more connected than ever and have no excuse to turn a blind eye to the ramifications that may come with trying to save a buck. The most inexpensive clothing at retail is often produced in mass quantities, and we are all responsible for looking into whether or not that production is ethical. Just look at the 2013 Savar factory collapse in Bangladesh that claimed more than a thousand lives, or the long history of using child labor, and grueling work hours in obscene working facilities in many other third-world countries across the globe. As Babenzien reminds us in his blog post, “Every time you buy something that is made cheaply, it means someone else is picking up the cost.”
Though Noah’s founder attests that they could stand to increase their profit margin by opting for less careful production, the brand’s stance against such inhumanity in favor of compassion and a sense of morality should inspire us to at least stop and think, even if only for a moment, the next time we decide to support any brand’s practices (or malpractices) with our dollars and cents.