There was a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago that discussed the impact of Saks Fifth Avenue drastically slashing their prices last fall. The reporter found that it has impacted the consumer by having them call into question the intrinsic value of their high-priced purchases.
Now the newspaper has come out with another interesting article where a reporter turned to a variety of experts to see if they could tell the difference between lower priced fashion buys and more expensive ones.
Of course, when it comes to cheap-chic and disposable fashion, the marketplace is crowded with everyone from H&M and Target (a true pioneer given that they were one of the first retail giants to partner with a big name designer – Isaac Mizrahi), to J.C. Penney (they recently partnered with Charlotte Ronson) and Wal-Mart (who partnered with the legendary Norma Kamali).
That said, it is being reported that while fast fashion is still high on the appeal meter, consumers are very conscious of quality and durability. To find out what consumers are getting when they pay both high and low prices, The Wall Street Journal turned to Simon Collins, dean of fashion at Parson’s New School for Design, and Randi Rahm, a designer based in Manhattan who sells her eveningwear at Bergdorf Goodman.
Both fashion insiders analyzed recent designer collections from Target and H&M – Thakoon Panichgul and Behnaz Sarafpour for Target and Comme des Garçons and Roberto Cavalli for H&M – all of which cost between $19.99 and $129. These were presented with a $1,145 Thakoon dress bought from Barneys New York. Labels were removed so no one knew what was what.
Rahm noted that the cotton used in Target’s clothing was “crunchy,” meaning that it wasn’t of high quality, but both she and Collins noted that Target’s garment constructions were very impressive. Of particular note was the pleating in one of the Thakoon dresses and in a velveteen Sarafpour skirt that had trapunto stitching along the satin waistband.
Less impressive were the Comme des Garçons for H&M pieces. Zippers were put on the wrong sides, the fabrics didn’t mix well, and the bustle-like detail on the back of one of the pieces, Collins said, was “ill-conceived.”
Further, two of the H&M pieces had hooks and eyes that were falling off and the elastic at the wrists of a Cavalli leopard-print silk tunic were too loose. While Rahm successfully picked the expensive dress out of the bunch (after narrowing it down to two), the reporter noted that “Mr. Collins bypassed the expensive Thakoon dress. He thought the outside seams looked to be of high quality, but without any other details, such as a zipper, there were no tell-tale signs indicating it would cost $1,145.
He chose instead the Thakoon flowered raincoat because it had bold color, was soft to the touch but didn’t feel flimsy, had concealed buttons when closed and lay flat because its full lining was sewn into the hem. It cost $44.99.
I have to say that I’m still unsure whether to be disturbed or impressed by the fact that the dean of fashion at Parson’s New School for Design couldn’t tell a Barney’s Thakoon dress from its Target counterpart.