Justifying the $550 Pant
An article in The New York Times explored the rationality of
such high-priced items, mentioning $480 khakis from Michael Bastian, $595 slacks
from Giorgio Armani, $780 pants with elasticized cuffs from Bottega Veneta,
and $350 Thom Browne chinos.
Some fashion observers tossed off the lofty prices
purely to image.
"The cost of creating those things has nothing to do with the price," said
David Aaker, the vice chairman of Prophet, a brand consulting firm. "It
is all about who else is wearing them, who designed them and who is selling
But Scott Sternberg, whose Band of Outsiders label sells a $550
khaki at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, asserted the quality of the materials
and craftsmanship merits the price.
"It sounds crazy to say this, I know, but our pants are a steal," said
To make his case, he gave the Times a tour of its factory,
Martin Greenfield, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, "where little has changed in
the production of tailored clothing in a century."
The author, Eric Wilson,
described the scene, "A man was hovering over
an 80-year-old contraption called a jump iron, hot enough to mold fabrics into
shapes they will be unlikely to forget. Another man basted panels of suit fabric
to springy canvas, which makes the garment more flexible. In a machine-made
jacket, the canvas would be fused or glued into a suit."
In sum, Mr. Sternberg’s
pants cost about $110 each to make, about a fifth of their retail price.
costs for fabric were tallied at $54 for each pair. The fabric, a resilient
cotton gabardine, costs $24 a yard, plus $3 a yard to import. With details
largely sewn by hand, the union shop pays employee $13 an hour with the average
pair of pants taking four hours to make.
With the designer’s markup, the wholesale
price comes to $220. The retailer adds another markup (typically about 2.5
times) to yield a $550 price tag.
The author concludes, "A machine might make
pants more cheaply, Mr. Sternberg said, but for a designer who wants to be
known for quality, what would be the value in that?"
Discussion Questions: Is demand for pricey pants driven more by image or the
quality of materials and craftsmanship? Does it take a different type of marketing
and sales approach to sell these items today than in the past?