The Affordable, Portable Suit

Discussion
Apr 20, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


What could be bad?


New men’s suits from Bagir Ltd., sold at J.C. Penney in the U.S. and Marks & Spencer in the U.K., look like others on the rack. They’re attractively priced ($177.99) and they’re wash and wear.


They’re wash and wear?


What would appear to be a key selling point may be the very thing that discourages men from buying these suits.


Men, it seems, equate formal attire with dry cleaners. The thought that they might just wash a suit at home and throw it in the dryer has many questioning whether they would look unprofessional in the Bagir suits.


Anne Hollander, a fashion historian and author of a book about suits, told The Wall Street Journal, “Suits aren’t meant to be convenient. If you wear a suit, you are joining the company of respectable people.”


Thomas Horton, CFO for AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, is among those who have difficulty with the concept of a wash and wear suit. “That would be hard for me to get my head around. It’s a foreign concept. It’s like starching your jeans. I wouldn’t do that either.”


The retailers selling the Bagir line, however, aren’t looking for consumers such as Mr. Horton to buy the suits anyway. Mr. Horton has his suits custom-made.


Tim Danser, a buyer for tailored clothing for men at J.C. Penney, described the target consumer for the suits as being “time-compressed” and “pocket-book compressed.”


Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks & Spencer said, “There are a lot of very busy blokes about who wear a suit for work, who go through a lot of wear and tear and who’ll want this because of convenience.”


Jim Moore, creative director for GQ magazine, has seen the Bagir suits. “This is a real business suit,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a suit that’s for every single man out there, but it has a sensible price and would be great as a starter suit, or for a guy who is traveling a lot.”


Moderator’s Comment: Will wash and wear suits catch on with men, particularly those just entering the tailored clothing
market?
– George Anderson – Moderator

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14 Comments on "The Affordable, Portable Suit"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Wanna see a short wash ‘n wear promo film from 1958? Go to: this page.

Wash ‘n wear isn’t new. And it didn’t replace replace conventional fabrics. But it can be convenient and economical for some people, so it’s not going away. The best thing about it: it’s giving great publicity to the retailers involved and how often do those 2 firms get great publicity about their men’s clothing? Curiousity will drive some traffic and even if the publicized merchandise isn’t purchased by everyone, who can’t use more traffic?

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Wine with screw-top caps? Wash and wear suits? Salads in a bag? Where does it end? I am kidding, of course, but while the search for convenience and ease does serve a purpose, it comes at the expense of being (seemingly) sophisticated and knowing “adult” things (clip on ties may be faster to throw on in the morning, but isn’t there something more debonair and as close as us mere mortals can get to having the suave sense of confidence that comes with knowing how to tie a windsor knot?). It may not make us ready to be considered for the new James Bond movie – but the thought of “Q” pulling a suit out of the spin cycle to hand to James Bond on his way out the door in the morning just seems wrong!

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

It will find a sufficient niche to keep it on the store racks. Obviously not for everybody. Very convenient for those who forgot to go to the dry cleaners and discover they need a suit ready in the morning, or who hate the extra hassle of going to the dry cleaners in the first place. And good when you’re on the road, and something spills on you. Probably not something you’d wear to a wedding or a funeral, but for less formal times, probably adequate — worthwhile to have in the closet. But of course that depends on who’s the judge here. I had to laugh about the comment on joining the ranks of “respectable people.” Perhaps suits used to mean that, but today, in this post-Enron (etc.) world, “suits” has come to have a different meaning entirely.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

A good looking suit for under $200 is great. But what’s the benefit of “wash & wear”? Who that wears a suit is doing their own laundry these days anyway?!?

John Rovegno
Guest
John Rovegno
14 years 10 months ago

Let’s go one better here – Something that’s easy to care for and stylish. I’m thinking Star Trek (the original).

A working man’s uniform that’s comfortable because the fabrics used help regulate body temperature and control bacterial growth (odor) so it can be laundered less often. Bill Shatner can be the spokesman but he’s not getting any younger…we have the technology.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

I can’t stop thinking about that much-repeated campaign trail story from Howard Dean… you know, the one about that suit he owned for over a decade then one day, finally decided to throw away? He threw it in the washer first and was so not-sickened by the results that he went on to wear it for many more years. I guess the lesson here is that wash and wear suits don’t win elections?

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
14 years 10 months ago

Why would I want a wash and wear suit? One of the key advantages of wearing a suit everyday is that almost all your cloths are washed at a drycleaners by someone else and not at home. In addition, there are many same day drycleaners to be found while traveling. I can’t imagine sitting in a coin operated Laundromat while on the road.

Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
14 years 10 months ago

Is it me or is someone making a joke? I understand the stated benefits but someone who has the time to “wash” his suit doesn’t have time to go to the cleaners? We’ve all had cheap suits at one time or another so why make it wash and wear – this looks and makes you feel better? There may be a small niche but this is not going to fly.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 10 months ago

My dad used to wear cotton/poly dress shirts and when I got old enough to know the difference I asked my Mom why she didn’t get him nice cotton dress shirts. The cotton would have required frequent trips to the dry cleaner, or ironing, but cotton/poly? C’mon, Mom. Her reply: “He doesn’t know the difference, why should I make my life harder?”

These suits will no doubt have the same appeal.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Oh the connotations. All the male jobs I can think of whose takers would wear these suits come under the heading of what we call naff. M&S has been struggling for a long time to get women back in and convince them that their clothes are stylish. They’ve never appealed to men, or at least not men in any kind of respectable and respected position. I can see salesmen of all persuasions and cheap lawyers or students going for their first interview. But serious businessmen? Not hardly likely.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
14 years 10 months ago
Putting aside personal opinion, and trying to stay within my professional domain, I come out as follows: Is there a need, articulated or not, for formal business attire which is less expensive to care for than traditional dry cleaning? Can the benefits of formal business attire be delivered in a material which allows for wash and wear? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” and can be done at a price point which appeals to the person saying “yes,” then the product will find a niche at retail. Suit velocity is really slow. Ask a Nordstrom buyer about it and you find that the inventory turn is horrible. You have such size coverage issues, and personal style issues…it’s awful. Men’s Warehouse gets a different result with a different model. Can this item potentially perform? Not without a great deal of word of mouth nurturing or an advertising campaign and in-store merchandising support. The issue here is how do you convince someone that the suit will look appropriate after being washed if they will only… Read more »
Dustin Stinett
Guest
Dustin Stinett
14 years 10 months ago

The survey is missing a response choice: “I hope not!”

John Lansdale
Guest
John Lansdale
14 years 10 months ago

Absolutely, there’s a prejudice against wash and wear. I remember some similar suits back in the 1970’s or so. It was modern times; aluminum siding, plastic tableware, atomic bombs against human values. My generation threw out suits completely while, apparently, the next wants to dress up for the boss. So modern times is back with a solution for the generation gap. Depending very much on what these suits look like – are they detectable by contemporary fashion hawks? – I’m buying one. My time’s too valuable to spend preening and decorating myself. A suit in the machine is worth two at the cleaners.

Ganapathy Subramanian
Guest
Ganapathy Subramanian
14 years 10 months ago
Don Delzell said it right. Generally, suits are slow movers on the retail floor, compared to other clothing. It is scary to keep a heavy suit inventory. Wash and wear types of suits may not be accepted by big people like CEOs, CFOs and Directors. But at the same time, so many middle level customers are there in the market in huge quantity. These kinds of customers cannot afford higher end suits. This W & W suit will match to middle income and higher middle income customer wallets. If we look at the customer population, the rich people are always fewer in numbers. They can afford anything in the universe. We have to look at the masses; the real business lies with them. I am from India. Here, the organized retail business is just booming. The organised retail people talk too much about the industry, but their overheads are always on the higher side. They are unable to meet the required net profit at the end of the day. But at the same time, so… Read more »
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