Does 10 times the price = 10 times the quality?

Here’s a gem from last weekend’s Sunday Times Style magazine. From ‘Seasalt’ a stripy top £30 and from ‘Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane’ a Breton top £355.

Well, does it? Mmm, of course, it all depends. Now as somebody who works most days with textiles even I wouldn’t be able to tell by just looking at the two pictures in the photograph above.  Both are stripy, navy blue and cream, long-sleeved tops with a boat neck. With a little help from our friend Google I have more information. The £30 top is made from 100% organic cotton, and the £355 one, also 100% cotton,  appears to be a ‘designer’ piece described as a ‘Breton-stripe distressed cotton-jersey top’. I’m guessing that perhaps the cut and fit is tens times better when a garment is crafted (their word not mine) from distressed cotton.

Here is my traditional Breton top. It’s over 15 years old and I bought it secondhand from a charity shop. I think I paid a fiver for it. It’s made by Saint James a French company based in Normandy that has been making marine clothing since 1889. Currently, you can buy one of their long-lasting 100% cotton, heavyweight blue and cream stripy Breton shirts for £55. I’m sorry to report that it does not come in distressed cotton-jersey, which would appear to be the prerequisite along with a luxury, brand label to warrant a price tag of £355.

Of course, I’m being a little frivolous here as I know there is more than this to pricing goods. Somewhere far down the list of components that influence the final price of any work, is how much time has been spent in making it. Talking of which here is 25 minutes of my life reduced to 25 seconds.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

8 thoughts on “Does 10 times the price = 10 times the quality?”

  1. Is it a hanging on it’s own, to part of something else?

    I sometimes pay a lot for clothes,( I love alpaca, so my once a year new jumper can get pricey) but not designer stuff, I can never fathom why people pay so much fir labels that aren’t handmade

    1. It’s going to be a scarf when finished and steamed.

      Yeah – I know what you mean about designer stuff. And, sadly, so many folks appear to think that handmade means homespun and think it should be cheaper than a regular mass produced/printed piece. So disheartening. I can see your work is of an extremely high standard and I hope it’s appreciated as such. The original medieval manuscripts would certainly have been truly treasured.

  2. Some serious thoughts for discussion raised here Agnes. Many designer pieces are made in countries where labour costs are minimal and material may well not have an ethical background. We always look at origin as well as material. Another point to ponder over is if every craftsperson was compensated adequately for the time they put into their designer made clothing items most would be millionaires. PS interesting video showing fennel indigo

  3. Yes, I know what you mean about the ethics of the fashion and textile business. As I was looking into it all it reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1853 novel ‘Ruth’ where the orphaned Ruth is sent to be a seamstress working in harsh conditions. I think nowadays as we don’t see exploitation in our own backyard we assume that it doesn’t occur, but unfortunately it’s simply been moved ‘offshore’. It’s all rather unsatisfactory for the 21st century, and often so opaque it’s hard to find out where stuff is actually coming from.

  4. If you could work that fast, you may have a better financial return, but it would do your head in! And completely lose the “love” component that goes into hand”crafted” items. I was at a market today and saw some beautiful embroidered runners and other linen at reasonable prices. I was thinking how can this be adequate compensation for the hours of work? Then I realised that it was a dealer’s store. They acquire from deceased estates, then they must have cleaned and starched each item as it was in as-new condition, and them priced them to sell. I suppose though, had the original embroiderer still been alive, she would have had the satisfaction of knowing her work endured. Which is more than we can say for much of the clothing sold today, no matter the purchase price. And, as others have commented, the labour exploitation is an increasing problem.

  5. When you see vintage textile work, especially pieces over 75 years old or so, it’s amazing that it has lasted, but I also consider that often the women who embroidered them suffered early onset blindness due to working in poor light. At least one hopes nowadays that this does not happen on top of exploitation wages.

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