Fast Fashion or Great Fit – Which will triumph?

Sample Room

There is a lot of press at the moment about the big International retailers coming to town to take everyone’s retail dollar and shut down every local small label that ever dared to think yeah I could survive in our market. Well, I’ve had enough of this… There are a few points of view I think need to be told.

Last Friday night, I went clothes shopping. This does not happen a lot, mainly because as every long-term fashion industry employee would understand, that after a week of working, sweating and stressing over patterns and samples, the last thing you want to do in your spare time is shop. The result of this is that I don’t have a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and what I do have has to be pretty special, either in design or fit.
Before you say why don’t you make your clothes? I always do a quick comparison between the cost to make one sample and the cost to buy off the rack. Off the rack nearly always wins.

So, I head to the city on Friday night and start with the regulars: Zara, MNG, Myer, etc. The selection is okay, lots of clothes for a university student who looks good in nearly anything, but also a huge line up to try clothes on. I grab a couple of tops and make an educated guess of the size I need, based on what I make everyday and what I have known for 20 years. I grab a medium, as I would call myself an 11 at the moment, head to the checkout and pay for the tops, taking note that in the off chance that the tops don’t fit; I can exchange them for the next size up.

As soon as I get home, I tried them on (I was keen to wear them as soon as I could). I found that they are too small, I’m not talking half a size; I’m talking 2-3 sizes. A small button also comes off one of the tops during the process.

On Saturday afternoon, I head back into said store to exchange the tops for a larger size. Instead of going one size up, I grab an XL and head to the long line for the changeroom.

Whilst standing there, I notice a couple of things:
1 – There doesn’t seem to be anyone with hips, boobs or a bum in the store.
2 – Almost every lady walking out of the change room hands back nearly every garment and says – no thanks.

Finally, it’s my turn. I try my tops on and find that, at two sizes up, the XL tops are too loose in the bust and hip (as I think the styling intended), but the sleeves are still very tight. There is also a sleeve tab, intended to fold the sleeve up to 3/4 length, however the cuff was not wide enough to sit that far up.

On the flip side, I recently set off the buy a dress for a wedding. It was racing season, so there was plenty of choice all over town. I found an absolute winner with Cue. There are not a client of ours, but I would love to work with them. Cue have nailed the typical Australian figure and understand that when you move up from a size 10 to a size 12, it doesn’t mean you get bigger everywhere. The result, a dress that fits so well, strangers outside the fitting room were telling me I HAVE to buy it.

This is not the first time this has happened to me and I can only come to one conclusion. To produce fast fashion at this low price point, something has to give. How much time, effort and money is put into the development and fitting process to ensure these garments fit correctly?

I hear so often about the one week turn around from International catwalk to dispatch from factory. Well, I say that the thing that is ignored is fit. You can have the design and colour down pat, but if it doesn’t feel right when you are in the fitting room, then you can say good-bye to the sale, no matter how much customers love it on the rack.

There are some local labels that understand fit is an essential part of their future survival. In the last nine months, we have noticed a huge influx of designers who complete their development here and take their manufacturing off-shore. This is done to ensure they have the understanding of fit to the local market.

It might appear to cost you more, but I think it has to come back in bucketloads on the shop floor. Not to mention the time you save in development. We can develop a pattern and sample in 2-3 weeks. Only you can tell me how many samples you have developed for a style and how long that has taken until you are at the point where you just give in and settle for what you have.

There are quite a few little projects we have been working on to help get to the correct fit and look of your garment more quickly. We would love to talk about this with you more. Click here to visit out website.

What are your thoughts about the establishment of International fast fashion brands in Australia?

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