Posts Tagged ‘Jeans’

Buying New Zealand made – Jeans?

September 12th, 2010 2 comments

In my last post, I indicated that I had a side project that had chewed up a bunch of my time. As part of the Bright Ideas Challenge, my flatmate and I had been investigating the plausibility of making jeans in New Zealand. After much research and spread sheeting, we determined that it was not economically viable for us to pursue this venture.

This is not to say that it’s not viable for someone else to pursue, but in my current job as a programmer, the extra supplemental income doesn’t match what I would make by going contracting and working sixty hours a week for a bank. The hours would be the same, but with more consistent income, and without the added hassle of juggling jobs and chasing up suppliers.

Our target market was the men’s denim market at around the $140 retail per pair price point. The observant among you will note that this is approximately the price of a pair of red tab Levi’s. In order to make it worth while for both us, it would have required around the fledging company to have taken or generated around 20% of Levi’s market share in New Zealand. That’s much more difficult than it sound.

Finally – this simply isn’t our area. If you’re in fashion design and manufacturing, it might be possible to make this work, but for an accountant and a programmer, we were going to have to contract in everything, and we simply don’t have the contacts to cut the kind of deals required to make this work.

So – what did I learn?

Firstly, New Zealand suppliers are awful. In May, I gave Ross Green of Drive Technologies a hard time for his statement in a NZ Herald article where he lambasted local manufacturers for not keeping up;

“But the simple fact was we just couldn’t get the subcontractor support locally, and we couldn’t get the logistics performance locally,” he says. “Local subcontractors just didn’t understand the importance of meeting dates.”

This matched up all to well with my own experience. Almost nobody in New Zealand was willing to give quotes, talk about schedules, time frames, or anything involving numbers. Several of my calls and emails from a few weeks ago are still unanswered. One contractor said the she did not have the equipment to sew denim. I asked how many would be required to make it economic to buy the equipment – in effect, subsidising an upgrade. She was not interested in doing that as it was “too much of a hassle”. Anyone familiar with Kiwi culture may find this all too familiar.

In contrast, my discussions with overseas suppliers were much more constructive. An organic producer in Australia happily gave me a full price list with bulk discount options, and then if asked if I’d like a sample book of swatches couriered to me, even though I had stressed that we were merely at the information gathering and concept stage. That’s service.

When we purchase a good at a retail store, we pay, in part, for the convenience of not having to deal with the myriad of details that involve the supply chain. The more complications and difficulties that beset that chain, the more the final good will cost. I can’t help wondering, how much the glacial responsiveness of the New Zealand fabric and garment manufacturing industry impacts on the final price of locally made clothing.

Which brings me full circle to my original question a few months ago – if New Zealanders aren’t ready to pay workers a first world wage for common goods, how can we expect to maintain a first world lifestyle?

Buying New Zealand Made: D&P and Mandatory

May 19th, 2010 Comments off

This weekend, I finally made my way to Duncan & Prudence (161 Riddiford Street, Newtown). While they do not manufacture all items of clothing themselves, everything I laid eyes upon appears to be made in New Zealand, often to the point where Duncan (who was quite happy to chat to me about my project) could name me the exact person who had made a given piece of clothing. In the back room of the store, they also manufacturer t-shirts, of which a speed-up montage of the process is displayed on an LCD. These retail for $60, though the quality of the cotton certainly appears to be far superior to that of your average Hallensteins shirt, and roughly on par with a Enclothe (American Apparel) tshirt.

They also stock a good variety of jeans ($195) in both organic cotton and not-so-organic cotton varieties, which I believe they also produce on-site. Apparently their experiments with organic denim showed that it does not wear as well. Chino style pants are a similar price, as are off the rack shirts, though the style of the two I tried on did not suit me, though I was impressed with the quality. There were a number of jackets, ranging in price from $289 to $438 in a variety of styles and fabrics, principally merino and synthetic.

I eventually parted with $238 for a zip up charcoal jumper, which was also available in black and with a hood. It appears that they also sell cotton underwear, thus eliminating at least one of my exception areas. At some point, I shall return, and purchase a couple of tshirts, and see how well everything holds up with wear.

Earlier in the week I stopped in at Mandatory (108 Cuba Mall) in search of a jacket after experiencing some particularly stormy weather. Likewise, I found friendly staff who were intimately familiar with their product and who led me to a reversible merino green/black hooded jacket with a synthetic inner to keep the wind out. The price tag of $420 and my Eurotrip spend-up prevented me from purchasing that night, though I suspect I will be back. They also had a good variety of shirts and pants, at around the $200 to $250 range.

I had originally considered much of what was on display at both stores prohibitively expensive, because so much of what I is purchased on sale. Nevermind that the quality was almost universally better than everything I was wearing, I simply wasn’t used to prices in that range. My favourite jeans are Levi 527′s, and they have a RRP of NZD$139. But I’ve never paid that. Consider Briscoes, it runs sales so often that people only buy things between sales if they absolutely have to. I no longer think of sales as the occasional opportunity, but as normality. Clearly, the only way to compete with that, is to provide better quality – and that comes at a price.