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Buying New Zealand made: Shirts and Shorts

March 21st, 2011 Comments off

My year of buying only New Zealand made clothes is almost at end. I made this commitment on the 5th of April, 2010. As it wore on, I became worse and worse at blogging my purchases, because I ended up going back to the same stores over and over again, and frankly, there’s only so many things you can say about a pair of suit pants. However, I did notably find a pair of organic denim shorts ($120) at Duncan & Prudence this summer, and  couple of custom printed tshirts ($60) print at the same. The shorts are excellent, and properly fit my quintessentially kiwi ass. The tshirts softened after a couple of washes and routinely garner comments wherever I go, because nobody else has anything like them. Since I’m rubbish at photography, the picture below was hacked together from D&P’s online tshirt builder. The actual shirt on the right has the pohutukawa in bright blue.

 

Buying New Zealand Made: Shirts and Cloth

July 12th, 2010 Comments off

Rixon Groove has a sale on. Having put sufficient time in at the gym to get rid of the effects of my holiday indulgences, and then having gone so far as alter my profile into the bargain, this seemed like a good opportunity to address the the fact that none of my shirts fit me any more.

I had intended to see if there were any short sleeves shirts going, but alas, it’s all the winter stock. I had planned to get a couple of short sleeve shirts made up, but settled instead for getting measurements, and buying a pair of long sleeves shirts for around 50% off, for approximately $90 each.

So what exactly, does a shirt with an RRP of $180 get you apart from warm fuzzies for a supporting the local economy and a lower carbon foot print?

In a word, quality.

It’s the little things, such as buttons that are properly tied off, cuffs that end on the wrist, a tail that sits properly over a pair of jeans, a top button that can be moved if you have a big neck like I do, and of course, the quality of the fabric. The black shirt is a heavy cotton and linen mix. It wouldn’t be suitable for a hot summers day, but I can wear it in a cool office without feeling the need to don a jersey. I also purchased a purple article in exceedingly light 100% satin cotton.

Rixon Groove will also make shirts to measure. I wish I had written the detail down, but from memory, it comes down to about $160 dollars per shirt, plus materials. They have a large selection of fabrics in a swatch book, including some incredibly nice cotton from Egypt.

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.

Buying New Zealand Made: Adventures in Online Shopping

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

It’s been nearly three weeks since I announced my New Zealand only apparel purchasing requirement. So far the results have been a lot of googling, and very little buying.

I did buy a shirt ($189) and silk tie ($119) from Rixon Groove last week for the annual Green Gala WYP ball. They are very nice, though I just about wept when the assistant gave me the price. True to my word, they were both made in New Zealand, and there is an appreciable difference in cut and quality of cloth. Time will tell how well they both last.

The week before, I broke down when trying to find a cowboy hat for a costume party, and eventually paid the $3.50 for an exceedingly lousy costume hat, knowing that I was probably only going to wear it once, possibly twice.

Generally, the experience has been incredibly frustrating. Not only because I now must walk past all the specials at Munns and Hush Puppies and feel guilty whenever I probably support child labour by purchasing cheap costume frippery, but mostly because New Zealand manufacturers and retailers seem loathe to put useful information online. Far too many websites have slogans like “More products in store!” or worse yet; “POA – Price On Application” splattered liberally over their paltry product lineup.

From the customers perspective, the point of having a website site is to avoid wasting the inordinate amount of time required to physically check every store. Clearly this point has been lost on many retailers. I personally suspect that some merchants believe that they will lose their sales edge without a human presence to badger me as I walk around their store. What really happens is that I see the above slogans and completely destroy their edge by not bothering to turn up in the first place. For any product that’s not of the electronic variety, I’m all for turning up and seeing it in person – especially clothing, where I’d like to try the item on – but I would like the opportunity to browse through the products in peace.

Therefore, if a single New Zealand manufacturer or retailer reads this and takes home one piece of advice, it should be this;

Put your catalogue online.

Put it all online. Put up prices, sizes, units left in stock, shipping costs. Put up every single piece of information you can think of, because if I can’t find out what I want to know, I’m going somewhere else. If you don’t let me buy direct from the website, I’ll go somewhere else. By the time I get to your store to try something on, I expect to know what products you offer, what sizes are available, what optional extras I can get, what colours are available, and last – but most importantly – how much it’s going to cost me.

If you are a manufacturing business only, and are genuinely not equipped to sell directly to the public, then please include links directly to retailers who do. Telling me to go scurrying around all the local stores searching for a specific item does not endear your brand to me.

This is not the eighties where I phone up for a catalogue in the mail, and it’s not the nineties where a brochureware site and a quaint “Email us for a quote” form is vaguely admissible. This is the 21st century. Please start acting like it.

Rixon Groove, this includes you.

Buying New Zealand Made

April 5th, 2010 1 comment

I sometimes feel that I should have a big “Made in China” logo tattooed on my person.

With the exception of my jeans (Pakistan) and my belts and suit (New Zealand), it seems as if almost every article of clothing in my wardrobe is made in China. Even the merino icebreaker t-shirt I purchased for tooling around snow covered Europe is made there. No doubt in order to allay these fears they have made special efforts to create a “BAACODE” so we can track which sheep and farm a given shirt comes from. The fact that the BAACODE (E37C4298B) attached to my shirt is apparently invalid, doesn’t give me much faith that icebreaker gear deserves it’s reputation.

After my debacle in January of attempting to buy New Zealand made barstools that didn’t cost a spare limb for each stool – end result; I found some on trademe – I thought that I’d purchase a nice leather jacket, also, made in New Zealand. Well, it turns out that Leather Direct NZ does use NZ leather – and outsources the manufacturing to Pakistan. Fail.

The two main reasons that I want to buy New Zealand made boil down to economic, and environmental. If New Zealand keeps importing everything, soon enough we won’t produce anything except untreated wood planks, steak, wool, and the occasional misguided PHP programmer. Secondly, I can’t quite shake the feeling that until we truly have unlimited clean energy, the practice of shearing a sheep, bailing up the wool, shipping it 10,000 kilometers across the world to turn it into a shirt, and then shipping said shirt back to the same country it came from is just ever so slightly inefficient and environmentally destructive.

Also, on a completely anecdotal level, I’ve been somewhat distressed at the quality level of what I’ve been buying, despite the amount I’ve paid for it. (Tarocash, I’m looking at you.)

So.

For one year, starting from today, I’m going to try to source all my clothing from New Zealand manufacturers. I’m not throwing out my existing clothes, and if I’m in another country or up a mountain and desperately need a pair of socks or a woolly hat, I’ll look for the locally made brand, but the pragmatic and imperative need to avoid frostbite is going to win out over my ideological and journalistic integrity.

In keeping with the environmental aspect, I will try to keep to natural fibres that are locally produced – where possible. As far as I’m aware, there is not a natural fibre replacement for elastic, and New Zealand simply doesn’t produce any cotton. Therefore, where possible, I’ll go for Australian cotton. With some exceptions, I expect that it will also be very difficult to get specifics on where fibre originates from anyway.

So far, I’ve identified Duncan, & Prudence and Rixon Groove as NZ based clothing producers. This should see me set up for shirts and trousers, and New Zealand made socks and belts seem very easy to procure. At this point, the items I expect to give me difficulty are shoes – especially sports shoes, and underwear.

Finally, I appreciate that this exercise will involve me paying a premium, and though I hope that the higher price will mean a higher quality product, but there is a certain level of expenditure which I’m not willing to go over. I’m not going to spend $200 on a t-shirt.

I intend to blog this process as I go along. Comments, thoughts, and suggestions are very welcome.