Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Cost of High Fashion Knitwear

Do you ever see something in a magazine that you could TOTALLY do yourself? This month I was flipping through Fitness Magazine, and looking at all their "latest next-level gear" (read: Very Expensive Workout Clothing) section when I came across something that looked knitted. It also looked simple to knit, and I even have some cotton in the stash in almost that very colorway.
Take a look:
"Rebecca Taylor Mesh Tank Top"
For kicks, I glanced at the price.
No....That can't be right.
$195 for a machine-made cotton tank top that doesn't even cover your belly? That's outrageous, but when I looked online I saw that it is actually on sale right now so you can buy this little beauty for only $136. Only.

So I got to thinking. I thought about how people don't really understand the value of hand-knit goods, and how they think spending $20 on a single skein of yarn is ridiculous.
Then I looked around my room, and the first hand-knit thing I laid eyes on was a scarf I made in 2007. I used 3 skeins of Karabella Aurora 8.

It's a funny story, actually: It was early in my knitting career, when nearly everything I made was 100% acrylic. I came across the Tutti Twist Cardigan in a book and went online to buy the yarn the pattern called for- it was $9 a ball. The cardigan called for 18 balls, and I figured I would order it 3 skeins at a time as I acquired money. Then one day I learned about dye lots, threw that plan out of the window and knitted a scarf instead!

I flirted with the idea of giving the scarf away, but it had taken so long and the yarn was so soft and pretty- it's not really my color but there it hangs today. The yarn for that scarf totaled $27. I was a relative beginner then, and it's a seed stitch/basket-weave pattern so I put a lot of work into it. If I was forced to sell that scarf, I wouldn't let it go for less than $50 and yet the average shopper has been led to believe that scarves are only worth about $12.

Think about what I just said for a second. "I wouldn't let that scarf go for less than $50." $30 of that is for the material alone. Now, I used to work for a non-profit. I got paid $11 an hour, and I did some data entry, answered phones, answered questions, tidied up, and made flyers. None of that stuff I did took skill. It was very basic work, and I got paid $11 an hour to do it. Knitting is a skill: proficiency and dexterity developed through training or experience. Let me tell you right now that scarf probably took at least 10 hours. So should I be asking for $110 plus the $30 for the yarn? Nobody would pay that, I say to myself.

Or would they? If we live in a society where someone will see a machine-knit top in a magazine and pay $195 for it, then why won't they pay $140 for a hand-knit scarf? Something is screwy here.
Check it out for yourselves. Top-fashion designers are charging outrageous numbers for super simple knits. $275 for a garter stitch top? I think this price is a steal- IF it were hand-knit.

I know this topic is totally, completely done in, but it was just on my mind today. If I got paid $195 to knit a simple, shapeless razor-back mesh tee with some ribbing at the edges I'd be making one right now.

I think Rebecca Taylor needs to share with me her list of customers.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you completely! Its so frustrating, I thought about opening an etsy store but you don't make the money for the labor you put into it. It all has to do with popularity and the value someone else puts on it. Same as diamonds, they have absolutely no use or value until DeBeers launched its advertising campaign. Its frustrating.


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