Friday, 6 February 2015

Some words on the cost of handmade

So, before I get my next bag finished, let me have muse over the price of materials - and therefore the price of handcrafted goods a.k.a justifying my prices.

Its expensive to 'make stuff'. It just is. Even though these days you can buy many things direct from China it still costs a lot of money for hardware (all those bits of metal - fastenings, rings, frames and so on as well as zips and thread etc).
Interfacing in particular is shocking - and every bag needs at least one type, usually two types of interfacing/stabiliser in order to keep its shape. Bag handles - the premade kind - are approximately a tenner a pop.

Then lets factor in the time and care that goes into 'making stuff'. I charge for my time, otherwise what would be the point (to be honest I'd still make bags even if I did not profit slightly, but lets gloss over that!). I don't charge much. In fact I undercharge in order to make it somewhere in the reasonable' bracket. £7.50 an hour is just over minimum wage but thats all I feel I can ask in order to make a small profit on top of my hardware costs.

Fabric is so pricey in the UK - the 'good stuff' i.e. a good quality cotton with a great design retails - and these are usually American designers - at about £12 a metre. This is why I don't make frocks for people - just for me and even then not that often. There are a few small businesses out there doing this (and presumably they can get their fabric at trade reductions) but their prices do reflect this (e.g. Victory Parade, Get Cutie, Old Sea Dog, British Retro)

So lets venture into clothing, purely because I am able to make comparisons and give and example on that.
The larger companies (lets say Voodoo Vixen, Hell Bunny, Collectif) that specialise in the kind of new vintage stuff I like to wear - they are able to get fabrics at seriously rock bottom prices. They can source crazy cheap fabric from Asia. However there are still problems. When I was at the London Edge trade fair on Sunday, I became aware that many of the Voodoo Vixen dresses average about £12 wholesale (these sell from £40-£60 retail) which begs the question how much do they pay to have one dress manufactured? Not much. And how much are the factory workers paid to manufacture these garments. Probably a pittance.
I know that the Voodoo Vixen designer sources the fabric from China, and has the designs made up there, which is a great headache for her from a distance and language barrier point of view, but also she would love the brand to be purely British. Its just not commercially feasible. They cannot compete with other similar marketed brands if they can't keep the costs down. From to design to final production is long and protracted because of the aforementioned issues - something that would take minutes to sort out face-to-face can take weeks. They have their own problems just because they DONT produce British.
I have to say though that from experience, the quality of Voodoo Vixens fabric is very good - the cotton they use is thick and has a bit of stretch which is perfect for the retro style. Frankly they must be charged so little for it it kills me, but there are certain companies in the same vein for which I have found quality has been compromised. I will not name here.

Example. When I did some shopping in in Goldhawk lane last year, I found the some fabric I'd seen used for a Hell Bunny dress (Maui) - £25 for 5 metres. This is actually a great bargain in fabric terms for the general public. £5 a metre is cheap.

However -  Lindy Bop now use this very same fabric, and are selling this dress - not just with the hibiscus fabric, but with PIPING! I bl**dy love piping. ...

£29.99 - its crazy cheap. And they do often run discount codes on top of that. I cannot make a dress for that price. (Remember I use plenty of cotton thread as well as fabric, plus zip etc)  Why would I even bother on my time restrictions? For a couple of quid more, I can buy one someone else has gone to the trouble of making. The satisfaction of 'me-made' is not there of course. But then the blood, sweat and tears of hand sewing a garment isn't either.

So what would you rather have? A mass-made product that you are likely to see other people wearing (but not in my town LOL) or a one-off made to measure by someone. The same goes with bags - would you rather have a bag that is cheap and functional and possibly quite lovely, but owned by hoards of other folk, or something completely unique and made with love and care?

For me, I don't mind a bit of both. I'm not made of money. I'd love to buy handmade all the time, but its not financially feasible. There is something wonderful though, about knowing that no-one else has your bag. And supporting a small business that is trying so hard to make a living doing something they love. So please think about that when you gasp at the price of handmade. Its not a rip off. Its a fair price.

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