We live in a time when we can get clothes faster and cheaper than ever before. That is a good thing — at least for you. For a lot of the people in the supply chain that helped produce that sweater/T-shirt/jacket you’re wearing, the savings you receive come out of their pocket. You pay less because they get paid less. It’s one of the dirty secrets in fashion that people don’t like to talk about. Noah founder Brendon Babenzien, however, recently pulled back the curtain to explain why his products purposely are not cheap, and the reason isn’t capitalist greed.
In a blog post on Noahny.com, Babenzien broke down all of the costs that go into creating its Two-Tone Parka that retails for $448. The impetus for the post was an encounter Babenzien had with a shopper at Dover Street Market in London. The person asked Babenzien point blank why Noah’s jacket cost more than another one that Babenzien previously made, presumably while he served as creative director at Supreme.
As Babenzien explained to the customer and recounted in the blog, the products that Noah makes aren’t designed to be disposable because that isn’t responsible to the environment. They are also created so that everyone who contributes along the way can make a fair living.
We buy from reputable suppliers making high quality textiles in countries with reasonable environmental laws. That means they cost more, but they contribute a bit less to environmental destruction. If this is a priority for a consumer, then there is real value there. If not, I believe it is only a matter of time before it does become a priority for everyone, and we’ll see you all eventually. Next, we manufacture in countries that have fair labor laws and are known for producing high-quality garments.
In the Italian factory where the Two-Tone Parka is made, workers make a living wage and get more vacation time than most people in the U.S. “All of these factors add up and mean we pay more to make the jackets—we are OK with this. We place real value on people having a nice life, and are willing to grow our business slowly in order to make sure others live well,” Babenzien said. In the case of the jacket, Noah spends $226.47 to produce each jacket. It then is marked up to $221.52 to get to the retail price of $448.
That markup seems like a lot, but as Babenzien notes, that is where all the money to pay employee salaries and health insurance comes from as well as the rent on its Soho store and all the other expenses that come with running a small business.
There are ways that Babenzien could lower the per unit costs on a jacket, but his gain would be someone else’s loss and that is not a deal he is willing to make:
Make no mistake about it: Every time you buy something that is made cheaply, it means someone else is picking up the cost. You save money because someone else is making less, and perhaps working in conditions that no human should suffer. We have become accustomed to pricing structures that are, quite simply, lies. The pricing we have become accustomed to—whether for garments, food, or technology—is mostly based on finding the cheapest manufacturing on the planet. This means moving into underdeveloped countries and taking advantage of the impoverished.
As we head into the mass consumerism that is the holidays, it is a good message to keep in mind.