There’s an age old saying that goes a little something like, ‘you get what you pay for.’ Like that one time, when I bought a $1 bubble machine toy that worked for all of 2 minutes. Or, that time I bought $150 pair of pure wool slippers that have lasted more than 2 years. While it’s not always the case, often times, you do in fact get what you pay for.
So the question that get’s asked frequently, is how much should you be spending on that item. Specifically, for us, the question is how much should you be spending on a sweater.
Well, to start, we’ll need to break down all the parts of a sweater. The first we need to ask is, what is a sweater made of? In order to answer this question, we’ll need to take a look at the content label inside the sweater. It’s typically found behind the neck so you can access it quickly. If it’s not there, it may be hidden on the inside hip. Hopefully the brand that makes the sweater is putting it there for comfort, and not to hide the contents. The neck label as we call it, tells a pretty big story about the sweater you’re about to comfortably wear.
Using a Local Laundry sweater as an example, specifically, the Local Crewneck, the tag tells us a few things about the garment. There’s usually the brands name, or logo, as it’s proud to create and show off what a beautiful sweater its made. Next to that, you’re going to see some information about where the garment was made. Of course, all of Local Laundry’s products are locally made right here in Canada, so the tag reads “100% Proudly Made in Canada / 100% Fierement Fabrique Au Canada” In this case, that means the garment is Milled, Dyed, Cut, Sewn, Decorated, and Designed in Canada. Beware of companies that boast about being designed in Canada, it’s literally the least they can do. Companies and Brands legally have to report on where the product was manufactured so this should be on the neck label. The next line you’ll read on this crewneck says that 10% of all profits support local charities and that it is a size medium. At the bottom, you’ll notice a few symbols that represent laundry symbols. If you don’t know what these mean, ask your Mom or Dad what these mean. When we first started the company, we had to. Last but not least, you’re going to see the fabric contents, which in this case is a 70% Rayon from Bamboo 30% Organic Cotton.
Let’s dig deeper into that.
Every sweater is made up of a different fabric that is used to ensure the sweater meets the needs of the design. If it’s made to be REALLY soft and comfortable, a bamboo & organic cotton blend is a great choice. We’re biased, but the Local Crew is REALLY soft and comfortable. If you’re looking for a more performance and outdoor sports based fabric, perhaps a polyester or a wool would do the trick. Every fabric has its own unique properties. However, just as organic food will cost more than non-organic, so does fabric. An organic cotton fabric is a premium blend that does not use harmful chemicals during production, which leaves the soil, air and water free from any harmful contaminants. As you can expect, the cost of a fabric such as this will naturally increase the price of the sweater. The same goes for a fabric such as bamboo, which uses far less water in crop production due to the rapid plant production. In conclusion, the type of fabric will help determine the price of the garment, however it will not be the biggest determinant.
The next part of the sweater you want to look at is the design. Is there embroidery, screen printing, or additional tags attached to the sweater? Every single additions to the sweater cost money, and will ultimately add to the price. Is your sweater full of decorations all over the place? It’s possible that it’s more expensive than a plain sweater with no decoration.
Finally, the most important part of the sweater comes down to the stitching. There are various types of stitching that can be utilized. For example, the Local Crew utilizes a flatlock seam in a raglan cut, which strengthens the seam, and increases the overall quality of the sweater. However the most important factor of the stitching, is the person that is crafting those stitches. This is perhaps the largest contributor to the price of a sweater, which is the labour cost. If your sweater cost you $20, it’s very likely that a lower quality fabric, non reinforced stitching, and overseas low cost labour strategy was deployed. Countries such as Bangladesh have a legal minimum wage of $96 USD a month, which is often exploited by large fashion brands to ensure low labour costs. This low labour cost is what allows sweaters to only cost $20. For decades, unfairly paid and unfairly treated workers have lobbied for better working conditions, and better pay in their garment manufacturing, only to have been silenced. Sadly, many were silenced forever in tragedies such as the Dhaka garment factory collapse that killed over 1100 workers.
In Calgary, Alberta, where we HQ, minimum wage is $15 / hour. As all of our sweaters are manufactured in Canada, minimum wage contributes to a much higher labour cost, and a much more expensive sweater. For the Local Crew specifically, the fabric is Milled, Dyed, Cut, Sewn, Decorated, and finished all in Canada. This means that Canadians in all aspects of the supply chain are being paid a fair wage, while contributing back to the local economy. These sweaters are also made in factories that have safe and fair working conditions. This sweater is actually contributing to a diverse Canadian economy through manufacturing jobs. It’s more than just a sweater.
The last thing to consider is the markup. If you’re buying this sweater in the store, that retailer is going to take a markup. If you’re buying a $100 sweater, this means the retailer is getting at least $50 from the sale of the product to help pay for lights, workers, and rent. The bigger the store, the higher the rent. Some stores need to sell a lot of sweaters to keep the lights on.
So next time you’re buying a sweater, think about where the money is going. Read the label to find out what kind of fabric you’re buying, and the impact that fabric has on the environment. Find out where the sweater is made, and how much the workers are getting paid to sew your sweater. Lastly, do your research into the brand your buying, and the store you’re buying it from. Who owns those stores? How are their employees treated? What are they doing to give back to the community I live in? Are they taking every penny of profit and leaving the country with out? If you don’t like the answers to those questions, you can ask yourself what kind of sweaters could you buy instead?
So, how much should you be spending on a sweater?
Every sweater is different, and every sweater is unique. If you pay too little, it may just fall apart, and quite possibly, have hurt people while being made. If it’s too expensive, there may be a reason for that. But one things for sure, you should spend more than two seconds glance at the size.