Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tell Me: are the Prices too High?

Is it wrong to insist on quality?

(Link to The Big Ass Dude Store)

Over the past few months we have been creating our own clothing line. It has been neither quick nor easy. In fact, it would be scary to even look at the time taken to create each individual piece. As it stands, the lowest price I can possibly make one of these awesome shirts for is $75.00 with the average fully-embroidered shirt in the $85-$90.00 range, and technically, that's the wholesale price.

I just can't bring myself to sell cheap crap at cheap prices, or worse, cheap crap at expensive prices. There's some bad business juju right there! I say offer the highest quality at the best price possible. The prices I set are the best prices possible. Is that so wrong?

Like jewelry, each piece is finely handcrafted (with a little help from a machine, I'm not totally crazy) with the utmost attention to detail. I know, because I do the details. I very much enjoy and take pride in what I do. However, these are not mass-production pieces nor will they ever be. This is what I was hoping would set us apart from the rest of the crowd. In fact, I'm lucky to complete two shirts a day. So with that in mind, this is what I have been trying to do:

I want to use the highest-quality materials available. I'm not talking cultivated silk or anything, but I am talking good, heavy, noticeably better- and thicker-feeling 5-1/4 oz. easy-care poly/cotton blend twill. I have had samples from several different suppliers, and I do get them at wholesale rate:

The cheapest shirts were so thin they had only one side! I have attempted to embroider on them and it is a nightmare trimming afterwards. It's almost impossible to not cut the shirt in the finishing process! I have seen this same type of shirt screen printed. The shirt is so thin that the ink bleeds right through to the back side. That's not good. The sizes also seem to run on the small size—they run at least one size small.

The next cheapest shirts are okay, and are still on the thin side. They have obvious shirt tails front and back and the buttons are natural/brown instead of black. In addition, the collars do button down, which is a nice feature, and much dressier, but I doubt that they are extremely durable. One problem I had with stitching on these was that the fabric tended to pucker under normal stitching conditions and I needed to take extra care to stabilize well and pull tightly. Their sizing is on the generous side and run pretty true to size, maybe a tiny bit larger. Single pocket on left chest, no button.

My favorite shirts, and the ones I insist on using are the Dickies® (yes, name brand) style 1574 work/shop shirt. They are the 5-1/4 oz (whatever that means) heavy, but not too heavy, twill fabric. The sizing is generous and they have a good roomy fit. The fabric is a dream to stitch on. Sometimes I wonder if I need backing/stabilizer at all. These are by far some of the highest-quality shirts I have worked with. I have no doubt that they will be durable and last a very, very long time. Two button-flap pockets on the front—two!

Here is an example of the Dickies® work shirts with our own BigAss Bear logo.

I have had a long standing history of undervaluing my work, especially when creating beads or jewelry. So could I be undervaluing my work here too? Perhaps, but my gut tells me no. A fully-embroidered Tommy Bahama® shirt retails for around $260.00. The embroidery is awesome and the work is very fine. The shirts themselves, however are 100% silk and are marked "dry clean only" (well, that and it is Tommy Bahama® after all). How practical is that? I guess if you would pay $260.00 for a shirt, you can also pay to have it dry cleaned.

I would like the world to know that I have the same type quality embroidery work as a Tommy Bahama® but at a way more affordable price, but it's slow to catch on. BigAl wonders if we should lower the price because "nobody is buying" and he's in a sort of panic. I prefer to not back down on price because I feel the rate is reasonable and fair for the quality.


  1. I think the shirts are great and not over priced! It's a question of finding the right market which can take some time. Not all that different than finding the right market for jewelry. I struggle with selling jewelry for what I believe it is worth vs. what I think people will pay at craft shows. I've started having items in various price ranges. I wonder if that's something you could consider? Mybe some sleeveless t-shirts embroidered at less cost, for example.

    Don't devalue your work - in the end you will not feel good about it and will likely stop what you are creating. It also makes it more difficult for others who are trying to make it as artists. Believe in your work and your cost - seems very fair.

  2. Dickie shirts are great! Some of ours are years old and still look great.
    I think you're on the right track. Just takes time. Joella

  3. You know the old adage - If it's not selling, raise the price...
    Perceived value and all that fun stuff!

  4. Thank you for your comments, I am very grateful that many of you took the time here and privately to give your opinion. So far the consensus is that the prices are NOT too high, both from comments here and comments made to me privately. Nobody as of yet has said to lower the price. Raising the price would be pushing it unless we started to offer 100% silk shirts and the like. It's slow and scary getting started in any new endeavor. Like any great American success story, things started out small with a niche, then grew to amazing heights.