Wednesday, May 6, 2015

All About Style! | The Cotton-Polyester Rendezvous...

Heavy vintage wash from top fading to regular color by bottom; styled, dotted,
light color destruction; heavily-detailed, layered applique; styled heavy nicking throughout
100% cotton, US$68, flagship exclusive, 2011.   |   Image, C.E.R. for The Sitch on Fitch
         AS OF LATE this year, many an Abercrombie & Fitch devoted customer has come to be concerned - that's one way to put it - over the everywhere-permeation of polyester in the fabrics' fiber mixture in tops. Well, it's time to clear some things up and gain some more perspective...

The primary issue people have come to have is the considerable scale-back of the dominance of quality 100% cotton: this is primarily symbolic with the graphic tees, and it is being taken as a mark, indicator, of the changes and current state of things at Abercrombie & Fitch and where its moving with these new heads in management. Historically, A&F Graphic Tees have generally always been 100% cotton. The nature in which the quality 100% cotton fabric would be worked and detailed in premium spirit varied with a range of styles meriting from around US$30 (the standard; as far back as the mid-2000s) to as much as US$68 (flagship exclusives; beautiful works) in price by the early-2010s. Since the transitioning into a post-Jeffries Era and the takeover of Christos Angelides over assortment, graphic tees have made a collective nosedive: US$30 is now the ceiling merited price for the kind of simpler quality of the design and detail (and even that is rare now with tees generally in the US$20s), with the cotton reduced to 50-60% in ratio with 40-50% polyester. And you can thank him for the low-end "A&F Essentials", too. That is the new - his - A&F (so far).

And the price of cotton in the world market is not an excuse for this. If there's a thought to excuse this use-drop of cotton on account of cotton prices, let's just stop that right here. No. For your information, cotton prices have been at a five year low. Period.

Cotton prices this decade hitherto, top; prices since 1992
when Mike repositioned A&F as fashion retailer.

That's not an excuse. There is no excuse.

So why? This is purposeful. It's the manifestation, at Abercrombie & Fitch, of fraternizing with lower-quality. Basically, there is a full-on denigration from the premium ideals, established by the mid-2000s Casual Luxury years, which were upheld until stagnating and declining in recent time this decade and now being replaced by a new mentality ruling over post-Jeffries. It doesn't make any sense except for conforming to lower-grade mentality afflicting with dominating influence the youth fashion retail landscape post-Recession.

It's even a total rip-off, really, to even sell a 60%/40% blend tee with just a simple screenprint design for US$30 - considering polyester is cheaper than cotton and cotton is at a five-year low; meanwhile, not even long ago early in the decade, cotton prices were higher (skyrocketed in 2011, which the Company at the time acknowledged) and, regardless, you could get a finely-worked 100% cotton fabric graphic tee with superior applique and/or stitch work in high-detail for the same price. Go figure.

But this isn't to say that the use of polyester has never been a thing. The use of cotton/polyester blends has been around since as far back as even, and most certainly before, the mid-2000s Casual Luxury years when the push began for higher-level ideals. So only on some select items did we see polyester then. Hoodies for A&F Men and Women have always had around 15% polyester (or under 30% on some through the years) and so have sweatpants/shorts for both. Mens swimtrunks, naturally, have been 100% polyester. Some womens knits and hoodies would bare even 40% polyester. Regardless, quality cotton ruled over all and everything and was worked-with magnificently (with the only other materials above it being, i.e., wool / cashmere and leather in significance).

Now, however, polyester has gone far up as right under 50% in blend for hoodies, too. Yet they retail for the same high price while considerably lacking of the profound detail of yesteryear hoodies. Cotton/polyester blend has even spread into polos which had also historically been quality 100% cotton like graphic tees.

One shouldn't even be cynical, but what's to say the attitude isn't the following: lower the quality, retain as close to the average established price in the assortment category anyway, and be able to make a good buck that way while still rolling out continuous discounts as we embrace the "discounts-is-cool" mentality (that last bit which someone from the Company literally admitted in an interview) and have the consumer think they're getting a great deal although, really, actually paying, with the "discount", pretty close as to what it should actually retail for full-price considering.

What has furthermore been going on in the greater industry is that there is now a widespread embrace of cheaper cotton/polyester blend and a critical reduction in the market share cotton once had. This has been a domino effect from a developing post-Recession environment and from the 2011 skyhigh-spike in cotton prices: the industry embracing the cheaper natural-and-synthetic blend to a now preeminent state. Back in 2014, the Wall Street Journal commented with a remark from Jordan Lea (of the South Carolina-based East Trading Co.), "[A lower price drop for cotton] doesn’t mean a guaranteed jump in consumption,' he said, citing consumer acceptance of the current blends of cotton and manmade fibers. 'The blends are there to stay for now.'" And new leadership has moved Abercrombie & Fitch to conform to this lower-grade basic action.