Cost and Value - Shades of Grey
"That's a bit expensive isn't it?" - An opinion commonly voiced when referring to products designed by independent brands.
We have grown accustomed to low prices from the high street and, as such, are much less inclined to buy clothing that's priced above what we think it's worth. And therein lies the rub: perceived value has been distorted because mass manufacture tells us that tops shouldn't cost more than a tenner, jeans no more than twenty pounds and coats are pushing it at sixty.
Allow us, if you will, to get serious for a minute... to put forward an alternative way of shopping that invests in true worth - that substitutes ten throwaway products for one of superior quality and cut. In the coming weeks, we want to give credit to a few brands in particular who have demonstrated a refreshing level of transparency with regard to how their collections are made. In doing so, we hope to show you the care involved in all areas of the supply chain that make them worth the investment.
U.S. based Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen is one such brand; a prime example of menswear that is beautifully crafted using carefully chosen fabrics, epitomising considered design. We recently wrote to Micah to ask about the production of his line and he kindly indulged our curiosity.
Micah Cohen, Founder and Designer: Shades of Grey By Micah Cohen
AIDA: How do you manage the process of designing and producing Shades of Grey?
I'm personally responsible for all design and production - unbeknown to most, my company is actually very small! It's just myself, my wife and a single operations employee.
AIDA: Where is your collection manufactured?
I have been working with the same single factory in China for all 6 years that I've had my line, in fact I was the factory's first client.
How do you maintain good working relationships overseas?
I work very closely with their merchandisers and pattern makers and consider the owner a friend, I visit between 3-5 times a year and eat with the workers every day I'm there (they have an onsite cook) - which makes the working relationship very enjoyable!
AIDA: What was it that attracted you to this factory in particular?
Unlike most factories in China, this one essentially focuses on one brand (mine) and is able to be very flexible with small minimum production quantities and produce a wide variety of garments. There are only about 35 employees which means that I can get to know them well and it's very easy to oversee the majority of production myself.
AIDA: There is an increasing amount of concern over working conditions in fashion manufacture, particularly in India and China, what's your response to this with regard to your own line?
Because I am personally able to visit several times a year, I am able to say without hesitation, that the factory I partner with provide an outstanding work environment for its employees. I know that they are paid a much, much higher wage than the average apparel factory due to its somewhat small, unique nature. The conditions are exemplary and I often take photos for my own use without intending them to be disseminated, but I'm very happy for them to be used to reflect all I've said!
Personal responses to these questions are hard to come across, but we rate Micah for his honesty and openness. So, all in all, Shades of Grey have:
a.) Brilliant design.
b.) Quality construction.
c.) A team of three working with a small factory where business relationships can flourish.
d.) A manufacturing environment where pay is fair and conditions are exemplary.
- Surely that's worth investing in above five cheapo garments that have no traceable source and that thousands of others also own.
See Micah talking about his brand and production HERE
see the collection HERE
Documentary film 'The True Cost' sheds light on the important issues surrounding the fast fashion industry. Find out more HERE