Monday, March 15, 2010

I don't get it...

...and I'm turning to you all to explain it to me. Yesterday I discovered that you can buy items made with Liberty of London fabrics at Target. There's a variety of stuff, from apparel for men, women, and kids to home decor and accessories.
Now, I'm all for items made out of high quality materials available at easily accessible places like Target. What I don't understand is the prices. They are so cheap. OK, before everyone starts chiming in with buying in bulk and specialty lines created just for a lower end market, my question is a wee bit rhetorical. But my irritation is genuine. I just don't know exactly who I'm irritated with.
To explain, let me back up a few steps. As I was perusing the online Target site, this top caught my eye. "Cute," I thought. Then I checked the price and my jaw pretty much dropped. $19.99. That's what they have a top sewn out of Liberty of London cotton fabric priced at. I figure there's about 1 1/2 yards of fabric in the top, plus the cost of labor, and transportation. Add to that the cost of carrying it in the store. You also have to factor in retail markup which is usually about 100%. That means that, wholesale, the top cost a little less than $10.
I am perplexed, befuddled, confused. How can this be? When little ole me wants to sew something out of Liberty of Lawn cotton, I pay around $38 per yard. That's just the fabric. I haven't accounted for my time, the other materials, electricity, wear and tear on my sewing machine, or even the cost of shipping the fabric to my home.
Something just doesn't add up. I understand that the fabric manufacturer can cut Target a really good deal and the Target can scour the globe for cheap labor to sew these items. I understand why things at Target are inexpensive. But, if Liberty can afford to sell to Target so cheaply, why is it the most expensive cotton fabric you're likely to encounter. It's not just a little more expensive than the designer cottons or the Japanese fabrics. It runs about twice as much per yard. And, please don't tell me that it is 54" rather than 45" wide. That doesn't quite cover the price disparity.
I should add that I know that Liberty is fabulous stuff. How? Because,about 6 months ago, after lusting after it online for a long while, I broke down and bought 1 1/2 yards of a Liberty print. It has been sitting on my shelf, waiting for just the right project. Seeing that Target top yesterday reminded me that I had a similar pattern. I'm lucky that it was already late last night when I made my Target/Liberty discovery because the sun could not come up quickly enough for me to get started on my own, much more expensive, version of this top. I needed to make it to prove a point.



Don't let the pretty peach blossoms distract you.

I understand that those of us who sew or knit don't necessarily do so to save money. Many times I've bought yarn for a sweater that cost more than I would pay in a store for an already existing sweater. I get it. It's about the process and the pride that goes with making it yourself. I expect to pay a premium for quality materials and that's exactly why I bought the Liberty cotton in the first place. But I become very suspicious when I see that Liberty of London can lower their prices to meet Target's pricing criteria, but still waves the banner of paying for the quality of Liberty when it comes to selling it's fabric to home sewers like me...and you.
So, I ask you, dear friends, explain it to me. In short, simple sentences. Because right now I'm feeling like a bit of a sucker.

45 comments:

Jennie said...

The Target line is Libery prints, but not the wonderful tania lawn fabric. Most of the women's clothes are made of polyester, though the girls' clothes are cotton. So yes you are paying for the print, but not the fabric, not even close.

So enjoy your great shirt out of a wonderful fabric.

BoomBoxBettie said...

Like Jennie said, these are not the same level of quality that other Liberty fabrics are. They are cheap cheap polyesters for the most part. As well, when you are buying original Liberty fabrics you are getting fabric that has been printed with the highest quality dyes on great quality print machines. The items at target are most likely farmed out to cheap chinese factories using lesser quality dyes that will not stand up over generations as my great grandmother's silk liberty scarves have. So yes, it's awesome that such beautiful things are available to the masses but they unfortunately are kind of like cheap knockoffs...kind of.

DoreyR said...

Hi,
Great post, very thought provoking!

I think it does have to do with quality, as mentioned in the first comment. I have not seen either the Target line or the Liberty "real" goods in person, but my guess is that the fabric at Target, even the cotton, is of lesser quality.
I suspect there is some mark-up for home sewers as a result of marketplace demand, but the quality difference is likely the story here.
I am just speculating though.

anne said...

I read that Liberty licensed specific prints to Target, but the cloth wasn't produced in Liberty's mills. You can definitely tell - there is A LOT of polyester, and the cotton is nowhere near as fine as that Tana Lawn we all love! Of course, that didn't stop me from buying a couple things...

carrie said...

To echo those above--yes, it's cheap fabric. Mostly polyester, a little cotton. The prints are lovely, but the fabric is cheap-y and will not last, as most Target clothing self-destructs after two seasons' wearing, it seems. Your beautiful top will be so wonderful to wear and last so much longer. Delight in it!

Isa said...

Without haven't touched the actual top my guess is that it is not of the same quality cotton, and the same high threadcount in the fabricweave. (Liberty's Tana Lawn is ethiopic cotton of extremly high quality and therefore the single thread used too weave the fabric can be made extremly thin)
Furthermore, the prints I saw are not prints that look like real Liberty of London prints, but only some very similar (I love liberty fabric and know a bit about it :-)
And thirdly it's important that the the brand name is Liberty of London FOR target, and therefore probably just Target that bought acces to use the name not the quality and design. And it's kind of sad that Liberty is selling out in this way, but I guess they too feel the financial crisis.
Long answer I know, and it probably didn't help you feel any better... But hopefully a little wiser :-)

Mary Lou Rutledge said...

I'm thinking that is like the Martha Stewart. At K-Mart is was not the quality it was at Macy's. Maybe L of L has put out a product of less quality than their fabric by the yard...
Having said that, I'll be checking it out!!
Cute blouse!

Jenny said...

The earlier commenters are correct- this is NOT liberty fabric, it is a liberty design printed cheaply on cheap polyester fabric.

It didn't stop me from buying a couple pieces, but I am under no delusions about the quality.

By the way- several of the Targets in Austin still had a lot of stock left yesterday afternoon- especially I-35 at 2222.

~Michelle~ said...

ditto, it's the print, not the quality of fabric... although, I gotta say, I bought a quilt, and it's pretty OK - 100% cotton, and that's all a girl can ask for!

Kris said...

Living far away in Australia I can't look at the clothing, but my guess is that it is definitely not the same fabric. I know that cheap liberty "knock-offs" show up here in fabric shops. They have nothing to do with L of L, someone has just stolen their prints.

People frequently tell me that I don't save any money by sewing my own clothing. Actually, what they say is that it's not worth it to sew clothing. I disagree. If I sew my own clothing I can choose the colours and styles I want to wear rather than just having what someone else decides is the colour or style that everyone will be wearing this season. I also get a better fit. Even when I buy clothes for my kids I have to take them in or let them out to have them fit. And if I make clothes they tend to be better put together and I don't have to make running repairs continually. (buttons, hems.....) I still think it is worth it and I live in Australia where we pay $24-$28/M for quilting fabric and $50-$80/M for Liberty prints. (And our dollar is not much different from yours at the moment)

Kate said...

I live in Australia too and I wish I could go and check out the fabric to see and feel the difference - but I haven't seen that line in our Target stores. Really cute blouse!

iris said...

As everyone else has commented...it's almost entirely polyester. Even a lot of the pajamas are made of polyester. This is essentially why I bought one top instead of all of them. But I figured fabric quality doesn't matter *so* much on an umbrella or two ;)

You should *always* check what material the fabric is made of, and washing instructions before buying clothing. I've ended up with some of the worst man-made materials clothing ever.

JoonToons said...

honestly, i don't get it either.
yes, of course the target line is made of "lesser" materials. and yes, bulk pricing blah blah blah...

for me the even bigger question is,
how can a brand that's well known across the globe for their superior quality go and mass produce and sell an inferior product with their name printed all over it.

i can't afford their fabrics. but if i could i'd now wonder, have i been paying too much this whole time? would it still be liberty of london even if it was made of cheaper materials? will the quality differ from now on?
have they been fooling us this whole time or are they fooling us now?

whatever the answers, i think it's obvious what this is all about in the end... money making. not much else matters.

trentsky said...

For me, this is all about a topic Malka and I have frequently discussed at length. That is, the cheapening of quality craft products. For example, people think since they see so-called hand-made queen-sized quilts at department stores for $150 they're getting ripped off by true crafters who can't possibly break even at ten times that price. In the end, this affects not only Liberty of London's brand and potentially their long-term reputation, it affects the craft world as a whole.

courtney.janelle.sews said...

As everyone else mentioned, it was designed by Liberty, not made by Liberty. I believe they are just made by Target's normal suppliers as the little organization baskets are made exactly the same (material and all) as Target's normal line.

I got a couple of the things and while they're cute, not the greatest quality! (also kind a bummed that nearly EVERYthing is pink, and there are only 3-4 main prints and a handful of others) The swimsuit material is kind of interesting and nice though.
The dresses are poorly made. Well, actually, they just fit awkwardly. and for $35 I didn't want to do hours of work on them.

Anyway it's funny everyone was saying, oh I'm going to go buy stuff to see what I can take apart and use the fabric for! Thinking they were making off like a bandit. ;) The company Liberty makes a lot more than just Tania Lawn.

Laura said...

Compare this experience with quilting--how many times have you heard people say "why should I buy that quilt from her at $200 (or whatever price you're asking) when I can get a 'handmade' quilt from Walmart for $29.95"? Of course, we all know the quality of the items cannot even compare, but people don't care -- they want something that costs them the least amount of money.

mary.keasler@gmail.com said...

I know, I know. What's a woman to do?

Jeni said...

I don't really have an answer for you, but I agree with what you've said. I understand the quality in fabric is different, but should it really be THAT much of a drastic difference in price?

I know that Liberty fabrics are some of the best quality cotton fabrics around but you're right, they are so far beyond the prices of other high quality cottons. I think that apart from the fabric quality and beautiful prints a large percentage of that additional cost is for the brand name and because people are willing to pay those prices.

Jeanne said...

Right now the designer's name escapes me (OLD AGE SETTING IN I THINK) but earlier last summer Target had a bunch of designer kitchen towels, placemats etc. and I think it was the same sort of thing, sold other places for more and the Target brand made cheaper by someone other than the designers products that were sold in higher end stores. Altho I admit the towels were really cute, but by the time I got there, they were all sold out of the cute ones. They had fruit on them if I remember correctly. Hey Malka, can you email me I have a question for you. Thanks, Jeanne

Andrea said...

You're all right, and my desire to drive over to NY to check the stuff out is fading fast (VT doesn't have any Tar-get's) ~ but the *bike!*, the *bike!* Knowing it too is of inferior quality, although beautiful to behold, I think I'm going to have to think about mod-podging some scraps onto my old reliable yard-sale Schwinn this summer...

Ashley said...

Having bought a few pieces myself, I can also echo everyone else and let you know that your cute top, made out of the real deal, is certainly nicer than that made for target. While I still love the prints, the quality is definitely not the same (though that's what I expected since it was made for target). I did still find a couple cute girls dresses that I might take the scissors to!

Jennifer said...

Liberty of London probably has an extreme markup on their quilting cottons.

Furthermore,

Slave Labor.

Sad, right?

Paula said...

Malka, beautiful top and great blog!
Jeanne, I believe you may be talking about the range Orla Kiely had at Target.

Ashley said...

Having just inherited two pieces of Liberty purchased by my mother in the 80's in London, I know that Liberty makes a wonderfully soft and luxurious cotton. Before reading the comments my instinct was that those tops were not of that quality. This is a really interesting conversation, and I can understand your frustration.

I am just getting back into sewing my own clothes after years of not doing so. I commented to my mom the other night that doing so does not save me money, but I still want to sew for myself and create my own style. I am often inspired by your clothing projects Malka! Thanks for bringing up these important issues.

Karen said...

While it is my understanding that the fabric is not the tana lawn that we all love from Liberty, I think that there is an additional issue here.

In general, look at the prices of items at discount stores. How are any of those products being produced, distributed and marketed (for a profit no less)at the regular (not sale) price points that they are being sold for?

I fear that someone, somewhere in the world is being taken advantage of. Would we all consider doing without the volume of things that we seem to purchase? Would we consider buying locally made items that that are priced higher to accommodate a labor force that is being paid a fair wage?

IamSusie said...

Yeah, these aren't the Liberty fabrics, but they certainly are pretty Liberty prints and I was pleased to see this bright, colorful patterned floral style in Target. For some time now, the home dec style at stores has been dreary earth tones and I truly hope that the tremendous success of the Liberty style at Target will influence the styles that are available at retailers.

Not everyone cares about handmade, and that is just a reality that will likely never change. Just like I will never ever care to learn about fine wines or golf there still exists a market for such things even if I don't participate.

Elizabeth said...

Call me an old cynic (and an IP lawyer), but what something costs (to make or manufacture) is (often) pretty unrelated to the price charged to the consumer. For example, it's unlikely the cost to make Louis Vuitton handbags or True Religion jeans is significantly higher than the cost to make the Target branded handbags or Wrangler jeans, yet the prices are often 10x+ more. Often (at least subconsciously) consumers want to pay more because it makes them feel like they got something of high/unique value. If LoL can keep increasing their prices without any drop in demand, wouldn't they be crazy not to? The price is determined by what the market will bear, not by the cost to make the product.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think this could be a very clever move by LoL. Except for us fabric-aholics and probably some interior designers, many people haven't heard of LoL. By licensing their prints to Target, they will get widespread name recognition and can then upsell their more expensive stuff to a broader market.

Sally Hess said...

Polyester.

That's how.

I literally had DREAMS about rushing to my local target after hearing that some Target stores were already sold out of the Women's Liberty.

So first thing this morning I zoomed there only to be crestfallen. Polyester? Really? That's the best you can do?!

Still, I ended up with two tops. They are cute. And cheap. And when I want something nice feeling, I'll go buy some cotton.

Sigh.

Your shirt is darling!

wishes, true and kind said...

Whether cotton or polyester, it is about the greige (pronounced "gray") goods. The quality of the raw fabric that the dye is printed on (as I understand it). That is why some designer fabrics are cheaper at discount fabric stores. The quality of the greige goods is much lower.

machen und tun said...

Malka, great blouse!

this target thing is a very good example why not to sell out your brand name too cheap: it raises all kinds of not so nice questions. although lots of people buy the cheap stuff they might see/feel the poorer quality at some point and will be disappointed.

how can i trust a luxury brand if it is selling out so cheap and uses suspicious materials and most likely slave-labour?
answer: i can´t trust them anymore.
they might "cheat" with their expensive stuff, too.

and i don´t care if another company actually made the cheaper stuff, they gave their name for crying out loud so it is in their responsibility.

so sad!

amberlee said...

I was thinking about this too. I know the fabric isn't the same quality, BUT I got two beautiful little dresses for mu daughter. I have to say after washing them up, shaking them out and hanging them to dry they feel amazing. It might not be lawn, but it IS a much nicer cotton than any other toddler dress I've seen for a similar price. I would take apart a shirt to use for sewing, but pretty much everything is sold out here. Which makes me ask another question, why don't they make more? If they know it is going to sell like this why not restock? I really don't understand that.

julochka said...

this is a very very good question.

i suppose it has to do with buying power.

i think you can have a whole lot more pride in your new top and even the mode in which you were inspired to make it than you would have had buying it at target. and maybe that's enough.

Christy Sews said...

Like so many have said, this is not Liberty of London fabric. Liberty opened up their archives and licensed 25 prints to Target. Target, in turn, picked their own fabrics for this line so that the products would fit in the Target price range. From my understanding, Liberty of London is working very hard to get their name out to a broader spectrum of people in an effort to save the company. (they recently sold the flagship store to a German company and then leased it back). So yes, most of the women's fabrics are polyester rather than silk (which is what they would have to use in order to get the proper drape on some of those dresses), because the silk would cause the dresses to be quite pricey, something the typical Target customer would not enjoy. Same for the cotton lawn. Too pricey for Target. That having been said, I did scoop up a few of the dresses for summer play. That way I can have my Liberty print without cutting into my precious fabric for fear of making a mistake. For now, my fabric will become wall art until I find "the garment" to make for myself with my LOL fabric. Let's just say I bought the yellow sheath and trench for the same price as my Liberty of London cotton lawn fabric. I don't take the Target line too seriously. They are just fun things to wear -- not investment pieces.

nancy from mass said...

A fabric manufacturuer typically makes 3 types of the same pattern...the first is on the cheaper greiege fabric and is usually a test fun (fabric you can buy at walmart). the next is a better quality greiege (usually sold at Joanns') and the final product is what is sold at better fabric/quilting stores. The LoL at Target was either made on the first run fabric OR is the LoL brand but not made on their fabric at all...just the print is theirs.

Maggie said...

The cheaper fabric is the main reason. Big fashion brands make a more accessible line for Target all the time these days - Rodarthe, Isaac Mizrahi, Orla Kiely, the list goes on and on. I think Target shoppers have learned they aren't getting the premium brand, but are getting a chance to buy something by a beloved designer.
Look at it from Liberty's POV. This is a chance to make a line that goes out to the masses. They get to try making new things with different materials at different price points. Also, I'm pretty sure your assumption they are still getting a 100% margin is wrong. When companies sell to the big boxes they have to work with the big box price points, and the money is made in the volume not per item. I'm guessing Liberty went with Target more for broadening their net, than profit. Yes, the fabric obsessed know the name, but not everybody does. Marketing to Target is a great way to get the name out there.
Don't feel cheated. Feel lucky that you get to make a great shirt out of a premium material.

Cheryl Arkison said...

You just highlighted why it is important to buy direct from source, avoid the big box stores, and create on your own. This goes for clothing, crafts, toys, and food.

We get seduced by cheap, so we can therefore buy more. But what does buying more get us? A lot of cheap crap that doesn't last.

Good for you for pulling out your original and making something you will love for a long time, then probably recycle in to something else.

Leanne and Rik Brezina said...

bewildering. imitation or not, it still all sucks. how can it be, that the world has become like this?
i try to avoid these shops, because even if things are authentic, if the prices are THAT low, I personally can`t believe in the stores policies.

pippapatchwork said...

That is upseting! I wish I could explain it, but I have no idea.

Suzanne Reynolds said...

I was only interested in the "LofL for Target" housewares, not the clothing. It was disappointing to see that the dishes were melamine, but some of the pieces were ceramic; and like everything else on the planet, made in China. I love the designs and colors so picked up a few pieces.

Most of the dishes I buy these days are from thrift stores and would prefer to keep it that way. But it's OK to indulge in a guilty pleasure once in a while, and that's how I feel about the LoL merchandise.

Tami said...

I'm with you. I don't often get to buy the more expensive (I'm talking $10 a yard counts as expensive with my budget). I LOVE to sew, knit, blah blah and I hear all the time from older ladies how they hhhhaaaaaaaaaddddddddd (they say it so begrudgingly) to sew for their kids to have clothes. Now, it costs more to sew often times than it does to run to the store and buy something. Example: My kids like footie p.j's. I could run to the store and get some on sale for 50% off and pay 13ish dollars or I can buy lovely Michael Miller flannel and end up paying $28 NOT counting my time, wear and tear on my machine, frustration, new needles and so on. It's frustrating for certain. With that said, I am SO thankful that lately I have been able to purchase some of the more pricey (to me) fabrics that I've long lusted after. I'm actually considering giving up some other loves in my life just to be able to purchase the better quality stuff more often. So.sad.

Anonymous said...

I understand and agree with you on this but I must say I find it very it very naive of you to think LIFE is FAIR !!! It is not never has been. Most of us are living based on mercy and grace not what is due or our rights ..Just look at the current WHITE HOUSE THEY DONT EVEN ANSWER THEIR PHONE ANYMORE WHEN THEY DONT WANT TO HEAR WHAT THE PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY TO THEM...

KateKwiltz said...

Yes, but you're a sucker with a really cute top.

And I really can't help but admire the peach blossoms. I bet they smell marvelous!

Peppermint Pinwheels said...

I can't help but leave one more comment...I own a small bit of Liberty that sits on my shelf, just making me happy. One of my bits happens to be one that Target has used (the peacock). They are not the same AT ALL. The level of detail is far inferior as is the color and the overall quality. There's nothing about the Target items that makes me want to spend my child's college savings so that I can possess it. And that's where the price difference comes in, I would suspect. I was able to take a cursory look at the Target items and walk on by. With the actual Liberty fabric, that would not have happened.

Allabitrandom said...

I agree totally with your sentiments. My Dad used to paint silk scarves, I vsisted him over the weekend as he was not well and found a few that needed hemming. I did a very bad job at hand rolling the hems and it took me ALL afternoon. Mum then produced tow Liberty scarves with exquisitly worked hems - not to say gorgeous fabric. She had paid £2 ( maybe $1.50 ?) so exactly how much did the person who did the hem get paid?

Rhondi said...

Hi Malka
I was reading Artful Blogger and saw your blog and so I've come to visit. I was at Target today and was excited when I saw the Liberty
of London line. But when I felt the fabric, I thought it didn't feel anything like the Liberty fabric I remember seeing when I was in London. It was so cheap,and full of sizing, which I guess is why it's so cheap.