Putting A Price On Fashion

By: Janine Samuels

Art prices are determined by the meeting of real or induced scarcity with pure, irrational desire, and nothing is more manipulable than desire. – Robert Hughes, Australian art critic.

Fashion has been described as art you can wear. The process of creation of an original design is not that different to creating a visual artwork. Creativity, hard work, and functionality all play a role in the making of each garment to a differing extent. Avante garde and couture garments require more innovation and less adherence to functionality than something you intend to mass produce and sell in chain stores.

It is therefore incredibly important to understand where your designs will fit into a marketplace. Before making your concept a reality, you must have a clear framework in mind for what you want to do. If you want to make a living from fashion, pricing is an integral part of that process.

Before putting thread to material, understand what you want to get out of this design. Market research and a conceptual blueprint is an unavoidable aspect of product creation. You need to know who will buy your product, what the market currently looks like, and at which price point similar garments are being costed.

If you have an idea; you should first understand who you will be selling to and with whom you will be competing. For example: if you are making t-shirts with slogans printed on them you are competing with every large distribution chain and online mass provider who sells “bored and bougie” crop tops. Before you start printing your “capitalism: it’s lit” shirts you should first find out the prices of all the similar products. You should be intimately familiar with how much things cost in the retail space.

Check websites like pricecheck.co.za for local competitive pricing on major brands. For more mid to high end designer products, spend time on online shopping boutiques and curated spaces like Nova Culture, Indiemode, Hello Pretty, and Superbalist to see what the retail prices are for local designs. Understand yourself and where you’d like to place your garments before you spend time on something you can’t get back. This process of research will help you to understand the market value of your product.

If “bored and bougie” crop tops are retailing at R139.99 on a popular website, it’s unlikely a “capitalism: it’s lit” shirt will be able to be sold for a much higher price, particularly from an unknown supplier.

Once you know the expected retail price of your garment you can start developing and projecting your pricing tiers. Pricing tiers are the prices you charge retailers, if you intend selling your product through others. Sticking with the slogan tees metaphor; if someone were to order 10,000 “capitalism: it’s lit” t-shirts from you, they would definitely ask for a discount because of the large volume of the order. You might also give a discount based on the relationship you have with the retailer or if they are able to bargain effectively.

Most manufacturers have pricing tiers as well so when researching how much your garment costs to produce; ask if you get a better price if you order more units. If you’re making low volumes of your garment, approach niche retailers and market yourself accordingly. Making limited runs of slogan tees will probably mean your production costs will be high because printers will charge a premium on printing smaller volumes. If you have limited manufacturing capacity you must either be prepared for an extra cost while your brand develops or have a marketing strategy to justify your higher price points.

In practical terms: this means you could have a high volume pricing tier so when someone buys more than 1,000 shirts, they get a discount. You could have a “family and friends” discount so you maintain a special relationship with people who want to support you but you are able to cover yourself financially. Your pricing tier refers to the wiggle room you have when negotiating sales with different people but your basic pricing should be set in stone.

Your basic prices are retail, wholesale, cost, and manufacturing. That means the prices the public will see (retail), the prices you sell the products to a reseller (wholesale), the cost it takes to make the garment with labour and expenses (cost) and the cost of the garment without your expenses (manufacturing). The only price that shouldn’t have space for negotiation is your manufacturing price.

The space for negotiation in price is also known as a margin. It’s usually measured in percentages. The main principle of margins is you want your costs to be as low as possible so your margin of profit is bigger. This will enable you to reinvest, maintain your brand, and hopefully make a living from your designs.

Pricing should become an automatic part of your design process if you intend on making something commercial for consumption. Even in the cases of high end and luxury items, the amount of money you make from your art should be considered. Familiarity with the way retailers and wholesalers operate is integral to ensuring you’re not taken advantage of when you try to sell your wares. Do as much planning as you possibly can to create a strategy that will mean you’re able to sustainably create for a long time.