There is a group of people out there who share the collective aim of developing the ‘perfect t-shirt’. They have now developed a great looking website (luxuryredefined.co.uk) and, being t-shirt related, it sits in my bookmarks in the t-shirt websites category (it is a BIG category!). I do though find it’s presence there a slight irritant and hence the reason for this post. I have to get these feelings of my chest, to explain why that simple link always catches my eye and gnaws at me.
The aim of Better Thinking, the company behind the project, as I understand it, is to develop a t-shirt that is great to wear and is environmentally/socially responsible too. The project started in October 2005 and the t-shirt will be available online and from John Smedley stockists from Spring 2008 in men’s, women’s and children’s versions.
To quote from the press release (PDF):
The Luxury Redefined t-shirt is made in Derbyshire from organic, undyed, unbleached, fair trade, extra-long staple Peruvian cotton with an exceptionally low water footprint. Attention has also been paid to minimising waste, energy and packaging.
Clearly this t-shirt is being pitched at the retail market, rather than the promotional one that Indigo Clothing resides in, and looking at the prices of some of the other John Smedley t-shirts, I don’t expect this to be cheap range! All very commendable and maybe it is too early to comment having yet to see the t-shirt and the price list but I have an issue with yet another company peddling this ‘story’ for some of the reasons outlined below:
Are already too many t-shirt manufacturers?
Those of you who are in the promotional clothing industry, I am sure your have bookshelves, drawers and tables full of t-shirt manufacturer catalogues. In fact, I think I think some have escaped the office and invaded my home. They breed like mice! Most of the major UK wholesalers devote a good twenty to thirty pages of their catalogues to t-shirt manufacturers. You have crew-neck, v-neck, slim-cut, 5XL, distressed, vintage, organic, fitted, boat-neck, scoop-neck, beauty-neck; you have t-shirts for dogs, women, children, babies and I am sure if I look hard enough I’ll find a chinchilla t-shirt in there somewhere too. There are American manufacturers, Turkish, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Portuguese, Eastern European, and even British. These companies range from multinational to the humble one-man-band. This does beg the question of whether there is a need for another brand and, moreover, yet another with a ‘green’ angle.
Jumped the shark?
It is so painfully fashionable to set up as an independent organic t-shirt company/brand these days that it is probably passé. I have been an avid follower of trends in the organic cotton arena and have also had strong ethical and socially responsible ideals when it has come to selecting brands to feature on our own site. It has been great to see the introduction of a variety of different kinds of ethical products such as Continental Clothing’s Earth Positive collection in the promo sector, and Nike’s and M&S’s (to name but two) in the retail sphere. Nonetheless, I have also have been critical of the concept of ‘greenwashing‘, and am cynical about the mass adoption of green values for marketing purposes. I am sure that if environmental practices did not bring about saving in energy costs, this current bandwagon would not have grown so quickly. So when I see yet another one of these brands crop up, ready to try and grab a slice of the green pound my first reaction is wariness and not, perhaps as it should be, joyousness.
Is there an appropriate niche?
On the apparel sales front, a truly grim battleground for the hearts and minds of the fickle, and ever more fashion conscious, consumer, as so many companies can attest to, I think that this product will struggle to find a niche in the market place. If it is truly going for the luxury sector as the name implies, I struggle to see how many t-shirts they can retail at a high price without a massive brand like Burberry, Gucci, etc. behind the project. The reasons these marques can sell goods at such a high prices is because they have multi-million pound advertising budgets that elevate the consumers perception of the products worth. However, Luxury Redefined is just retailing a simple cream t-shirt and when people can buy an organic t-shirt from Marks and Spencer for £7.50, and get a choice of colour too, I am intrigued how they are going to fare.
To conclude, it is not in my nature to belittle the efforts of others, to rain on people’s parade or to be overtly negative. I have admiration for anyone that had the guts to step up to the plate and have a go at business for themselves but for a project that has been over two years in development I am concerned about the ‘better thinking’ behind this new launch. It is such a competitive market, which this company is coming into late, without the economies of scale and is attempting to sell to the luxury sector but with an unbranded product where people know they can buy something similar, for less than a tenner, at a good high street store. All that remains for me to say is, good luck.