You might have noticed that recently, for reasons unknown to me, there has been a marked increase in comments on this site. The post on Rogues Gallery generated quite a few remarks from all sorts of different readers. Nothing like the photo Aaron Levine, but a healthy debate. Yesterday an ACL reader named Marc D. left one of the most well thought out and insightful pieces of commentary (on that same Rogues Gallery thread) I have seen here to date. I think that the comment is worth a closer look.
I find this comment thread really amusing, it’s funny to listen to an outsider’s perspective on a geographic region.
Being a native Mainer, it’s not uncommon to listen to an ‘outsider’ (god I hate that word but what else can I say?) describe my state in the same terms they would describe a cave (cold, dreary, dark..etc.). It’s the equivalent of perpetuating any of the countless stereotypes about NYC. Without sounding like the Maine board of tourism, it’s really just an average, low key place like any other, just a little colder.
While a fashion designer will sometimes invoke their surrounding for inspiration, it is the countless other influences (music, movies, books, etc.) that ultimately shape the line. Saying that Rogues is a reflection of Maine is like inferring that Isaac Mizrahi must live inside of a rainbow. Rogues appears to be influenced more by the literary world (Jack London, Stephen King, etc.) and historical artifact of any kind than lobstering, logging, and lobster rolls at the Crab Shack in Kennebunkport. I mean one of the previous seasons saw General Custer as a print, and I’m pretty sure the Battle of Little Big Horn didn’t happen in Bangor.
In all, it’s fashion, regardless of how you feel about it there’s no denying that Alex has done a successful job of assembling all of his influences from Ralph, Abercrombie, and L.L.Bean into a clear, cohesive, relevant, and fresh perspective on menswear.
Kyle, your connection to the RG guys aside and while I love your passion for our great state, abh1wordpress is right. But in your defense, it’s a fashion line, whether is derives it’s inspiration from workwear or not it’s FASHION.
PS – Faith, if you’ve actually read this far, Rogues does have a women’s offering but I haven’t seen it available outside of the Portland, ME store.
PPS – In regards to the plummetting lobster prices: Around the holidays there was a huge push locally for people to eat lobster for Christmas dinner rather than the usual ham. Have any of you in “The City” ever had a lobsterbake for Christmas? I don’t think so. ;-)
One last thing: using the word ‘authentic’ to describe fashion gets under my skin. There is nothing authentic about fashion, everyone copies everyone. Unless you are the original like the Bass Weejun or the L.L.Bean Hunting Shoe (which are both Maine inventions I might add), you are not authentic.”
Comments on “Ripped from the Comments”
All great points and very well expressed.
Just to clarify your last point-
A lot of fashion is authentic.
What I mean is-
Authentic actually means- a replica that’s true to the original, not necessarily the original. So, to be authentic is to be derivative.
Genuine means original, and is only used to refer to the real deal.
I’ve been collecting a long time and that’s how the trade uses those terms.
I totally get what your saying. Totally.
nothing annoys me more than a company who uses an idea of a place like maine or america and produces clothes in china. check the tags. thats how you see the soul of the goods.
I’ve been reading ACL for a while now, and I feel it’s really come a long way in terms of content and quality. I wish I could say the same for my own stuff, but…I can’t. The increasing number of comments is a reflection of the thought invoking posts. You’re making an impact. That’s awesome.
..while we are back to Rogues, visiting Maine etc, one thing that bugs me about Rogues, regardless of my take on their clothing, is their re-marketing of Quoddy Trail Moccasins, Maine. They sell the same shoes, made by Quoddy, re-stamped, labelled as Rogues for literally double the price you’d pay direct from Quoddy as a custom order or other stores stocking their shoes. I’m all for utilizing/supporting local manufacturing (and there is no better boat shoe!), but the price hike seems a little extreme especially during the current financial climate.
Not double, but still way too much. Hell, the price hike that Quoddy did themselves was way too high.
You should just make the blog about the comments for now on. Oh wait, that wouldn’t work.
charliep, is that a general comment or directed at rouge’s gallery in particular? (I have no idea where they make their stuff)
The worst offender in my book is Brooklyn Industries. A whole brand built around the concept of not just Brooklyn, but industry in Brooklyn and it’s all garbage out of China.
Worth noting that there are indeed some truly quality factories in China now, but they are the exception not the rule. I’ve always wondered if the country has what it takes to pull a Japan and go from being the cheap option to having some of the best quality control around.
Being “stuck” in Boise I plan clothing purchases based on your bloggings (is that a word?). Last week it was Philly (not that you recommended the City of Brotherly Love), New York and soon Seattle and back to Boston; maybe I should route my flights better. Heck, even your readers’ comments led me to buy rugby.com jeans sight unseen except for their heavily marketed out of my demographic site. I also blame your site for my new J Crew Red Wings being a big flashing neon light that shouted “newbie poseur and his non-broken in ‘vintage’ boots HERE” and the locals back East were not shy to coo “Oooh, shiny new boots, my dog will pee on them to help with the break-in.” Unfortunately my connection in Japan isn’t as reliable as yours: the ex GF would not return my email regarding shipping over a box of US-made Red Wings from Tokyo.
Now if you’d do something on wool university coats I could plan my next trip…
whether or not goods made in china are good quality or not really isn’t the point. when you market something as american, and manufacture in an exploited economy americans can never get that job back ( $ 1 dollar an hour). if you want quality overseas why not make it japan or italy.
that way an american can compete for that job.
i have know idea where rogue gallery makes there clothes. i am always just nervous about companies that advertise based on traditional american styles/ideals. (rrl, , the new filson, brooks brothers,
j crew, ll bean etc…)
Just on a sidenote.
The Bass Weejuns are called originals by Marc D, but isn’t the story actually that they were heavily inspired by similar slip-on-loafer-kinda shoes worn by Norwegian farmers? The “Weejun” name was even made up to make it sound a bit Norwegian… I can’t remember my source for this story, so it could be false or me remembering something totally different, if that is the case I am sorry for bringing it up.
memphis88, car, human or record label?: you are right actually- not quite double for the rogues v’s quoddy’s-216$ v’s 385$. And whilst Quoddy raising the prices on their own products was a bummer, they were insanely reasonable to begin with considering the quality of materials/labor and longevity of the shoes…you got to pay a little more for good goods, and besides then you can say you were there like ‘way before the price hike’ right?
r, I’m not sure what you mean about that first part (car,human, or record label?). I actually wasn’t there before the price hike, which is partly why I am not fond of the new prices. That and I had probably the worst customer service experience of my life with Quoddy not too long ago. I won’t go into that here though, and the shoes are great quality and held in high regard by many, many people.
i am glad to see people taking head on the idea of “authenticity” as any sort of barometer for judging quality or substance. and heres my take. i have played music for a long time and been involved in visual arts for about as many years – and i have listened to people argue themselves blue in the face over the authenticity of a persons art. should white men be playing soul influenced rock and roll? should modernist designers be taking influence from post ww2 germanic communists and selling their modernist theory through modern commercial means? what do any of our creative endeavors influences mean once we remove context and turn it simply into a visual response?
what it becomes is one persons or a group of peoples interpretation of the world around them. i for one find that be it with a paintbrush, a mouse, a guitar, or a desire to clothe yourself or influencing how others clothe themselves, there are many places to draw influences from – and your creation creates the authenticity as long as you create with honesty to yourself. i would hope to see the comments here move on to critique and response to the creations at hand, and less about what right these designers have to create in response to what they find interesting – be it workwear, classic americana, etc… or the right of people to be wearing these clothes. the former, to me, seems to be a never ending and honestly rather boring hamster wheel to continue to watch people keep spinning on.
also, as a sidebar, id like to propose a collective moratorium on bagging on “williamsburg”. is it even really worth going there at this point? lets find something new.
Abe and CharlieP,
Abe: I find your views on the global economy to be quite odd. First of all, why would China want to ever develop a homogeneous production identity like Japan? It’s in China’s best interests to diversify their production so as to capture as much of the world’s production pie as possible. Becoming the Louis V of production seems counter to that goal. Companies go to China first when they even contemplate producing goods, especially cheap ones. That’s a good thing. Japan has essentially priced itself out of the competition. What you’re talking about, from my perspective as an East Asian-American, seems to be an outgrowth from the general enamor with Japanese products i.e. White Americans LOVE Japan and its goods for reasons I don’t want to state here so as to not raise a storm. Yes, Japanese products tend to be well engineered and produced. But they also carry an exponential premium. Why would China want to become that? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never checked a tag to see that it’s been made in Japan, Italy, or the USA, and don’t really plan on doing so into the future (unless it’s food products, i suppose).
CharlieP: your comments have a palinesque tint to it–the idea that products either SHOULD be made in the US or that producers should somehow skew their business model to accommodate US workers has always been so laughable to me. It’s also perplexing to me that you reflexively associate the US, Japan, and Italy with quality products. Did you know that Italy’s had a problem with illegal immigration as of late? And you know why? Because Couture shops over there have been using illegal Chinese immigrants at their factories to produce the same products that would have been produced at Chinese factories so that they can charge the Italian premium and tariffs to people like you. I feel like your beliefs are reinforced by commonly held stereotypes propagated by the media. Of course, I’m not going to say that China has the best quality of production, but let’s not blanket the country with an undeserving moniker. Take Lenovo’s IBM PC line for example. Everyone was worried the firm would go downhill after it got bought out by the scary Chinese giant. Surprise, it’s doing better than ever with a rock-solid consumer line and gorgeous design. Basically, it’s faulty perception to think that US workers somehow deserve to get the lion’s share of production due to some unsubstantiated claim that they make higher quality products for the marginal costs of their production. And it’s even faultier to think that American companies who outsource production should feel obligated to keep the work in the country regardless of whether they base their marketing on old fashioned American styles or not. It smacks of xenophobia and isolationism.
Marc, some of those buzzwords gave you away to those who may know you….
Normally, I abhor comment culture and its inhabitants, but the discourse here is usually well articulated. It speaks to the quality of your blog and the type of people your content attracts, as much as I hate Northeastern elitism.
Just so I don’t discredit myself, replace the word “inhabitants” with “participants” in me previous comment.
Well also being a native Mainer and fond of a few things that Rogues Gallery has done I think they have helped shed a light on a rich history of Maine. But to the other reader who is from Maine, perhaps he does not recall the ridiculously cold dreary nights and days where even car door locks are frozen shut. I believe if I’m not mistaken it was a print of Gen Chamberlain of the 20th Maine regiment who helped turn the tide for the Union army at Gettysburg. Not Gen. Custer. Gen Chamberlain was a Maine native.
These pretzels are making me thirsty.
Regarding Rogues Gallery’s production: From the pieces I’ve seen, the vintage t-shirts are all made in Maine, but everything else seems to be made in Portugal. The products appear to be well constructed, but I have no idea whether the Portuguese deserve credit for that.
In regards to the argument of whether China will ever “pull a Japan and go from being the cheap option to having some of the best quality control around”…
China production will never be just like Japan for many reasons but mainly due to vast differences in culture and its shear geographic footprint and population.
That being said, there once was a time when Japan made only low quality low tech goods as well. That is of course is where any industrialized society gets its start. And through time and experience the manufacturing gradually gets better and more complex. Japan no longer makes such goods because their economy has outgrown its dependency on that market.
So as the cycle goes, the manufacture of those types of goods began to move west into China. This of course was decades ago now and China has outgrown many of these goods as well and has moved into more complex and better quality production. China will too someday outgrow of much of this market as well and in large part has in a lot of ways already. Production has now moved even further west.
Production costs in China are rising everyday as workers demand more money, better working conditions, benefits, and a improved work-life balance. (sound familiar?) These are all the exact same reasons manufacturing left the good ‘ol US of A as well.
India is the new China and when we’re old and wrinkled Africa will be the new India.
Because China will be above such product just as Japan is today.
Not sure where you got the word “homogenous” from, but there are a lot of reasons for China to want to step up the quality of it’s goods. Not saying there isn’t another path, but the classic industrial development model has what you could call a “Henry Ford” stage where in order to keep growing companies need to pay their workers enough to make them into consumers as we as the producers. And it’s damn hard to do that while maintaining razor margins and lowest common denominator quality controls.
As christopher has noted China is already well into this stage, but being such an enormous country means its a lot harder to see how it plays out, as opposed to say South Korea or even Taiwan.
Also calling Charlie P’s stance “palinesque” is a rather disingenuous put down. There is a rich centuries long history to mercantilism, although not a huge history of success.
I’m actually rather sympathetic to Charlie’s point, after all I do produce made in the USA (and for that matter made in NYC where I was born and raised) garments. I’m not a hard liner by any means, but when you have a company that is selling itself based on the image of a community, it seems fair to ask that they give a certain amount back to that community.
When times are good and the economy expanding send the lesser jobs overseas might seem appropriate, but when times are getting lean, unemployment rocking skyward and retailers diving the off cliffs, that stance suddenly becomes problematic.
I don’t think China will make the mistake of self-selectively shrinking its production diversity even when and if China should get past the “Henry Ford” stage as Abe calls it.
Re: China production will never be just like Japan for many reasons but mainly due to vast differences in culture and its shear geographic footprint and population.
What is the difference in culture that would prevent China from being able to becoming some leading provider of quality control?
My argument isn’t that China doesn’t want to step up the quality of its production chain, but that it shouldn’t and probably won’t restrict itself into the production role that Japan has nowadays, which is the manifestation of the view that Japan only makes expensive, complex products.
I am still unconvinced that outsourcing is somehow unfair, unsympathetic, or detrimental to the firms that engage in the practice. The stance only becomes problematic in the sense that it is a catch-up period to the realities of the market. I’m not very sympathetic to the argument that anybody should be able to maintain a job purely for the reason that it’s more patriotic (in the theoretical and practical sense) than giving the job to someone abroad.
H, The short answer to the question “What is the difference in culture that would prevent China from being able to becoming some leading provider of quality control?”
As someone who has spent time in both countries and has worked w/ manufacturers in both. There are fundamental differences between the two. China values efficiency over accuracy while Japan worships the details.
And I never said they couldn’t be some leader in quality control, I simply said they “will never be just like Japan.”
Japan is a small country and no longer has the population to fill enough factories to worry about the small things while China has generations of jobless disenfranchised citizens to replenish the workforce for the next century. Which means they will not have to abandon low quality goods for sometime. But that does not mean they can only do such goods.
H / Christopher â€” all good thoughts.
I personally like my stuff made by communists, so I’m sticking with China.
Its odd you call my post palinesque when i am sure she would agree with your posts completely.
Well worth noting that Japan despite it’s rep actually has a population of 120 Million, 10th largest in the world and bigger than any one European nation. China of course is a whole order of magnitude larger, but the size and diversity of Japan’s basis is hardly something to dismiss.
Regardless I don’t think anyone in here has taken a strict mercantilist approach, although I can’t really speak for charliep. I have no problems with made in China per se, but there are issues that arise when you are selling an image of all American quality, yet constantly chasing the cheapest prices around the globe. Ultimately I think the consumers will settle that one, a brand can only go so far on image alone, at some point quality and integrity become an issue that need to be addressed in order for the image to be maintained.
The more pressing issue is what happens in a deep recession/depression, something many economists put us entering into right now. Lets hope they are wrong first off. But if they are not? After all the last big depression killed the first age of globalization with a swiftness.
When money is expanding, jobs are popping up left and right and people’s investments are growing. In that situation taking jobs overseas is a minor issue, only the zealots and the unfortunate workers caught in the eddies in between old and new jobs truly care. But in a wholesale economic contraction? Very different story. Yeah everyone loves cheaper goods, but who buys them when their job is gone and their house is underwater?
Ultimately a nations balance sheet needs to add up. The US just borrowed massively for 8 straight years and now we are both paying the price and borrowing even more! So far it’s worked cause we borrow in a currency we also print and our government somehow can sell bonds at 0% interest. The end game has barely even started too…
“Yeah everyone loves cheaper goods, but who buys them when their job is gone and their house is underwater?”
I’m sorry, maybe I’m stupid, but what is the larger conclusion you want me to draw from this rhetorical question other than “nobody”?
Well first I’d want to clarify if you understand the financial meaning of a house being underwater, ie that its worth less than the amount that the homeowner is in debt for.
Then I’d point out that given the current vectors of employment and home prices that the question is dangerously close to not being rhetorical at all, but a reality.
Finally I’d ask you if that changed your views on exporting jobs at all.
Doesn’t change my views on job exports, sorry. Unless its some key infrastructure/natural resources-related industry, I could care less. We’re talking about clothing manufacturers here.
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