When the price is a crucial distinguishing factor among products, competition doesn’t necessarily lead to innovation of better products or to a stronger, more highly evolved industry. Price wars too often lead to a decline in the status and power of craftsmen and creativity ends up taking a back seat. Emily Cheetham explores Rita Britton’s stance on discount culture and what Nomad Atelier’s practices are as a result.
Technology-powered globalisation has made bargain hunters of us all. This means cheap labour and cheap materials are repeatedly turned to, so that customers can be offered the lowest prices. Neither of these tactics are innovative or sustainable and they certainly don’t contribute to long term growth. One result is the cheap materials get thrown away. In the UK alone, 1.8 million tonnes of textile waste are produced each year. If companies are looking to produce more clothing for less money, this figure will only increase. Another result is low-wage workers end up with an erosion of income, which leads to debt and decrease in spending – a vicious and ultimately destructive cycle.
It is also not unheard of for companies to factor in discount prices before the garment has even reached the shelves: “I’ve got 50 years of experience in the fashion industry and never have I seen [discount culture] as bad as it is today” says Rita. “Companies will now put prices up. For example, if your coat was meant to be £100, it will be sold for £120 instead, so that it can be discounted at its original price.”
Joshua Ellis & Co Ltd, located in the heart of West Yorkshire, supplies cashmere for Nomad Atelier and the company can trace the origin of their raw materials right back to individual herds. “Some people think about clothes in the way they think about food” says Rita. “They think they can only afford a MacDonald’s for tea. But it is entirely possible to make an affordable meal from fresh, locally sourced food. The same goes for clothes.” Processes centred around heritage and sustainability are fine examples of how to breathe new life into a stretched and creativity-starved market – by producing clothes of premium quality that will remain at the forefront of the wardrobe for decades to come. By extending the life of clothing by just an extra nine months, our carbon, waste and water footprints would be reduced by around 20-30% each.
Also, the shortage of passion and creativity that comes with discount culture can make a store feel lacklustre: “Discount culture has led to the dumbing down of designs” says Rita. “Young people can’t advertise anymore, because only the big boys have enough money to do it.” When put next to a genuine desire to give customers the best possible experience, discount culture really pales into insignificance. A genuine love for what you do can be infinitely rewarding and in-house design teams can often be the answer to adding a sprinkle of passion and personality to each stitch. If customers are worked with closely, designers can produce new and wonderful things that contain a warm authenticity and a sense of pride.
With garments that are made with so much devotion and commitment, it would be a sin to cheapen the craftsmanship. Nomad Atelier has belief in its ethos and its clothing – this, to me, is priceless. Discount culture may make us part with our money, but belief in your product and craft simply can’t be bought.