Why do things cost what they do? This is a question few ask when items are cheap, but, move up the pricing scale, and we feel like we need some explanation. Many brands cite the ‘luxurious’ materials and use the ‘made in…’ tags, and, think that is sufficient to justify higher and higher prices. But, some brands are going a lot further and not just explaining, but dissecting their costs and offering ‘Pricing Transparency’.
Left - Private White V.C. - Ventile Raincoat - £495
One of the pioneers is Manchester’s Private White V.C., known for its selection of premium outerwear. Made in ‘Cottonopolis’, Private White V.C.’s product isn’t cheap and they feel the need to tell you why. Calling it their ‘Pricing Manifesto’, it sets out how many minutes each garment takes to make and even down to how much thread is used.
Co-Founder and CEO, James Eden, says, “With the advent of the internet there is so much access to information now. It’s at the tips of people’s fingers and customers are more inquisitive and curious about how and where things are made. Country of origin has become county of origin and, now, factory of origin. People are interested in who makes their Private White V.C. coat, and for many years we have celebrated our workforce and their craft. The next step is to show people, our customer exactly how much that craftmanship is worth in pounds and pence.”
Certain brands are expensive because they can’t make their products any cheaper. They want to prove they’re not being greedy by taking huge mark-ups and margins, and that their goods are worth paying the price for.
Right - Explaining what goes into your Private White raincoat
“As a brand the most important thing is retaining, fostering and maximising the trust and confidence of our customers. This is done by offering great products, tremendous customer service and being honest and transparent in our approach – there is no room for smoke and mirrors!
“Our customers know they are not being misled or charged what we would consider to be an unfair price for a product. The economics of a direct to consumer business means it is far more contemporary and a much leaner model; and we think those benefits should be passed onto the customer.” says Eden.
This is a reaction against wholesaling and discounting too, which has become tougher and tougher for smaller manufacturers and brands. Private White V.C. is at that point where the brand is recognised and can, therefore, pull back on wholesale and take it direct to consumers. Smaller brands, like pilot fish with a whale, need a vehicle to be presented to people, particularly online.
“So far I am happy to say the response has been extremely positive. We all acknowledge it is a bold move, but we think it is essential for businesses, like ours, in such a crowded market place, to differentiate ourselves first and foremost by quality, but also in our philosophy which champions: transparency of sourcing and price transparency.
“We are striving for a full price policy, so there are no inflated prices prior to an ad-hoc sale for example; I just don’t think this is sustainable. It is very much educating the customer to never to pay full price. There is so much investment in the quality of our people, the materials and the process, we want our prices to properly reflect that - we want our customers to know that we have made this fair and correct. No discounts or promotions also gives people confidence that the product that they buy today will be sold for the same price in 6 months’ time.” he says.
This is fashion’s reaction to field to fork labelling. Many supermarkets, now, tell you the name of the farmer or even the number of the animal. It’s about traceability and re-educating the consumer into buying better and feeling good about paying more.
Private White V.C. has the luxury of owning its factory and not making anything anywhere else and you're not paying for a 'name'. It’s a simple formula.
Alessandro Agazzi, fashion business expert and blogger at www.thestyleism.com says, “I think it's a smart move. People/consumers want to know more about what they are buying. And with that, many people are like ‘look how good they are, they show want to show us that they are very fair’”.
“They are not the first ones to do it. Again, I think their move is to create a stronger engagement with existing and new clients. You can't compare the costs of a luxury/designer brand to the ones of a manufacturer. But, yes, people are more and more price-conscious and this is a fact.” says Agazzi.
“I think this is mainly a marketing thing from them; and their consumers seem to like it - from the comments on their IG feed. I’m not sure others will follow. It is a delicate move to do it. I asked Private White a couple of questions, the answers were very polite, but, again I am not too convinced how they calculate the costs of the garment. They have not considered costs that they're bearing - retail, logisitcs, PR, photography. And their 2x is even lower when you deduct the VAT from the SRP.” he says.
It’s important to be fair, but it’s also important to make a healthy profit. If you’re working on very small margins it doesn’t take much to tip the whole thing over. I think the majority of people outside of the fashion business don’t know the typical mark-ups on luxury goods and it's often a closely guarded secret.
Will other British brands following suit? I asked, Alice Made This, a British jewellery company specialising in artisan techniques and precious metals, their thoughts.
“Private White V.C. are fortunate, in this instance, that they are a factory and a retailer in terms of transparency. This allows them to disclose costs and stick to prices to allow these stats to remain true for a long period of time. We use a variety of British factories and, for us, to disclose our factories prices in such a granular way may be a breach of their confidential information. Our pricing varies per batch as metal prices fluctuate daily and our factories have to pass these onto us as their customer.” says Alice Walsh, Co-Founder, Alice Made This.
“I think it is interesting, but difficult for us to be accurate, therefore I feel it becomes not as transparent as it may appear! I believe customers expect honesty, integrity and transparency. This can be offered to them in a number of ways.” she says.
There is an element of marketing here and you don't get exact figures, but I also think the attitude is, why not try it? In this fast changing retail landscape you want to shout about your product and this is a way of standing behind it. It builds trust and creates an honest halo over the brand. ‘Pricing Transparency’ only works if you have nothing to hide. Very few brands can do this, but, the ones that can, should.
Below - Private White V.C. comparing its model and 'Traditional Luxury'
Launched in 2017, MARRAM Co offers a luxury, personalised natural shave with the finest of essential oiled infused foams and chrome hardware kits. Hoping to transform shaving into a pleasurable ritual, MARRAM Co believe that the preparation behind the shave is key and have created shaving creams to match your mood, all manufactured in the UK.
Left - MARRAM Co - "Power Up" - Metal tubes and quality fragrances makes this shaving to remember
Using organic essential oils sourced from 212 organic farms all over the world, the creams are therapeutic even for the man with the most sensitive of skin. Choose from “Wake Up Call”, “You’ve Got This”, “It’s Cold”, “Power Up”, “Night Out”, "The Morning After”, “Time Out” and “You Might Get Lucky”.
TheChicGeek says, “When you think about shaving products it’s interesting how, for something we literally put under our noses, quality fragrance hasn’t played a more dominant role.
Named after the grey-green tufts of Marram grass found on British coastal sand dunes, MARRAM, also a palindrome - the same forwards as backwards - is a collection of shaving creams offering distinctive and quality scents.
The brand centres on the traditional barbering routine of cream, bowl and brush. Most guys won’t be bothered with this faff on a daily basis, but it’s definitely for a time when you can enjoy the ritual.
The brushes, razor handle and bowls are really top quality and are priced to match. The razor takes a Gillette head and everything, including the shaving creams, is made in the UK.
Right - MARRAM Co - Brush & Bowl Set - £250
While the hardware is expensive, I like the way they’ve made the shaving cream realistic in pricing - in two sizes, £8 for 20ml and £20 for 100ml - it also means you can play with the fragrances and try a few.
There are 9 different scents, all with fun names, 7 are permanent and a couple are limited-editions. It’s light and foams up nicely and easy to apply with your hands.
I think people are willing to pay more for products with quality scents. I feel £20 is good for 100ml, here, and those essentials oils are the things that transport you, for a few seconds at least, to another place and makes shaving less of a chore and more of a pleasure. The heat and steam of shaving is ideal for these essential oils to really do their best work.
This reminds me of the shaving cream from Buly that smells like marzipan that I like - read more here - and my favourite is “Wake Up Call” with its earthy vetiver fragrance.
I think MARRAM & Co are onto something here. I like the branding, I like the metal tubes and I like the fragrances. I just need to shave more!”
Below - MARRAM Co - Shaving Cream - 20ml - £8 100ml - £20
Exclusive to MRPORTER.COM
New British fragrance brand klaxon. Founded by Michael Donovan and named after the ancient, Central London parish of St Giles - it’s that bit just near Tottenham Court Road station, where the coloured Renzo Piano buildings are - where he was born, this new collection of five fragrances is based on different characters.
Michael has worked in the fragrance business for many years with some of the biggest names and noses. Here, he has teamed up with perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, and spent the last three years creating the five scents: The Tycoon, The Writer, The Stylist, The Actress and The Mechanic.
TheChicGeek says, “It’s always great to see new British fragrance brands. Especially from somebody with over 20 year’s experience in the business. Michael sent me the three most masculine fragrances to try - The Tycoon, The Writer and The Mechanic.
There’s a lot going on, but it works. I actually found it difficult to choose one standout. I liked all three and underlining it all is quality.
The Tycoon is a classic chypre with notes of patchouli, labdanum and oakmoss augmented with a castoreum.
The Writer opens with fresh ginger, rosemary absolute and the focusing sparkle of aldehydes with castoreum absolute plus sandalwood, cedarwood and driftwood.
The Mechanic has a base of hot rubber, musk, oakmoss and a balsamic, cracked styrax with an earthy geranium and patchouli opening.
The Mechanic is the most interesting as it doesn’t fit in as easily with the other character names. The market for niche fragrances continues to grow and this is definitely a collection worth seeking out. I just wish the branding and labelling had more personality and fully represented the fragrances’ depth of character.”
St Giles Collection - 100ml - £130
Exclusive to Selfridges
In a post-Brexit world we’re going to have to make more than leather shoes and Scottish cashmere sweaters. UK Plc needs to turn our world class creativity into a German style industry: manufacturing in volume and of the highest quality.
From small acorns mighty English oaks grow, so, when I heard The Shackleton Company was manufacturing their parkas in the UK, I wanted to find out more and see what we are paying for. The majority of the world's down parkas are made in Italy, France, Canada or China, so a UK-made is rather special. I’ve dissected their new “Discovery Jacket” to show you all the different components and design details, so when the temperature drops we can keep the Union Flag flying high!
Entirely handmade in Cheshire. The majority of the materials are made in Britain with the odd exception, i.e. zips and zip pullers. The outer shell is Ventile, designed in the UK. The densely woven, 100% cotton uses the world's finest, long staple fibre. Ventile is not coated or laminated and the combination of the dense weave and swelling properties of the fibres, when wet, provides excellent weatherproofing. It's an entirely natural product - windproof, breathable, durable and quiet.
Filled with 100% of the finest, pure European goose down, it provides an unsurpassed warmth to weight ratio. It is a by-product of the food industry, in fact, a waste product, if not used for insulation. The highest quality of down, which The Shackleton Company uses, comes from the oldest, free-range birds. Each individual pocket of down is hand filled & stitched. No machinery is used.
The adjustable hood design enables the wearer to create a wrap-around tunnel to protect against extreme cold. The coyote fur hood trim is removable. Tested in Antarctica to minus 20 Degrees centigrade, the coyote is shot as part of a cull program to control popuations in Alaska. The Shackleton Company do not use any farmed or trapped coyote.
Large rubber zip pullers are designed with pimples on the reverse for ease of use with cold hands or whilst wearing gloves.
Four outer pockets - two chest (zipped) and two fleece-lined, hand-warmer pockets have press stud fastenings for quick access. Four large internal, zipped pockets - two close to body core for extra warmth for storing phone & batteries in extreme cold environments. Internal waist draw cord for a tighter fit - minimising cold air flow, providing extra insulation. Lower draw cord for a tighter fit and extra protection in stormy conditions.
Extendable storm wrist cuffs.
Internal patch - “I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”. Poet, Robert Browning, quote, engraved on Shackleton’s gravestone in South Georgia.
Left & Above - The Shackleton Company - Discovery Jacket - £1575
Good things coming to those who wait goes against everything modern retail has taught us. To test this theory, Patria is a new website crowdfunding made in the UK products in aid of Armed Forces Charities. All employees of Patria are veterans and 10% of profits go to the brand’s chosen charities which include The Royal Navy Charity, The Soldiers Charity and the RAFBF.
"Patria is a uniquely British company. We were founded by veterans, employ only veterans and 10% of our profits go to the main armed forces charities. All of our luxury pieces are 100% British made. We wanted a name that ties this together. Patria is derived from the Latin 'Pro Patria' or 'for one's country'," says Founder, Richard Thackray.
Left - Patria’s Cordwainer or shoemaker has been hand-making the finest footwear in Northamptonshire for over 130 years - £275 (Takes 12 weeks)
Launching on Remembrance Day, Patria hopes to deliver the best price in the market and have zero waste. Patria only makes onshore in Great Britain using the best materials and works with leading UK artisanal manufactures - leading to less impact on the environment and a better value product.
Patria prides itself in being a non-seasonal brand. Not about trend led pieces, but staple quality and timeless garments that are built to last. The brand even offers mending services to their customers.
Right - Patria ‘Jack’ Sweatshirt - £120
Based on a 50 acre estate called “Keyneston Mill" in Dorset, Parterre - translated as “on the ground” - is a new and experimental British perfume brand aiming to grow many of the ingredients themselves. Two thousand plant varieties to be precise.
Founded by husband and wife, David and Julia Bridger, their backgrounds are farming and graphic design, respectively, Parterre launches with three fragrances, all limited in number and stocked at Fortnum & Mason.
Left - Not the Crystal Maze - Keyneston Mill, Dorset
TheChicGeek says, “Who knew you could grow vetiver in the UK? I always thought it was a tropical grass found in places like Haiti. Soon to be open to the public, Keyneston Mill looks set to be a destination in itself and not just for perfume fans. I can see a Monty Don special coming on!
No budget has been spared here with Sir Elton John’s ex-gardener Stuart Neilson and former RHS botanist Nanette Wraith being brought on board. Design plays an important part in the core of the garden with Renaissance Italy and Kandinsky referenced while the rest of the acreage is put to growing in volume.
Based on botanicals, obvs, the three fragrances, produced in collaboration with leading perfumer, Jacques Chabert, are “A Tribute To Edith”, geranium and rose, “Run Of The River”, bergamot mint and orange flower, and, the most masculine, “Root Of All Goodness”, bergamot, vetiver and leather.
I admire Parterre because they will be at the whim of the unpredictable British weather and, as such, they’re still trying to work out what works and what gives a decent standard of product. They’re also producing the oils themselves using steam distillation.
Right - Parterre - "Root Of All Goodness" - 50ml/100ml - £95/£160
Like the majority of gardens, things will get better with age. Everything seems quite new and experimental, and while the French will probably scoff and turn up their noses, literally and metaphorically, just remember they did that once to English sparkling wine and look how far that has come.
It would be nice to see which of the ingredients are homegrown - maybe a Union flag next to them? - I do think they’re missing a trick not doing at least one fragrance with 100% British grown ingredients, but I’m sure, in time, that will come. Also, they should use a British perfumer or try doing it in-house.
This plugs into the British obsession with plants and gardening and being able to visit and see the place will only add to the attraction. Of the three fragrances, the most masculine is the “Root Of All Goodness”, but I was drawn to the rose one. Men can wear pink and smell of roses, these days. I like the branding, it is fairly feminine, but the hand calligraphy numbering on the bottles is a nice touch. I’d just love to know what they could do with the stinging nettles, bindweed and Japanese knotweed in my garden!”
You don’t run before you can walk in fashion, let alone ski! Founded in 2014, Eiger Classic is a small British and British-made brand inspired by one of the founders' grandmothers.
“The brand is inspired by my Granny and her photos from when she was British downhill champion. She was also a keen photographer and we have loads of old photographs of these amazing expeditions they used to go on. We were totally inspired and wanted to try and recreate the timeless alpine look and as a result ‘Eiger Classic’ was founded."
Left - The Viscount Montgomery - £95 - “Warm on the slopes, cool as f@ck in the bar”
“We produce a range of leather products, but our main focus is merino wool jumpers that are all produced in Britain,” says Chris Pratt.
Chris and fellow founder, Tom Evans, still juggle full time jobs, a farmer and creative director, respectively, while producing a range of knitwear and small leather goods.
“We got into menswear because we wanted to buy products like we are producing and couldn't find anyone doing them so it was a case of doing it ourselves.
“Our range will stay pretty much the same. We will just look to add a few styles each year, we have two new jumpers coming out in the next couple of weeks. We are not looking to produce products that go in and out of fashion, we are looking to produce products that reflect a classic alpine age and are made to last,” says Chris.
Chris’ Granny’s name was Joan Shearing, and then Joan Hanlin. She was a British Downhill ski champion and won on borrowed skis in her 40's. Super Gran!
Below - The Arnold Lunn - £178
This week's ChicGeek vlog including a review of the Panasonic iShaper trimmer, Dr Perricone's new CBx For Men range, MMUK Man eyebrow products, new UK label, Eiger Classic & Belvedere Vodka's single estate vodkas.
Based in East Yorkshire, Dr Katerina Steventon has launched an anti-ageing serum to address concerns about wrinkles and vertical lines. Named ‘4’ after the four regenerative plant oils - jojoba, rose hip, camellia, echium and four technologically advanced active ingredients - marine micro algae, Indian gentian leaves, Renovage, (the brand name for trepenone, developed by the French skin care company Sederma and used for anti-ageing and skin stress) and liquorice and it is promoted alongside her ‘Faceworkshops’. Over her career she has worked at La Prairie, Shiseido and Smith and Nephew wound healing.
Left - Katerina Steventon 4 Anti-Ageing Serum - 15ml - £52.90
TheChicGeek says, “A new Doctor brand, Katerina Stevenson says over 20 years' experience has gone into this serum. It’s light, non-greasy and is applied before your moisturiser twice a day.
For Katerina it is all about the massage and the ritual of applying the product and with it being an oil-type consistency, this makes it easier to do this.
It’s labelled a serum, but I would call this an oil. I like oils as they feel nourishing and feed the skin. They feel more physical than a normal cream type product.
Katerina says it’s a hybrid product: serum in the morning, massage oil in the evening. The ‘Vertical Line Massage’ - she shows you how to do this on her site - is a prep before the product, but also an exercise for the facial muscles. I’ve seen this promoted before, when Creme de la Mer launched their Renewal Oil - see review here - but I didn’t do this with this product.
It says you need only a few drops of the rape seed coloured product, but I felt I needed more and the more I used the less it felt like an oil. It has a good consistency, absorbs well and smells good. Interestingly, people said how well I looked a few days after using this. A coincidence maybe?
These type of products are for the long-term, but I like a product somebody puts their name and face behind. A lot of these products you have to have an instinct for on whether they are working. This one I would say yes and would definitely look into trying the massage techinques. People can't expect to reduce ageing by simply and lazily apply a product. It makes sense you need to exercise, like the rest of your body, in order to keep it firm and looking its best.”
There are two types of Britishness: urban London Britishness, which is too often clichéd and touristy, involving bowler hats, red telephone boxes and the like, and, then, there's the Britishness of the countryside, which comprises of green rolling hills, National Trust properties with colourful herbaceous borders all soundtracked by the theme of The Antiques Roadshow.
Left - The not-so-secret garden at the entrance of Burberry's pop-up Makers House
The British countryside is basically a giant garden dotted with the history of people aiming to perfect their little corner of it and that's why we all love to be tourists in it, regardless of where we are from.
And, it is this Britishness that Burberry has mined for its latest show and show space, which has been opened to the general public for a week afterwards and is called Makers House.
Right - Makers are gonna make. The day I went it was bookbinding
Located in the old Foyles book store on Charing Cross Road, on the edge of Soho, Burberry has teamed up with British craft collective, The New Craftsmen, showcasing their hand-working skills, making everything from tassels to keys to scissors. There are different people displaying different skills, on each day, creating theatre in the bottom of the space.
Just to be clear, these people didn’t produce anything for the new Burberry collection, but it’s an illustration of the type of skills involved. I guess Burberry needed huge volumes and a long lead time if they were able to be the first brand to fully deliver their new ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept worldwide, all at the same time, both offline and online.
Left - One of the standout pieces of the menswear show
You can buy their products in a small shop here, but I think Burberry missed a trick by not including a few of their own products. Maybe a few of the classic pieces.
Right - A print taken from the V&A archive and used in the collection and on the show seating
Alongside them is a pop-up branch of Thomas’, the Burberry café from Regent Street, which has to be one of the best of the big brand versions of this type of thing, offering seasonal British fare all served on British made tables and chairs, and in this case, leading onto a garden of white busts and classical plaster casts contrasted with lush green planting that welcomes you at the entrance.
It’s like Daylesford Organic has comes to Soho, hostas and all, in this mix of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Nancy Lancaster’s decorating skills, (she was the owner of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler), and a celebration of the great and good of British history all lined up like a friendly who’s, who. I feel like we may have been given a glimpse of Christopher Bailey’s Yorkshire lifestyle. He has to spend all those millions somewhere after all. This is the fantasy perfection of British country living that we never seem to tire of and one which Burberry has used as inspiration before such as Charleston in Sussex or gardening at Sissinghurst.
Left - TheChicGeek on the poetry staircase doing his best Rapunzel impression!
Upstairs, where the catwalk show was, 83 mannequins show off the full collection of men’s and women’s wear, 250 pieces in total, where you can look at the details and touch the fabrics. Everything is available now, if you can afford it, and the collection was Bailey’s usual strong balance of wearability and fashion. Think artist-like relaxed shirts with ruffled collars and cuffs interplayed with brocade and cropped shearlings and slouchy trousers. I particularly like the orange/biscuit coloured shearling and 30s style printed pyjama shirts. The green carpet design was taken from a garden print from the V&A.
Right - The Tudors are back! Taking the ruff with the smooth
Burberry took a risk on the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept, but I think they’ve pulled it off. Unlike other brands, this show season, who have made it a token gesture to gain attention and PR, this is full on and took some organisation. I guess many items had to be comprised or changed to fulfil the tight delivery dates, but it doesn't show.
Left - Pieces of Michelangelo's David looking over his shoulder while a sculptor builds up his clay maquette
I like the way it’s been opened up to the public. You spend all that money on the show space, you may as well as justify it by making it customer facing, especially now they’re selling the items straight away. I can’t wait to see how they will top this in February.
Many other luxury brands will be watching this enviously and wondering whether they could or should do the same.
Right - Nancy Lancaster's bed from her house, Ditchley Park
In a post-brexit world I think Burberry should take this whole concept on a world tour. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai would relish this little outpost of Britishness, pots plants and all. We have to remember there’s a big world outside of London.
Burberry Makers House Open Until 27th September 2016, 1 Manette Street, London, W1D 4AT
How many of these great British figures can you name?