And the mythology of Elizabeth Suzann
When you decide to do something you may as well just do it. So a week after I started thinking I wanted to maybe sell my cecilia pants, I went ahead and listed it on Poshmark on Friday morning. By the time I left work they'd sold. It was so fast! I know that people love Elizabeth Suzann but even I was surprised at how fast they sold.
Sidenote on price
I get that $195 is still pretty damn expensive. I never used to spend that kind of money on a single item of clothes. But I'd probably still spend that much at one time, jigsawing many pieces from a single retailer into one purchase, maximizing discounts but adding items, probably to hit a free shipping minimum.
Then I started paying more attention to what I chose to wear and keep. I started seeing clothes not as a reward or treat to oneself as much as an investment in one's daily sense of self. By separating the acquisition of clothes from how they are used in my life, I'm able to desire less quantity. By desiring less, the resources I'd have divided up among lesser items can be used in total on a single good thing.
The cecilia pants retail for $220 from Elizabeth Suzann. I snapped a few photos of mine on Friday morning and uploaded them and a couple screenshots of the stock photos to PS. I priced them at $195, a $25 discount from their full purchase price. Less the Poshmark 20% commission, I'm left with $156, which I think is a fairly decent ROI on a pair of pants that I wore probably 5 times total (I suppose I can go count, I have all the photo evidence in the Outfit of the Day weekly archives).
I think $195 is a fair resale price. The knees were a little baggy from wear but otherwise they were in excellent condition. It's a bit over a 10% discount for the new buyer and they got the pants shipped next business day instead of waiting weeks. Seeing how fast they sold, I could probably have tried to price them even higher, but that didn't feel fair. I know I personally look for deeper discounts when I shop secondhand, so I didn't want to gouge people. And I hear folks talk about how they can only afford some garments when they are discounted secondhand, but that oftentimes they are still too expensive.
It fascinates me that demand for ES garments is so hot that things get snapped up like this at a price so close to retail though. ES clearly has a devoted following, and I believe they have a quality garment that I trust has been made with ample consideration given to lessening the impact of their production as well as ensuring good working conditions for their employees. But they aren't perfect. I'm not a "fan girl." That term rubs me the wrong way and I think minimizes the role the brand has to play as far as continuously improving and innovating.
For whatever reason, ES has risen above other designers I see in the same sphere. I am not looking at any quantitative hard numbers here, but I feel like designers like Lauren Winter and Hackwith Design House just don't get the buzz of Elizabeth Suzann and I don't know why. They seem to have similar ethos and aesthetics. Granted their models are a little different — Lauren Winter releases a couple collections a year with a handful of garments in each, including a portion of repeat styles in new colorways. Hackwith Design House has a pretty large core collection but releases limited edition pieces intermittently as well as seasonal collections. Then there's Elizabeth Suzann, with a permanent collection under steady curation.
One thing I appreciate about Elizabeth Suzann's model is that you can count on the prices not to fluctuate in an unspoken game of chicken — do you buy at this price, or wait for the price to go down but risk losing out — since the price is the price. There's not a pressure to BUY NOW. You can buy whenever it's right for you. Still, I'd argue that the lead times on their garment production actually creates a sense of scarcity, which creates demand, which in turn increases value. Even as we are all settling into the rhythm of slower fashion, instant gratification has a value.
That's kind of the weird part — there's no ACTUAL scarcity of ES items. If you purchase a garment from them, you'll eventually get it, and within a relatively quick period of time (just a couple or a few weeks at this point). Everyone who can afford an ES garment can have an ES garment. They're not running out, and if it's discontinued it's done with warning. So what's the deal? I think it's the mythology of the brand.
There's a fanaticism over Elizabeth Suzann that I don't witness with other worthy designers. I love so much about ES and the couple pieces I've purchased there, but I'm not disillusioned enough to think everything there is the right fit for me, and improvements could be made in some of the designs. In fact I've now sent back or sold more garments than I've kept from them. But I keep coming back!
The cecilia pants for instance are widely reported to be too tight in the calves. It's not just a few isolated people here and there saying it, it's enough that I've read it many many times over. We can't ALL have huge calves. So that's one thing I hope to see improved in a future iteration of the pants. I hope the person who bought my pants is OK with how they fit their calves. I was always tugging down the hems like Grechen. I wish this wasn't the case because I really liked everything else about the pants, but alas.
I think there's something about the brand's authenticity that makes me feel like there's hope for future garments. Liz Pape herself runs their instagram and her voice is very clear in all the brand's communications. She talks candidly about the brand's behind-the-scenes and I think buyers identify with this and want to engage with the brand more because of it.
I appreciate when designers and makers and brands in general engage in dialog with their audiences. We aren't mindless cogs in a consumption machine. We think about our purchases. We consider a lot more qualities that we used to. We expect to check more boxes when we spend money on material goods. Feedback is good for growth. So clearly, a brand can have the kind of cache ES has, but we can still acknowledge it isn't the be all and end all.
It's interesting to me how some makers break out like this. How can it be repeated? Why don't we see it as often with other great designers? Is it all marketing? What makes the ES story so much more interesting than any one elses? Yes we love the designs, but that can't be everything.
I look to success stories like ES and try to encourage myself to keep working at my passion for making so that I can one day develop it into more than it is now. I think it takes talent, vision, and persistence but most of all patience. What qualities do you think make ES the kind of special brand it's become in a landscape of other similar brands?