“Damn you guys for making such quality stuff.”
- Gita Lestari
Hey, it’s Hani
I sew all the products we ever made since 2013. Every single one of them, like that tote over there. Aisah says I have magical hands (our niece, Hannah agrees with her) but I once fear sewing.
That was more than a decade ago back when I was studying fashion design. It was where I gained interest in textiles but I learnt more about fashion terms like ready-to-wear and haute couture than what makes a quality product.
Only when I stepped into the fashion industry, working in editorial, merchandising then design, visiting textile mills and garment factories, that I learnt that quality is not only in fabric and design but also construction techniques.
I don’t have all the answers. Aisah and I are constantly learning too. But once you know these simple ways to tell if something’s made well (or not), you’ll soon be the go-to person for quality checks.
That annoying, scratchy product label is begging for you to read it
Reading the product label is like putting the product under a microscope. The first thing to look out for is the fabric composition (also known as fiber content) - a break down of materials used to make the product.
It’s a requirement for clothing labels to include fiber content, country of origin, and manufacturer, importer or dealer. Laws such as the ones imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission are for protecting consumers like you and preventing unfair business practices. If you’re buying online, you must expect this break down under the product description.
Because retailers can say it’s a “Cotton Dress” just because it’s made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester or “Linen Blouse” but it’s a blend of 50% linen and 50% viscose. Cotton/Polyester and Linen/Viscose are common fabric compositions that disguise as fully natural.
If you want all natural, accept 100% and nothing less.
Stop letting sloppy work get away
Inspect seams to ensure they’ll hold up when the going gets tough. The seam is where two pieces of fabric or more join to make a complete product. Stretch the fabric and if the seam reveals tiny holes all over between the stitches, you can prepare yourself for an awkward split at the underarm or the crotch of your pants sooner or hopefully later.
There are many types of seams and a single product may not have just one. High-stress areas that have more wear and tear should be reinforced with a second line of defence against busting.
And then check the hem and stitching to sum up the construction quality of the product.
The bottom hem supports the product during washing so if the stitching is inconsistent and far apart with threads sticking out, put it back on the rack. Long, sloppy stitches are prone to snagging.
Ignore the glances from other shoppers, turn that product inside out and inspect every inch. The fabric used may be high-grade or organic but if the construction is done carelessly, it’s not going to serve you well.
If there’s gonna be plastic on your clothes, make sure it stays on forever
Test buttons and zippers because you wouldn’t want a button to go missing in the middle of the day and the zippers to get stuck, forcing you to walk out of the bathroom with your fly open.
Tug the buttons and pull the zippers just like how you’d rush to get ready in the morning. If the button falls off right there and then, what makes you think asking for a new piece will change that? Button holes should also accurately meet and fit the buttons.
Quality-made clothes will have their zippers encased with fabric instead of being left exposed. This is to ensure the nylon tape of the zipper stays intact during washing.