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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The code of silence in custom boutique

We received an anonymous email from a reader and we thought it would make an interesting blog. We asked a few others secretly if they had ever encountered this situation and many said yes; but what makes this particular situation interesting, is the "code of silence" surrounding it. 

"I had got a set from a very well known designer when she had a Facebook sale in her group. The price was good so I thought with the reputation and number of fans she had, her work would be good. I jumped at the chance to get 2 dresses from her at such a great sale price.She said they was ready to ship and they were both my granddaughter's size too. I got the dress three weeks later.  I don't know what took so long? Also I was really disappointed in the workmanship. There wasn't even top stitching on the dress. There were threads hanging everywhere and the seams weren't even straight. I have been sewing for years for my kids and grands and these things are things I would be ashamed of if I was selling what I was sewing. I don't understand why people continue to buy this designer's items? or how she can even be in business with this quality? I quietly made the decision to not buy from her any more, even if she has good sale prices."
As a matter of discretion, we have chosen to withhold the name of the designer in question. 
But what Designing Minds wants to know is:
  1. Is this common?
  2. Do buyers (especially buyers who are also designers/sewists) not wish to make waves? 
  3. Is it easier to suck it up and move on and know to not buy in the future from the designer again?
  4. What would you do if you were the buyer? Would you email the designer and tell them you are disappointed in the purchase? or just zip your lip and move on?
  5. Does this happen a lot to buyers and the code of silence keeps it swept under the rug?
  6. As a designer how would you handle a situation like this, should a customer contact you and tell you they were disappointed in the items they purchased (and your workmanship?)

 We addressed the Designing Minds advisory panel and no one was willing to comment, or add to this discussion so perhaps this is a one-time, rare event? 
or Do buyers talk amongst themselves behind closed doors of secret groups and discuss the quality of certain designers' workmanship?

 It has been long said since the invention of custom boutique (even back to the old school ebay days) in custom boutique that buyers DO talk about the "bad egg" or "less than great" designers who have big customer followings but yet sell nearly everything they put up for sale. 

Do you think perhaps this particular buyer got a rare less than stellar dress, and this wasn't the norm for this designer? Designers are human, and occasionally pull off a less than perfect seamed garment, don't they? Everyone makes mistakes, right? OR is it the code of silence that keeps a designer who does less than professional work in business? 
We want to hear from you. Comment and tell us your experiences, whether you are a designer or a buyer. Remember you may comment ANONYMOUSLY to protect your identity.

We are opening the floor for discussion
or maybe we are opening a can of worms that is better left alone? 
What do you think? 

~Designer Z (<-- The anonymous blogger for Designing Minds who deals with controversial/stir the pot topics)


  1. If it's the same designer I am thinking of. She has been publicly outed for her quality but those that do get backlash and bullied by her core group of fans.

  2. Yes, this is very common. Most custom clothing buyers talk to each other. Many of us have lists of sellers we will never use again.
    We tell each other quietly. Why? We fear the retaliation that comes when you complain. We have all seen it happen.
    A few of these lesser designers, portray themselves in a higher light, you even gave one of them a recommendation yesterday in your blog entry.
    But in reality, they are unkind and spiteful, overcharging for poor quality goods.
    If their buyers spoke up, we would all know and they would go out of business. Personally I wish people would tell the truth about their buying experiences, but I am not going to be the first.

    1. I agree to this also. Some designers way overcharge what buyers are getting. I can get an awesome hand applique scene from some beautifully talented designers, with added details to the dress for the same price as a machine applique on a basic no frills dress.

  3. I have a dear friend that says: good friends don't let friends buy bad customs. Yes buyers talk. A lot more than some designers would like I am sure.

  4. Just the fact that we all are commenting under anonymous tells me that there is fear of designer backlash. Designers talk just as sellers talk, and no one wants to be shut out from being able to buy the customs they want. We talk quietly in closed groups and give advice to those who ask, but very rarely do buyers speak up loud and clear about the crap they receive for their good money.

  5. As a designer it is truly frustrating to hear about designers who do not put out quality work. I really make the effort to ensure that my work is the best possible quality and that my customers are happy. When there are designers who are not putting out good quality, it tarnishes the rest of us. Especially those of us who have a smaller client base and are really trying to grow our businesses. I'm hoping that we are not getting lumped in with them just because we don't have as big of a name.

    1. I agree with everything you said, Linda. There are too many designers out there who don't have a clue what they're doing. They might be designing because they love combining fabrics, or they like what other designers are putting out. In other words, wannabees.

  6. Sale Prices always scare me! Especially when one designer is always hostings sales. That is a red flag in its self. Why would you think that they always need to have sales? to get people to buy! If one designer is posting on her group page that she is shipping out 30 dresses a week, does that make you wonder how she is doing it so fast. She obviously is sacrificing quality for quantity.
    The same old addage goes "You get what you pay for" don't fall for the inexpensive sales.

    And buyers do talk, just not publicly as others have said designers talk too.

  7. If everyone is honest it would not be such a problem! As a designer I make the best possible product I can. I always appreciate positive feedback! It is what keeps me going! I love what I do, or I wouldn't do it. I hope customers leave positive or negative feedback so the customers do know who makes top quality products & who really doesn't care! I really don't understand why someone would sell a bad quality product. Customers PLEASE leave accurate feedback!

  8. Just found your blog via FB and this is a very interesting article to me. As a designer I always have a little worry after I send a custom item out. What if the customer is not satisfied with the item? For whatever reason ... it doesn't fit the way they imagined? I left a few strings? Top stitching is not perfectly straight? It took to long to arrive? The list could go on. I do my best to create a perfect outfit. If it is not something I would purchase for myself I am don't send it out. I have started over on custom orders when I was not happy with how it was turning out.

    I know that in someways it would be painful to hear that someone was not happy with an item I sent them but I really do want to know. How can I grow as a designer and a business if I don't hear the negative feedback along with the good. I would prefer a customer e-mails me to discuss any issues they have with an item before posting negative comments other places. I am always willing to work out the problem with the customer.

  9. I think many buyers don't actually know what constitutes quality. I know when people see my items in person, they often comment on how well made they are and my attention to details like straight topstitching, etc. I have been lucky to not receive anything I thought was awful and if I got something on sale, I was usually happy, even if there was a small defect. But I have seen some ATROCIOUS items and HAVE shared that information, privately, not on the internet. I don't think I have to "call people out" on FB. Some people are fine with lower quality for lower price, I call them WalMart buyers, they will buy anything if it's cheap enough. I often wonder why my items don't sell when I know they are of superior quality, but that's for me to puzzle over, not for me to moan about in public forums. I'm not afraid of some so-called "backlash" so you can sign me...

  10. I agree that it is a fear of the public backlash that probably keeps most buyers from coming forward with a complaint. I am a designer (and also sometimes buyer of other customs too) and I just cringe when I see a designer posting on their page or in a public forum about a buyer complaining about their product. Personally, I would rather have a buyer privately message me and let me know there is a problem so I can fix it (or refund if it is unfixable) and walk away, knowing that I did right by that customer. And if it is a quality error, I will learn from that and do whatever I can to never fail in that area again. I welcome constructive criticism, as it will only make me strive to be better. I even leave the door wide open for that when I make a sale. When I send out a product, I send a little note or email thanking them and letting them know if they have any problems or issues, to please contact me. I think that helps a ton when the buyer feels they have that opportunity to say something if they are not happy.

    And as Myrinda stated, I do think a lot of people just don't know what quality is. I also have many people comment on how well made my items are once they get them. Like they are surprised that someone could sew so nicely? Just makes me wonder what kind of quality others send out and think they are doing a good job.

    With that said, I have also purchased customs from other designers who were "big name" girls and was shocked at the quality I received. No top stitching, untrimmed threads, crooked seams, seams that pulled apart way too easily, puckered appliques, even some that had the selvedge with the printing still attached to the fabric! But, like many other buyers probably do, I just made a mental note not to purchase from them again and moved on. I do have a fear of the posse of mean girls that will destroy a person if you happen to cross them. Some of those girls go beyond just a little bash on the buyer and will take it on to a personal level of attacks on their mothering skills, weight, appearance, anything to hurt them. I have seen some real ugly out there!

    I don't know how this little problem could ever be fixed though. I have seen buyers get completely blacklisted and not able to buy from hardly any designers just because one designer got her panties in a wad for getting called out on her quality of work. I think as long as there is a high school clique mentality in the custom world, this will continue forever. And with that said...I will be signing anonymously...

  11. What bothers me are that there are all these new groups coming out on facebook that are supposed to be the elite of designers. Who decides these designers are the best of the best? You know who it is? A core group of designer friends who get together and pick their friends and somehow convince buyers that they are better than others. Then, the buyer gets a product that is less than stellar and feels like there is no way they can complain because after all, these are the best designers out there--because so and so said it.

  12. I too am a designer and would appreciate it if someone said that something was wrong. I have had people say ribbons are too long or a skirt too short....but regaring skirts I have always put lengths in the description and some people dont read. BUT as a designer I have purchased items from some big names, been disappointed as well. With cheap fabric purchased from a big name store WM, I was appalled, seam allowances so wide that you can see through your seams etc. I have also purchase and found when a decorative ruffle was sewn too short and added on as an accent (they dont sew the dresses they just embellish them) they just pulled part of it straighter so it was all a little off. AND I will say I SAID NOTHING. Out of fear, you dont want to make waves with other designers, I have seen far too many public wars going on and it just makes everyone involved look bad. So out of fear of that, yeah I have kept quite. BUT when I get something amazing I will post it on my page, I will post on their page and I will tell everyone!

  13. Re: Myrinda commenting to say buyers don't know what quality is makes us sound like idiots. We know quality and we know poor quality too. Don't underestimate us.

    1. TOTALLY agree. That was insulting! I am a designer and a buyer of customs. I know what crappy work is!!

    2. Anonymous post 9:45 PM. You hit the nail on the head!