Chef Stephen Wambach of SMW - Palm Springs - NOVA chef jacket by Clement Design
This may have happened to you; your new chef clothes look like they have suddenly aged three years after a single wash. There’s now a hole opened in the crotch of your expensive pants you’ve only had for a couple months. Or even a loose thread hanging from your chef coat after just a few years, threatening a much great unraveling.
Today we will see that not all clothing is made to last, especially in the culinary field. Some may argue that the quality of clothing, in general, is in decline. The culprit? A global fashion system prioritizing a cheap price tag coupled with lightning-fast production. Today people are constantly shopping and always on the look-out for more new stuff. The result of this has created a culture of disposable, low quality clothing, especially in the culinary world.
Of course, giving up cheaply made, poor quality clothing is easier said than done. If you want to purchase high-quality chef clothing that’s made to last, you’d need to understand what you should look for when shopping. The reality is that many of us just aren’t sure what to look for.
Co-author of The Fashion Condition and an assistant professor of fashion design and sustainability at Parsons School of Design in New York, Timo Rissanen has noted that “With the kind of crappy quality fast fashion that dominates the garments available to us today, there’s a whole generation growing up that don’t really have any sense of what makes a good-quality fabric and what makes a good-quality garment.”
The good news; you don’t have to be an expert in clothing concepts to judge whether that item you have your eyes on are high quality or not. Thankfully, Clement Design uses some of the highest quality materials available and pairs that with quality manufacturing techniques required to consistently produce the best chef clothing available on the market today. In addition, there are also a few basic tips and other sources that can help you find whether an item is made to last.
CHECK THE LABEL
HERITAGE executive chef jacket label - 100% Egyptian cotton
A garment’s fabric content definitely matters when it comes to producing high quality clothing. People commonly prefer fibers extracted from plants and animals such as silk, linen, wool, and cotton but synthetics make up a growing share of our wardrobes in the form of spandex, polyester and other manmade fibers spun using plastics and petrochemicals.
Synthetic fibers offer qualities that natural fibers do not, such as stretch. These are often blended with natural materials to create fabrics that feel a lot like natural fibers. Unfortunately, blended fabrics do not improve with repeated laundering the way natural fibers can. For example, drying a cotton-polyester blend can shrink the fibers at different rates slightly changing the shape of the garment. Using two quality fabrics (either natural or manmade) without blending them is the most ideal situation when creating high quality and long-lasting clothing.
WHEN IN DOUBT
HERITAGE hand-made button quality
Let your hand be the guide. The best way to judge a fabric, whether it is knit or woven, is to touch it. If it feels thin, or brittle and rough, chances are that its quality is low. On the other side, you want something that is smooth, soft, and substantial.
The final trait, substantial, is most important because the more fiber there is, the more likely the clothing is to last longer. Although a fabric doesn’t necessarily need to be heavy to be good. If the fibers are tightly packed, but thin, the cloth can still be lightweight. You really want to look and feel for density.
Another simple way to judge what high-quality clothing is would be to just take a look in your closet. Which items have held up over time and which haven’t? Examine your own clothes you’ve worn for years to get insight as to what has allowed them to age well. Is it the combination of materials used, what country they might have been manufactured in, maybe just the brand itself produces consistent quality products?
Touch is part of the answer, but not always. Manufacturers may add some sorts of chemicals, or even something as simple as starch to make cloth feel heftier and smoother. This creates a nice surface on that button-up or t-shirt on the hanger which can disappear as soon as it’s washed. You may try holding the cloth up to the light. Pay attention to the individual yarns as the more tightly spun they appear, the better.
THE SEAM CHECK
Pocket seam FIRENZE chef jacket
You can have high-quality fabrics but if they aren’t properly assembled you could have a worthless piece of clothing that won’t last long. It’s very important to check the seams which hold the garment together. The stitches should always be even, closely spaced, and lying flat on the fabric itself.
Don’t just look at the outside either, have a look in the inside of the garment as well. If you check a hem on a shirt, or the inside of a crotch on a pair of pants you’ll get a better sense of how the piece of clothing was assembled. Does the seam look sloppy? Are there spots where the stitching appears to be loose or stitched over multiple times? These are all warning signs which could lead to wear very early on.
Other signs of poor quality and manufacturing aren’t always easy to spot because they are often the result of skipping steps. For example, the best way to construct a crotch seam involves using two stitches of different lengths with one running over the top of the other. This reinforces the crotch seam which is important because that is the highest stress area on a pair of pants.
Another flaw you could look for would be on shirt collars, cuffs, and waistbands on pants. These should have interfacing layers which creates structure that you can feel when handling the garment. Without these, areas can become misshapen and flimsy over time.
These are just a few of many issues you’d want to watch for that indicate a product may be made hastily and without quality in mind. On the flip side, if you take a look on the interior of the garment and it looks just as clean as the finished exterior, you may just be in good hands. High-end brands will even put ‘binding’ on the seams so there are no exposed fabric edges.
QUALITY WILL COST YOU
Hidden snap button quality FIRENZE chef jacket
The reality, like with most things, is that if you’re looking for premium chef clothing, you’ll most likely be paying for it. Here’s the caveat; while a very cheap item is typically going to be of low quality, a high price tag doesn’t always necessarily indicate good quality. This is why you want to know what you’re looking for.
So why are cheap clothes cheap? The two largest costs of making a garment are the fabric and the labor. To lower production costs you can push one or both of those down. Fabrics that start from lower grade materials are cheaper, or a manufacturer may use less fiber to keep the price down.
Manufacturers lower labor costs by cutting the sorts of corners we mentioned earlier to churn out more clothes per hour, and to decrease what they may be paying their workers. Products made in developing countries may be more likely to use these exploitative labor practices, but it’s present everywhere.
Chef Andres Lara of Melissa Coppel - Chocolate Pastry School - B-SHIRT by Clement Design
Use these tips when purchasing to find high-quality garments, but keep in mind that these are tips for finding clothing that will last you years. Even a poorly made garment has potential to hold up fine if you wear it just a handful of times. For something like your chef wear you really want to purchase the best of the best. Which is why we here at Clement Design offer some of the highest quality garments made with the highest quality fabrics available. We have chefs vow that their jackets have lasted them 5+ years of constant wear.
When it comes to wearing a garment for years make sure you really enjoy its style as well – so choose judiciously and avoid impulse shopping based on price. Replacing several $25 jackets over a year is much more expensive then replacing a $44 FIRENZE jacket once every 7 years, yes, that long.
In all, we hope you take away some information as far as finding quality clothing whether in the field of chefs or not. This information holds true for most manufacturing practices and what you should be looking for.