First there were Alexander Wang $225 cut-off sweatpants, then $395 spandex bike shorts. Next up in the line of everyday wardrobe items to get the upscale spin: khaki pants. Expensive designer khakis are everywhere this season, and are selling out mere months after they debuted on the runways from New York to Paris . The New York Times took on this trend, trying to decipher just why overpriced chinos have taken off despite the recession. Are they made from special fabrics? Do they have special embellishments worth their jaw-dropping price tags? Can anyone besides Goldman Sachs executives afford to wear them? The answers are often no. While tailoring may be impeccable, and the pants tend to be more form-fitting, it's often very difficult to tell a Dolce and Gabbana pair from a similar style at Old Navy.
Likewise, the price point for these designer khakis is confusing. We found an average pair of khakis by Rag and Bone for $240, while those by Alexander McQueen cost $925. Burberry chinos cost $452, but a high-waisted pair of Chloe pants retail for a whopping $1,155. The Times suggests that "since the luxury bubble burst, designers have no clue what customers are willing to pay." We'd have to agree.
When you can score a pair of Gap "original khakis" for $44.50, similar Levi's pants for $22, or J. Crew chinos for $59.50, what makes a designer pair worth the splurge? "The cost of creating those things has nothing to do with the price," David A. Aaker, the vice chairman of Prophet, a brand consulting firm, told the Times. "It is all about who else is wearing them, who designed them, and who is selling them." But one designer argues that his expensive khakis are fairly priced.
"It sounds crazy to say this, I know, but our pants are a steal," Designer Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders told the Times. His $550 khakis are made in Brooklyn, New York, using old-timey methods of tailoring. An 80-year-old jump iron heats and molds fabrics, while the cotton gabardine pants are stitched largely by hand. The fabric for one pair of pants is $54 for two yards, and they take four hours to make. Labor included, the cost of these khakis is $110. The doubled wholesale price is $220, which covers expenses, salaries, and hopefully a profit. Retailers typically mark these items up times 2.5, which is how a $110 pair of khakis sells at Bergdorf Goodman for $550.
Now, it's up to each consumer to decide if a handmade designer pair of chinos is worth big bucks, or it's better to spend a small fraction of the price on a mass-produced pair by a less luxurious brand. If they look alike, do we care? And how can you determine what is too much too spend? Check out the wide range of khakis in our slideshow and let us know what these pants are worth to you.[NY Times]