ModCloth, popular online retailer of vintage-inspired clothing, has a lot going for it: independent designers, an in-house collection, fair trade options, and diverse models and size ranges. But I don’t like them. I’ve placed a dozen or so orders over the past few years and have returned almost everything due to poor quality and fit.
I recently discovered that ModCloth purchases from the same LA fashion district warehouses as Forever 21 and other discount retailers. This wouldn’t be an issue if ModCloth garments were priced in the range of Forever 21. But they’re often quite expensive; full priced dresses start at $44.99 and tend toward the imported and cheaply made variety. Despite thinking I know a lot about the retail industry, it hadn’t dawned on me that ModCloth was using its wholesome reputation to generate absurd profit.
I purchased several pairs of domestically produced high waist jeans in the price range of 35.00 to 50.00 over the past year. A button fell off the first pair on the second wear. The second pair had a grossly off-center waist placket; when I exchanged it for another pair, I found the button hole impossible to fasten. When I got in touch with a representative to voice my quality control concerns, I was dismissed. The third pair I purchased went back due to a defect, as well. That one happened to be the last pair in my size and I noticed a few days after my return that the size was back in stock with 1 pair left, so I know they ignored the defect and resold them as new.
Poor Corporate Environment
As if quality control issues weren’t bad enough, I read recently that warehouse conditions are sub par, with grueling hourly processing expectations preventing employees from adequately looking over garments. The social environment is akin to that of my old employer; it’s a drink-the-koolaid-or-else mentality that offers all the surface level bells and whistles without any of the personal fulfillment or long term security.
I’ve gotta hand it to them for their genius social media and branding tactics that make them seem like a small but thriving happy band of social justice warriors. It’s genius because it isn’t quite true. ModCloth’s sales exceeded 100 million dollars last year. And in a recent interview with Mashable, co-founder Eric Koger, states, “We want the brand to come across as if Susan is still writing copy, not a big organization.” On some level, this makes sense and it’s certainly a great way to ensure personable customer service. But when customers are led to believe they’re supporting a small business, they’re more likely to overpay and over-advertise the company to their social networks. When they’re being duped into doing it for a large, established company like ModCloth, the feel-good branding doesn’t feel so good anymore.
I like some of the things ModCloth stands for: individuality, community, diversity. But I fear that it’s all a big marketing ploy. I fear it’s all smoke and mirrors to cover up widespread quality control issues, poor sourcing practices, and meh corporate standards.