Consumer advocate: What can you expect from an expensive shirt?

While in Edinburgh this summer I happened to stop by Harvey Nichols and found their sale was on. I scored a cracking deal on a pair of Red Wing boots, and found an interesting shirt as well. The shirt is green, in a slightly military cut, and made from “Tencel“. This grabbed my attention, as I’d not come across it before. A quick Google had it described as “The most environmentally friendly fabric known to man”, or something to my effect. Right up my alley then! The shirt was by a company unknown to me, John Elliott, and was reduced from around 400 pounds to a more palatable 100 or so.

And it’s a fine looking shirt! With the “Tencel” angle it is also a good basis for another post about alternative and more environmentally sound fabrics.

Except. After wearing it 4 times it looks like this under the arms. Now this is something I’ve never had happen to a shirt before, be it cheap or more expensive, so I’m wondering: Is is the maker that is pretty shit, or is it the wonder fabric Tencel that is pretty shit?

photo-09-09-2016-07-29-17

I need to find out, as to my mind a shirt that retails at around 400 pounds, which usually gets you a pretty decent jacket, should be significantly better in all ways than cheaper variants. It’s made in China as well, so there’s not even a handmade in America aspect to explain the price. Oh, you’re saying it’s the designer name that bumps the price up? Maybe, though it’s still pretty damn crummy quality.

So, given my success with regards to Dr Martens at the #solegate saga of splitting soles, I popped a mail off to John Elliot customer support:

“Hi, I purchased a “Season seven” shirt this summer at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh. Lovely shirt, I really like it, but I just noticed that after wearing it 4 times it is coming apart under the arms. I have not washed it yet, as it has only been carefully worn. Please see attached photos.

Is this a quality issue with your shirtmaker or the Tencell fabric? And what can we do about it?”

And after a few hours this reply arrived:

“Hi Nick, Thanks for your reaching out. Because our stockists operate completely independently from us, any purchases made from them are subject to their terms and conditions, including their return policy. I recommend reaching out to Harvey Nichols for more information.

Thanks, Matt”

Obviously the standard customer service “get loste” reply, but ok, I’ll play ball, so I sent this one off to Harvey Nichols customer support at the crack of dawn on Friday morning:

“Hi, I purchased a John Elliot “Season seven” shirt this summer at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh. Lovely shirt, I really like it, but I just noticed that after wearing it 4 times it is coming apart under the arms. I have not washed it yet, as it has only been carefully worn.

Please see attached photos. Purchase date was July 7th.
This is pretty surprising, given that it was a 400 pound shirt! I have been in touch with John Elliott and they said this was your problem.
What can we do about it?”
Come Monday after noon I’d still not had a reply, even after a couple of nudges by way of Twitter and Instagram, so I sent a brief followup mail, with a copy to their press email:
“With no reply received so far, I’m resending this.”
Tuesday afternoon arrives and I’m getting a litt more fed up at the slack response, so out goes this, again to the press address and also to their “fashion” person. You never know, right? Oh, I also posted a link to this post on the John Elliot Facebook page.
“Hi Harvey Nichols,
I’m disappointed to have received no reply to my polite email complaining about my shirt.

You may like to follow this: (link to this blog post)”

Third time lucky, as quite late in the evening this arrived:
“Dear Nick,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your John Elliot shirt.
Firstly, we would like to apologise for the delay in our response; please rest assured that we take your feedback very seriously.
As we would like to address your issue with the shirt as quickly as possible and may require further information, can you please provide a contact telephone number so a member of the management team can call you? 
Sadly we have not received the image you kindly supplied initally, would it be possible to resend them to us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Clair

CLAIR BROWN

CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE TEAM LEADER”

Now this is more like it! Finally we have some forward motion in the matter! So I replied with the details requested and resent the images of the damaged shirt. The next day I got a fairly timely reply:
“Dear Nick,
thank you for getting back to us, and for kindly providing images of your John Elliot shirt once again.
We have passed your details and these images on to the Management team in our Edinburgh store to investigate, and will be in touch soon.
Thank you for your continued patience.

Kind regards,

Holly

HOLLY COCHRANE

CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE ADMINISTRATOR”

And hot on the heels of this, yet another mail. We have acceleration now!

“Hello Mr Johannessen,

My name is Euan and I’m the Menswear Manager of Harvey Nichols Edinburgh. Your email was forwarded on to me this afternoon from our Customer Service Centre.

Firstly please accept my sincere apologies regarding your experience with your John Elliot shirt. At Harvey Nichols we pride ourselves on selling the finest quality garments and it’s very disappointing when we fall short on this.

I will be investigating this and will come back to you very soon.

Kind regards,

Euan

EUAN BOYEK

SALES MANAGER  |  MENSWEAR”

At this point I think Harvey Nichols have taken the matter seriously, which is great. What I would really like to see is John Elliott, the maker of the shirt, do a little more than just politely request that I get lost.
I just noticed that the ever vigilant folks at John Elliot have removed my post from their Facebook page, but after 2 follow-up mails from me have yet to come up with a better reply than their initial “get fscked, mate”. For a company that makes a big deal about being “FOCUSED ON CREATING FUNCTIONAL YET MODERN FITS WITH UNIQUE FABRICS. WE PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS THAT MATTER.” this is disappointing.
I’d best post my link to the John Elliott Facebook page again. You are free to like and comment there.
Another development! Euan, the menswear manager at the Edinburgh branch where I purchased the shirt just called me. We had a pleasant chat and I’m very pleased he made the effort. He suspects that the shirt fabric, being 100% Tencel, is the problem as Tencel is more commonly used in a blend with cotton. This could well be the case. He has offered me a full refund if I mail the shirt back, which is generous. He will also forward the matter to the Harvey Nichols purchasing team for them to follow up with John Elliott. So maybe the truth of the matter will be revealed? Oh, and Euan is obviously following the blog! 🙂
And shortly after he follows up with a mail. This is text-book customer service now by Harvey Nichols!

“Hello Mr Johannessen,

Further to our telephone conversation earlier today I’m pleased to confirm our offer to refund your faulty John Elliot shirt. As discussed please post the shirt for my attention to:

Harvey Nichols address

We will also be happy to refund any postal charges incurred. Once we receive the shirt we will call you for details in order to process the transaction.

I will also follow up with our buying team in London, who will contact John Elliot directly. If we receive any feedback I will keep you informed.

Once again, please accept our sincere apologies and thank you for your patience while we resolve this issue for you.

I hope to welcome you to Harvey Nichols again in the future.

Kind regards,

Euan

EUAN BOYEK
SALES MANAGER  |  MENSWEAR”

And finally! A further mail from John Elliott!

“Hi Nick,

Thanks for following up.

We consider Harvey Nichols a valued partner and wanted to clarify the relationship we have with them and all of our other stockists.

Since they are a wholesale partner of ours, they purchase product from us and as a result those products become part of their inventory which then becomes subject to the terms and conditions of their store.

I can understand how this scenario can be frustrating, and for that I do apologize.

We are pleased to see that your case has been escalated, please keep us updated as we endeavor for all of our customers regardless of where they interact with our brand to receive exceptional customer service.

If for any reason you do not receive a reply from the staff at Harvey Nichols, please don’t hesitate to reach back out to us, and we would be happy to put you in touch with the appropriate person.

Thanks,

Victoria Velazquez
Customer Experience Manager”

Now… I don’t want to seem ungrateful, as they have sent a reply, but it’s not much is it and it’s taken a week. So the moment to “exceptional customer service” has long passed by and they have still not replied to my actual original question, which I’d like to rephrase a little:

1) Is 100% Tencel a fabric that is patently inappropriate for a garment that will be worn in a manner that is entirely reasonable for a more regular issue fabric?
2) Do John Elliots shirtmaker in China make really poor shirts, and certainly not shirts commanding an unusually hefty price tag?
3) Is there perhaps some physiological aspect of my upper body that promotes excessive wear in the under arm region (and has somehow materialised now, event though I have never experienced this before)?
It’s not that hard, it just means giving a straight answer.
The shirt is now on it’s way back to Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh and I look forward to their evaluation.
photo-17-09-2016-10-42-37-1
I’ve also mailed the above questions to John Elliott, as I am genuinely curious. I will let you know if a reply is forthcoming.
Oh, and my post on their Facebook page has got a couple of comments!
john-elliott-facebook-comments
Keep coming back for further developments in this exciting tale! In the manner of John Oliver, hashtag #shirtgate #johnelliotco #overprisedgarments #dubiousquality #ignorecomplaints #fantasticbusinessmodel
What would you expect from an expensive shirt such as this?

 

10 Responses to “Consumer advocate: What can you expect from an expensive shirt?”

  1. James Tate-Smith

    I’d expect much better performance all round to be honest. Note to avoid all parties concerned including Tencel. Thanks for the heads up.

    Reply
  2. Frances Gum

    Hi, Well Dressed Dad,

    I started reading your blog when you were making a waistcoat, I found it useful whilst making the same garment for hubby!

    I have been around a long time, as has the fabric your shirt is made of, I have to say I think the fabric is putting it mildly rubbish, stick with your natural fabrics, they’ve been around much longer.

    I wish you luck with your complaint, keep plugging away…..I would do the same, think I’d also stay away from the brand, a hefty price for a made I China garment….I don’t think so, not that I’m denegrating the Chinese workers but if I was paying £400 for a shirt I think I would like it to be made somewhere where they had better pay & working conditions.

    I will look forward to hearing the outcome of said shirt.
    I enjoy reading your blog & hub us appearance has improved greatly since I found it, keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad

      Hi Frances, thanks for very kind feedback. Sewing projects will commence soon! I have to finish the waistcoat, and get started on a jacket and a pair of trousers (both should be really great).

      Reply
  3. Jan Pospíšil

    I’ve not heard of tencel as a particularly environmentally friendly material, but I suppose it is. (being made from wood and all that)
    The main draw, I thought, was similar properties to linen (so good for summer), but more durable and a lot less easily wrinkled.

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad

      It was the environmental aspect that caught my eye, though further research shows it’s really similar to other viscose material made from pulped plant mass. So far it doesn’t appear to be very durable though, and does seem to wrinkle a lot!

      Reply
  4. Andy Park

    That’s awful from all parties concerned, especially the maker – and as someone said, £400 for a Chinese made shirt is astronomical when you can have a bespoke shirt made in UK from Alumo Cashmerello or similar cloth for less.

    I have a pair of off-the-peg Meyer trousers which feature the natural fibre Kapok, makes for a beautiful handle and shows no sign of excessive wear at the moment. Best of luck getting a satisfactory resolution

    Reply
  5. Einar

    Hot côture comes to mind. Really expensive clothes you only wear once.
    Fill your face with some botox so any wrinkles that you may or may not have will disappear, and then change your blogg from welldressed to hotcôturedad.
    That will be the day when you’re being dragged down the street by Rupert because you on your highheals can’t tag along.

    Remove comment if you find it offending. Hehe.

    Reply
  6. Colin

    There’s nothing wrong with Tencel.

    As you bought the shirt from a store in the UK you have a perfectly straightforward right to a refund. Phrases like “not of merchantable quality” , and “not fit for purpose” are the ones to get the attention of a retailer. Along with the Sale of Goods Act and the Consumer Rights Act.

    And while the shirt maker might be perfectly correct in saying that it is an issue for the retailer to resolve, it was a pretty poor response from them.

    Reply
  7. Darryl

    Thats appalling. Of course, shops like Harvey Nicks have high prices simply because they are supposed to somehow add value simply by chosing to sell the item – much like an overpriced painting in an expensive art gallery; but those holes look like the material is disintegrating!
    On the subject of ‘natural’ materials, I noticed something recently on a faux leather made from mushrooms. It looked excellent quality and sound great fun. I wonder if you have come across this? Perhaps a future feature would be enlightening.

    Reply
  8. Steve

    Companies utilize experimental fabrics on occasion…and on occasion they don’t work out. Sounds like Tencel is one of those fabrics. Such companies typically aren’t intentionally trying to pawn an inferior product, and are trying to do something new and even environmentally friendly. Too bad the shirt cost what it did, even at £100, since it obviously isn’t wearable more than a time or two.

    Reply

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