What's the deal with levi's being so different?
March 29, 2013 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I bought a pair of Levi 559 jeans at the Levi outlet store in Arizona about a year ago. I love them as they are stretchy which conforms better to me and ultra comfortable. However, in searching for similar materials at stores all over, I cannot find the same material and fit with the same 559's! My question is why this happens, why some jeans at say Macy's aren't the same size, fit and of a different material at say Penney's and how you deal with this as someone who hates to try on clothes? Thanks!
posted by gregjunior to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have an answer, but I do want to back up the OP's here about consistency: the black 517s I bought last year from JCP (big logo printed on inside of left front pocket) are made from a much lighter denim than the blue 517s I bought from a western-goods store a few years previous (no pocket logo, "boot cut" label on inside back of waistband).

Different factories, skimping on materials in newer production runs? Dunno.
posted by holgate at 2:32 PM on March 29, 2013

Basically what happens is that a clothing manufacturer has a piece of clothing that looks a particular way, and there's a lot of different ways to make that look. You can skimp on fabric, stitching, metal, basically every separate aspect of the article of clothing is another corner to cut. So if Store A wants to buy a gross of 559s and spend (pulling a number out of my ass) $5000, and Store B also wants a gross of 559s but wants to spend $3500, Levi's can fill both orders and the people who buy at Store A get the quality stuff and Store B get roughly the same product but with maybe a shittier zipper or scratchier fabric.

I can't tell you 100% that Levis works this way (even though I used them as an example) but this was definitely the case with a number of vendors I worked with when I was working with clothing.
posted by griphus at 2:33 PM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

(I work for a major retailer in a finance capacity. I only know enough retail so that I can understand how the numbers work, so I could be explaining it in an inexact manner.)

You're dealing with two separate issues.

One is that fabric and cut will continually evolve each season, even for the same style. Even the 501 has changed over the last 150 years.

Each style jean can be purchased in various fabrics, and each Wholesale customer is likely to trend towards their different customer base.

Second, every retailer will have various grades of each product. I've heard of first quality and second quality, but other retailers might have more grades. So the jeans at the outlet are usually made of a cheaper fabric. That's why they're marked down.

I actually sometimes prefer the cheaper fabric. They use less cotton (very expensive), and the blends are what provide the extra stretch.
posted by politikitty at 2:34 PM on March 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

A few years ago I read an article on slate.com about Walmart and how it strikes a deal with its suppliers - they provide cheaper versions of their product but with the same brand; this way Walmart can sell them at its price point and still make a profit.

I imagine this is not limited to Walmart. If I can find the article I'll post it later.
posted by bunderful at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2013

Actually, for Walmart and Target they typically negotiate a different brand. Googling, it appears that Levi's has Levi Signature for Walmart and Denizen for Target. It's similar to the Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic division.

So that's actually a third way that Retail Brands try to spread out to meet the needs of various consumers who have different price points.
posted by politikitty at 2:45 PM on March 29, 2013

Also backing up what the poster claims. Note that it's not a different line within the Levi's brand, it's the exact same line, and that's what makes it infuriating. I've had the same experience, but not with 559s. I've bought jeans from one line at Macy's for a full price, and a pair of the same line at a Levi's non-outlet store for the same full price, only to find that they were cut differently and one of them faded very nicely while the other refuses to fade at all.

For example, let's say I buy a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes at the Al's Grocery Store. They taste delicious, so I buy another box -- same tiger, same "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes" written across the front, same ingredients listed in the nutrition panel -- but I pick it up at Bob's Grocery Store. And then alas, I find that the one from Bob's is much crunchier, really too crunchy. Identical branding, but differently-made product.

I had a person at the Levi's store speculate that they were manufactured at different plants, but I don't know if that's a guess or if that's what happened.
posted by Houstonian at 3:13 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of big chain stores with a lot of buying power set the price they are willing to pay for a product and the supplier has to either supply the product at that price or not have their product in the big name store (Walmart is a killer at this). To get around this the suppliers cut costs where they can so that the stores can have the goods as the costs they want and the supplier can still make a profit.

That is why a Walmart KitchenAid mixer is not the same as the standard KitchenAid mixer and why Walmarts cheap electronics etc often times have different model numbers to the same products in different stores. The items look the same, but to get the cheap goods the quality is shot to hell, well that and it makes it harder for customers to compare costs of models when price shopping. It all comes down to the price that the store is willing to pay and what that store thinks it can get for it's products which ties in for the price points that politikitty mentioned.
posted by wwax at 3:43 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a previous question that asked this, and I linked to one article which discussed this, although this is under a different brand.
posted by ambrosen at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have found that what seems like a specific model number, like 501s or 557s, or Docker's Traditional Khaki, aren't actually model numbers. They are more like sub brands. Like how you can buy a Honda Civic for $18,000 or $28,000, depending on how decked out it is. If you want to know if you are getting the exact same product, check the UPC. You'll probably find that Nordstrom's version of the 501s are different than JCP's, even though they seem to have identical branding. If the UPC is the same, then any variation you see is normal manufacturer variation. If you look at the stacks of clothing in some stores, you can often see fabric variation between units in the same pile.

As for foods, I've always heard people saying there is a difference, but I've never been able to tell. Doritos from WalMart taste just like Doritos from Whole Foods. The only exception might be that some places get deals on products that are closer to expiration than normal. So when you see a $4.29 box of Rice Krispies at the normal store, the expiration might be 6 months from now. But when you see the same box at Menard's for $2, the expiration might only be a month away. The distributors make deals like this to unload excess stock.
posted by gjc at 5:00 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a person at the Levi's store speculate that they were manufactured at different plants

One of the things that has evolved more recently has been the to-order contract. In other words, there is no longer a "Levi's factory", but a clothing factory in Peshawar or Hanoi, and they are all competing for the Levi's contracts. Levi's [just an example, of course] will get an order for 500,000 559s and look for suppliers who can deliver. It's even to the point that suppliers will routinely subcontract out these orders.

When hundreds of workers died in a fire in Pakistan last year, Walmart considered the situation and decided that from now on, they had to actually know in what factories their apparel was being made.

So essentially a 10-story factory on the other side of the world could be making dozens of brand-name apparel at the same time, easily from competing brands and stores from a US perspective. Naturally, this sort of thing will also make a difference in the specific quality and properties of the materials used, such as where the cotton was grown.
posted by dhartung at 6:28 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like the 559s, too. I've got the same situation as well. I have two pairs, same size, but with a very different fit, to the point that I don't wear the second pair nearly as much now. It's annoying because when I got the first pair, I was thrilled to find jeans that felt good, and then the second (identical) pair was completely different.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:04 PM on March 29, 2013

Agreeing with what other’s have said about different stores have their own version of items, especially clothes. Along these lines I’ve heard many times that many "outlet stores" really just have cheaper clothes specially made just for those stores, they are not outlets in the sense of selling overstocks or old stock.
posted by bongo_x at 10:42 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Adding to the comments above, Levis can be a frustrating brand to follow because the numbers give you a false sense of same-ness. Using the 501 as an example, the style was recut this year - redesigned and updated, in other words. 501s are now tapered slightly rather than being straight. Some will prefer it. Some will be frustrated that their favorite jeans don't fit the same anymore. The 505 in particular has been radically redesigned twice over the last couple of years, though most of their other style numbers don't seem to have changed as much.

Another frustrating thing about Levis is that the fit of their jeans seems to vary from factory to factory even if the style is the same.

Levis makes some great jeans, but you cannot reply on their fit.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:31 AM on March 30, 2013

Man, I got one pair of 501's with a 32 inch leg and its a little long. Another "identical" pair and they look like I'm preparing for a flood. I might have bought them in different countries and the one may have been more prone to shrinking.
posted by Che boludo! at 7:43 PM on April 2, 2013

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