National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Premium shirts, premium trouble
You are, of course, going to the Clean Show in a couple of weeks. Please attend my Educational Session hosted by Canadian Cleaners and Launderers Allied Trades Association on Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
It’s called “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Everyone in attendance will leave with a bunch of free gifts as well as a full understanding on why the future of this industry is very encouraging.
It’s easy to hear (or read) that statement, but understanding why it’s so true will give you the confidence necessary to make investments in your business and the injection of enthusiasm that you’ve been waiting for. It is one of the top reasons to attend the show, along with the one I have for you today.
Robert Gramm shirts are among the popular premium brands of shirts sold today. There are other brands, too. I have about a dozen of them and I am not the least bit happy about how my drycleaner is dealing with them.
Don’t get me wrong. I am very glad that I don’t own a plant anymore because dealing with these shirts would give me the fits! Some of the buttons are more than just thick, they are three-dimensional — and fragile, to say the least.
The good news is that at least one manufacturer guarantees the buttons for life (for free), but the bad news is that when I find one of my shirts with a broken button, not only will I not have the button with me, I will also not have the necessary means to attach a new button(s).
The one thing that you must come to terms with is that these specialty shirts are not your routine shirt. And if you try to overindulge in caution by washing and drying these shirts — or drycleaning them — and then steam-pressing them on a utility press, the resulting product will be poor, albeit intact.
A few months ago, I was putting on a favorite shirt. I knew that there was a broken button on one of the cuffs from a previous laundering, but, liking the shirt so much, I figured that I’d deal with it today.
I immediately noticed that the spare button in the tail was missing. This could only mean that at least one more button had been damaged!
When I went to button the cuff, I was mortified to see what is pictured in Photo 1! The spare button has been sewn onto the cuff, using white thread! And it was clearly sewn at the wrong place!! OMG! And, of course, the other button is broken. How can there be three problems with one cuff?!
But wait! There’s more!
I can hardly believe that I was still committed to wearing this shirt, but I went on to button the button-down collar buttons. Both of them crumbled in my hands. Color me furious. Look at Photo 2. Yikes!
The moral of the story is: Don’t do this!
These premium shirts should be treated as a different type of garment rather than one that needs and can endure routine commercial laundering and the associated pressing procedures.
These are unique garments and they present a new profit center opportunity like… No, I’m not going to say “like ladies’ blouses.”
Anyone who has been in this business for more than a few years knows how spooky it becomes to price a garment based on the wearer’s gender apparatus.
But this really is different. This is about caring for a garment — and charging appropriately commensurate with the work involved.
There are two ways to handle such shirts:
1. Remove all the buttons and secure them in a safe place. Then wash and press the shirt.
Do a really good job! Then return the shirt to your tailor and replace the buttons. This is worth at least $10 and your customer, who paid between $150 and $495 for this shirt, should have no problem paying this price.
But there are issues.
First, if you have been charging your customer $2.45 for this type of shirt, you will have a tough time quadrupling the price without stirring up a storm.
Next, removing and replacing buttons must be done with great care. And when you sew into the high-thread count cotton that these shirts are usually made of, you are more likely to “cut” into the fabric rather than sew in between the fibers. Read: You’re damaging the material.
Additionally, Photo 1 shows a nearly obscene replacement of a button with its misplacement (and notice the original holes).
Last, thread color is part of the design details. The shirt that I’m wearing now, as I type this, has all thick black buttons, but black thread is used everywhere except on the cuffs and the sleeve gussets. There the thread is red.
In all cases, the button thread matches the buttonhole stitching.
These are not routine garments. I stress that I am happy that I am not a wholesale shirt launderer trying to deal with this! It seems nearly impossible to contend with these shirts.
2. Alternately, you can remove only the cuff buttons.
These buttons could still be errantly resewn at the wrong place (again, Photo 1).
If you want to earn the reputation that you desire, you’ll need to be very careful and take note that the designer used red thread, but you would only be removing perhaps four buttons rather than 15.
With the cuff buttons removed, you can wash and press the shirt routinely — almost.
The shirt will need to be pressed, not on a traditional shirt unit, but on aform-finisher type shirt unit like the Hi-Steam Turbo 483, the SAM 451 or the Unipress V3. You may already have something like this in your plant.
These units will press a wet shirt and do a very good job without contact with a steam chest. Therefore, no damage to the buttons.
Once the shirt has been pressed, simply resewing the cuff buttons will complete the job.
You will have done a premium job on a premium shirt.
You might be tempted to not remove the cuff buttons and merely press only two-thirds of the cuff.
If you shifted the cuff so that the buttons are not lying on the buck, the head will miss the buttons, leaving them undamaged. This method will leave the cuff partially unpressed.
Why not do it right and pass the cost onto the customer? While you’re at the Clean Show, why not look at a new piece of equipment that will help you create a new profit center?
The customer demand exists.
“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!”
Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering