premium

Recently we received a request to develop a premium men’s shirt line for someone we are already making nice shirts for.  Because we already make high-value shirts, the request instigated a discussion about the meaning of premium shirts.

Most of us intuitively understand that premium is a relative concept, at least when it comes to purchasing something other than an insurance policy.  The concept of premium evokes a feeling of above par, or above normal.

However we all have different normals.  What may be premium to one may not be to another.  When we shop for clothes, the concept of premium is usually brand related.  A J Crew shirt may be premium to the buyer who shops at JC Penny, but would not be to someone who frequents a store like Barney’s.

In the world of J Crew shirts, as an example, there are a few premium levels.  But what makes them premium?  It may be a combination of factors, tangible and intangible, like attention to detail, an arousal of indulgence, the feeling of something more uncommon, which all lead to the category of a higher quality.  Their basic and seasonal fashion shirts retail between the $60-70 range and premium goes up from there, in levels, from $80, 90, $150, up to a cool $380.  Fortunately, we have not taken clothes the way of the gasoline industry, which at one point had just regular and premium gasoline, but now have super and extra premium.

shuttle notes indigo flannel $200

shuttle notes indigo flannel $200

The term premium denim was born well over a decade ago as jeans evolved in exclusivity.  We think of premium denim as jeans that approach $100 and up.  Before my last trip, I tried on (market research, didn’t buy) a couple different styles of Ralph Lauren’s black label denim jeans that retail for better than $500 usd a pair.  The denim was superior, the finish and wash luxurious, the fit perfect, the styling exclusive.  The overall attention to detail and depth of quality far different than jeans in the lower end of the premium category.

In general, premium is considered something that is better made, something we’d pay extra for.  In the retail world, premium is a range between mass-market and luxury.

chimala japanese denim at J Crew, $380

chimala japanese denim at J Crew, $380

Most brands want to be considered premium, or if they are not, they need certain items that are, which makes sense because most of us look for a premium advantage when we shop.  We don’t want run-of-the-mill, at least not always.  On the flip side, if we always buy premium, then we develop a new normal, and an occasional and subtle craving for something even better, more premium.

I think I’ll stop here, having been hit by a craving to indulge in premium ice cream, which may help me think about the new premium shirt line.