Sewing Vloggers

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Merchant & Mills

 

photo courtey Merchant & Mills

While they call it their "Style and Purpose" it appears to be what we in the US call a mission statement. 

CAROLYN DENHAM AND RODERICK FIELD BEGAN MERCHANT & MILLS IN 2010 WITH THE

INTENTION OF BRINGING STYLE AND PURPOSE TO THE OVERLOOKED WORLD OF SEWING.


Are they bringing style and purpose to your sewing? And just who is overlooking us?

I see their patterns in my local quilt/rogue garment fabric shop. I am not intrigued to buy them. Who are they appealing to? This sort of merchandising does not motivate me to buy their patterns and I would venture that anyone who has a love for this craft might feel the same. 

These pattern covers do nothing to promote sewing at even the most basic level. Denham and Field have clearly chosen to appeal to an unknowing new sewist and pretty much tell them it's OK to make clothing look like crap. Iron? nevah. Fit? What's that about? Color? This year and all others it is  female Russian prison warden blah and if you use any semblance of  the primary colors you have your garment merchandised to the masses in a dark room, what you would imagine as a place where the first stages of war time torture take place. 


photo courtesy Merchant & Mills
While they are entitled to their aesthetic, what the hell does this anorak really look like before it is washed fifty times?  Now I know I can go on line and see it modeled in a dark room by a sullen faced model who seems a bit depressed over their clothing or maybe even something else. I don't know. Field is a photographer and the photos are quite artsy, but are they selling me? Not really. They just tell me he is a good photographer.  This appeal to my wallet is just too dark and heavy for my dollars to fly out. 

photo courtesy Merchant & Mills
Now this is a tee shirt I would be really proud to spread compost in. I mean, really. I know my husband got mad at me once for buying him tee shirts like this from Walmart with a lecture to never buy him tee shirts again. He will take care of that part of our relationship, thank you kindly.


Who and what are we appealing to here?  Is it me? Am I missing something for liking a neat neckband on a tee? Am I odd for wanting a pattern to show me something that will make me look pretty or at least a little special while going about my simple day? Am I being a snob for expecting someone who wants me to sew their pattern to show me a well made garment that fits well? Is it not OK to want a photo on the cover of something I can aspire to, dream about, buy fabric for? What do you think? .....Bunny

ETA: What is really sad is that the newbie sewist that is drawn into this is being led down a path of low standards. They believe designers with pattern envelopes all over creation must be experts, must know style, must know quality.  Well I am here to tell you M&M proves they don't. There is a whole world of patterns out there for all sewists and there are all sorts of patterns for all of us and so many are wonderful.  Surely M&M can set a higher standard with its marketing and merchandising. ....Bunny.......more below...


Another ETA: Last night a great analogy occurred to me for this situation.  Waffle Patterns makes absolutely fabulous and detailed outerwear patterns as well as other garments.  They are modern and expensive looking and I would buy this one in a heartbeat if I go to make this sort of jacket, which I may for next winter.  Since their photos are locked, please check out this link: the Waffle Patterns Walking Jacket.  
Here is a link to their main page.   How does their marketing compare for you?  If you had never seen either pattern before and then saw each in an envelope on a spinner rack, which would you buy?  I sure know which I would walk away from. I love the detail on the Waffle designs, they are clearly presented, in enticing color, and for those who want models who look like them (which I personally don't insist on but get it), the focus is on the garment, not the model, as most designs are on mannequins or faces are cut off.  I know which one I would buy, no brainer for me. I am sure we all have things appeal to us for various reasons deep in our psyches. For me, Waffle is the gold standard. 

32 comments:

  1. Thank you for the laughs. They aren't my cup of tea either. I do know someone who likes M&M patterns and sews them regularly. She is a very very good seamstress. And her finished products look much better than the patterns. But I am with you and feel the same about a lot of indie patterns. Some of them are so incredibly simple. It is like they are reinventing the wheel. Jean

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  2. I had the same reaction, Bunny. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what they were attempting. It is truly laughable. Thanks for stopping me from questioning my reaction to them
    Anne

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  3. I think you should try one of their patterns before you criticise them so harshly. They are well drafted and the instructions are excellent. You can’t judge by looks alone as most women surely know!!

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    1. I am not judging their drafting and instructions at all. They may be fabulous. What I am criticizing here is there marketing. It sets a visual standard as all marketing does on a pattern envelope. This is not fair to less experienced sewists who could easily assume that if it looks like that on the envelope the most basic of sewing skills need not be employed, as in ironing seams open or fitting a neckband properly. They deserve better and actually deserve to have the best details of garments shown to them, not slop work like that tee shirt.

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  4. One of the best entries in the category "How Not to Sell Your Pattern" that I've ever seen! I too want to see what the garment actually looks like not art photography.

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    1. Agree. That first pic, I am not sure if it is a robe or a coat for the cold weather. Actually, I can't really tell what it looks like at all. As many have said before me many times about pattern envelopes, give me a photo that shows the details clearly, not hidden by hair or posing, or poor lighting. How many times have I seen the Big Four and numerous kids Indies dissed because of just this? Well, I am dissing this because I can't figure what kind of robe or jacket this is from that photo. While I always go to the line drawings, I shouldn't have to for that first visual, IMO.

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  5. You made me laugh! I don't understand the darkness of the photos on their website either. But then I'm retired and probably not their target audience. However, some of their outerwear appeal to me. I know a couple of people who made the anorak and found it well drafted and I love their finished garments.
    I do think they know what they are doing pattern-wise. And lots of things don't appeal to me. And there is one company out there that I love their esthetic but they are not drafting from my body. Luckily there are multiple companies.

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    1. Definitely. It's good that there are now lots of niche companies specializing in certain looks or sizes, something for everyone.

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  6. Maybe they are going for the casual, no ironing, easy care crowd? But there's a fine line between that and sick in bed all day rumpled mess.
    Absolutely, I'd rather see the garment in an advertisement. That's why I gave up buying fashion magazines long ago - all mood, aspirations, styling/staging of the set, snarling/pensive/starving/zoned-out models, no hint of happiness or joy allowed. Showing the garments, or even jewelry and other accessories, to best advantage was a rarity.

    My work wardrobe was a casual top or sweater, jeans, and sneakers. Since retiring, I live in t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants, so I admit I'm no style standard to aspire to. BUT - I expect better from advertisements. If I want depressing, I'll watch the news.

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  7. I totally disagree with you. The big four companies have 6-foot tall and Size 00 models showing most of their clothes, even occasionally putting a "normal-sized" girl into a Size 18. Sometimes I wish the photos were darker!! I am 73 years old, tall and not so slim, and I don't find anything remotely wearable in Vogue's spring catalog. Cut out midriff? cold shoulders? Please, no thanks. I find I am creating and wearing a "uniform" of sorts. Good basic blouse? Make it five times in various cottons. Good basic dress? Same, maybe one dressier for funerals and outings. I live in the Midwest, and don't "dress" to go to the supermarket, but I still like to look put together. Merchant & Mills are excellent for what I need. PS I look at the back of the patterns in the big four books for a truer idea of construction and fit details. Same with M&M. Website photos = six-foot tall models.

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    1. I understand where you are coming from but I am also over 70 and barely five feet tall at this stage of my life. I still like looking at beautiful, smiling, fit, people modeling patterns in a way that I can see the details. I've made my point here that they make me feel good and give me aspirations but mostly it is a technical thing. I want to be able to tell if it is a princess seam or not on a garment, little things like that. If that first impression inspires, I will search out the schematics and yardage info and go from there. M&M just reminds me of the dirty laundry piles in my brother's closets growing up. They don't inspire me. But, let me also say that fashion details come and go and you can take them and leave them. You will always have detail that you don't like. I certainly do. I just don't buy those patterns. But, who wears the pattern, their size, weight, whatever, does not bother me as long as they present themselves as pleasantly as I think most of us would when we check out at the market --- with a simple smile or even the hint of one. There is one exception to that for me, a great bit of artwork also works for me, one with lots of detail of the garment.

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    2. To jmsx3 - It's just not true that the big four companies use size 00 models - what decade are you in? Check them out. It's actually insulting to the plus-size models in Simplicity, McCalls & Butterick to cling to outdated comments. Unless you're only looking at Vogue; if so, that's your problem. And to those who can't look past fabric chosen by the Big 4 - again, your problem. Lack of imagination is no reason to dis the Big 4.

      I found Bunny's post funny, and agree that the combination of photography, lack of ironing, styling all add up to a garment that doesn't appeal. That doesn't mean I don't like some of M & M's fabrics, colors, or possibly some of their patterns (not sure, as I haven't tried any). One way that I check out what patterns look like is to see what real sewers show in their reviews. Can't say that I've seen too many M & Mills patterns that look good on anyone.

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  8. Well and humorously put, Bunny! I have the same reaction although I see from my blogs that some people are big M & M fans, so there must be something good there. However, I am too chicken to spring for the pattern or the fabrics based on the pictures, because I am a beginning sewist. What works for me is seeing someone wear the piece. When I took a rare expedition to Stonemountain & Daughter, the owner was wearing the very simple 100 Acts of sewing Dress #1 and it looked fabulous on her. I bought the pattern, which has just a crude outline of a dress on the cover and no photo, and I bought the same fabric she was wearing, and I am very pleased with the result. I even made another one. Now I am ready to sew something more complicated. It really helps to see it in real life.

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    1. It definitely inspires to see a garment in the "right" environment. Congratulations on finding this wonderful craft.

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  9. PS That's why I love your blog so much!! You show us what the patterns and fabrics really produce. I learn a lot from you but even if I didn't I would love your blog.

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    1. You are so sweet, nestki. A lot of my inspiration comes from people I see out in public, street wear or just great dressers, just the way you ran into that owner. I went into a very high end art/craft store a few days ago. One of the sales staff had on a SPECTACULAR duster of floating silk in a print to die for. She moved around the showroom and it just floated around her like a fluffy cloud. I wanted to go home and make one so badly but much more was in the queue before I would cough up at least a hundred dollars for similar fabric. So, yes, see clothing on real people or other environments really inspires. You are going to make a great sewist.

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  10. Too funny, I just ordered one of their dress/top patterns earlier this week. It should be here next week. Fingers crossed. Glad to read that others have written they are well-drafted patterns in the comments. This will be my first Merchant and Mills pattern. But I do agree, as a sewist, the artsy photographed pattern covers do nothing to inspire a upcoming sewing project.

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    1. Thanks, Graca, for your comment. You get my post and that it is the merchandising of the product, not the drafting that I am complaining about. Appreciate your comment.

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  11. I totally agree about the advertising! I haven’t bought one of their patterns because I feel like I can always find something similar in my stash or from Joann’s for much less. I am not drawn to their patterns because of their advertising. I have seen garments made up on Instagram and when I found it was an M and M pattern, I’d go check it out on their website. The photos of it and mood totally would make me say..”Um, no..I’ll find something else” time and again. I am a 36 year old woman. I think their aesthetic is like workwear/minimalist/moody? When I first started sewing the minimalist tees (and overall aesthetic)and such helped me gain confidence. But I felt like my femininity and love of color suffered. Now what I love is that I can have it all! All my colors, minimalist tee for the garden work, and neutrals and ruffles, pintucks, robe like jackets…I love it. So thankful for it all.

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  12. When I came back to sewing after being forced out of the jobs market, I naturally gravitated to the big 4 patterns. I was appalled at the styling and fabrics chosen to sell the products. They in no way represented current fashion or what I wanted to wear. I found the Indies and haven't looked back. The aesthetic of M&M is different and does appeal to younger sewers I find. I have just finished the September coat and love it.

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    1. Surprise, several of the makers in their gallery have very white hair! Again, it's not the garments. It's the marketing. Did you not read the reply above from jmsx3 who is 73 years old and loves them?

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  13. Hilarious and so true. They may be well drafted but it would be very difficult to buy one and find out.

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  14. It's ALL about the marketing. I've been fooled so many times by "aesthetic" (are we tired of that word now?) that it makes me suspicious of pattern quality (drafting, fit, trueing, grading). I wish that patternmakers would invest more in product and less in image and "statements".

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    1. Appreciate your comments, Janet, as I know you are a great pattern maker.

      I remember when PDFs first arrived on the scene and every mom stuck home with kids who could make a rectangle and was computer savvy started putting out a pattern line. Kudos to them for giving it a good try. I do admire that. Prior to this we never really worried much about kids pattern drafting but it soon became pretty evident that much inexperience and ill fit was being hidden by happy, wildly twirling children and big hair over the shoulder seams. Yay, for product improvement, Nay for image. Give me clarity so I know what I am getting as well as something that makes me want to buy. That tee shirt image is an incredible turn off.

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  15. Thanks for giving me food for thought. I agree with you on many points. I buy patterns based on the line drawings. Period. I'm not an easy target for marketing and am rarely pulled in by pattern envelope presentations. If Merchant and Mills gets anyone sewing- good ! Newer/younger folks sewing, at any skill level, infuses our craft with a future. I remember the first thing I sewed and how much I've learned since then. So I don't look at anyone's garments with a critical eye and advise unless it is requested. I have a friend who is wildly creative and technically not a tidy stitcher. I love her things and she loves mine that are more precise. I'm 71 and just recently found a sewing friend who is close to me in size. She sews a ton- 100 garments in the first year of the pandemic. By trying on her things I can instantly tell if I can use a pattern. Super lucky me! BTW- she's a tad older than me, very chic and has made a few wonderful M & M garments.

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    1. I envy you, having such a wonderful sewing friend. I also am in agreement about criticizing sewists and their makes, especially the less experienced. Here I am finding fault with the two adults who are marketing to them. They have every opportunity to show them how great a tee shirt can be made by the new sewist, which truly is a awesome accomplishment, and yet they totally fail at that. Instead they show them the equivalent of a tee built on a production line off shore by child labor under great duress to do the right piece work number. It is very very sad, IMO.

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  16. I totally agree. When I first saw one of their envelopes I was shocked that that was how they wanted to show to the world their garment. Then I thought, OK that's what they want, this is what I want, and walked away. Each to their own

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  17. Why would anyone want to wear such unflattering clothes? When my 96 year old mother was in rehab and all her clothes disappeared, I went to Goodwill and bought a whole new wardrobe that looked better than these sad clothes for pennies on the dollar. Sewers don't want to waste time and money looking so bad do they?

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  18. I couldn't agree more. I have never understood the mystique. Oh, and the prices!

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