Do you care about packaging?

Friday, March 5th 2021
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A new customer over at the PS shop recently wrote an email to the support team that surprised me. In it he said he was ‘shocked’ that such luxurious products didn’t come in better packaging. He said he almost returned them on that basis.

Now the PS shirts are all crisply folded and packaged, and sent to customers in a nice purple-ribboned pouch. Quite a few readers have said how much they like those pouches. 

But they’re not wrapped in tissue paper, with a branded sticker, in a thick cardboard box. To me this always seemed to be in line with the PS approach to products in general - that we seek the very highest quality, but don’t pay for marketing, advertising, a physical store or anything else, and sell at a lower price as a result. 

Charging a chunk extra for luxury packaging would seem contradictory. I also dislike waste, and so hate the idea of sending out things that will be thrown away. I always ask tailors not to send a new hanger and garment bag with every suit, for that reason. 

And yet, there is a real pleasure in beautiful packaging.

Only twice in my life have I bought something that necessitated a large box from Hermes, and I still have both of them - they store knitwear on top of a closet, deliberately in view.

I also love the Anderson & Sheppard packaging, with its thick brown paper and board. Somehow it manages to feel both down-to-earth and luxurious at the same time.

I like the copper-coloured stickers you get at Trunk; pink tissue paper always reminds me of Stoffa; I have a lovely box from Santa Maria Novella that sits proudly in our glass-fronted bathroom cabinet.

But I know, at some level, that I paid more for all these things. They weren’t free - the company didn’t just take a hit on them out of the generosity of its heart. They made them because they felt it was expected for their type of product, and then they included it in the price. 

So is this something I should just accept and support, in the same way I think we should support brands and in particular, physical shops we believe in?

Or is there some third way, perhaps requesting with each purchase just the packaging we want, and want to pay for? (Ralph Lauren offers something similar, though you pay the same either way.)

Or, does that defeat the whole point - killing the romance of the thing by making it optional and transactional?

And then of course there’s the environmental impact. No matter how green the packaging is, it’s always more damaging to have it than not have it. 

A friend told me recently that when he worked at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, all the Tom Ford shirts were delivered to them in Tom Ford boxes. But they were sold in Bergdorf boxes. So every time a new shipment came in, the staff had to swap all the boxes round, and throw out the TF ones. 

It was suggested to Tom Ford that they didn’t need to send the boxes each time - but they said it was how their distributor sent them to all retailers, and it would be too complicated to change. 

This is an extreme example, but packaging at all the retail stage of the supply chain is still very wasteful, and is one of the big contributors to fashion’s impact on the environment. 

While some things can be re-used - such as those Hermes boxes, and the occasional suit bag - the vast majority is just thrown away. 

I don’t know what the answer is. But I think it’s an important topic that I haven’t seen discussed widely, and I’d be interested in the views of the - always informed and highly engaged - PS audience. 

I guess it has to be a balance. Brands can’t just throw shirts into a bag when they ship them, and studies from the likes of Patagonia show that some plastic is always required in the shipping process, because otherwise you damage the product itself, and waste more. 

But I do feel it’s something we should have a view on - even if it’s just making some types of luxury wrapping optional, and insisting on certain environmental requirements. 

Raising awareness like this could influence the brands we cover, showing them the popularity of taking these issues seriously. And it’s certainly something that can influence how PS products are packaged. 

Thoughts, rants and anecdotes welcome.