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. 

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George

I recently bought a few bits and was actually quite impressed by the packaging – especially for shipping I thought it made sense to package soft and that it was quite luxe and elegant.

No offence to that reader, but they sound like a snob.

Karol

It’s kind of like saying “with all due respect”. But seconded, that guy probably is a snob. Writing a complaint because you didn’t like the packaging or making a return for that reason? This sounds like a party story from somebody working in customer service.

Mike

Thought provoking piece Simon. I think it’s quite natural that if you’re spending a fair amount of money on a garment that you expect some decent packaging. However I tend to be more pleased with the personal touch. I recently bought an item from Luca Faloni and the packaging was fairly organic but beautifully done but there was just a simple note inside thanking me for returning to buy something from them again, to me this more important.

Anonymous

I like the garment bags Luca F provide for their knitwear.I invariably roll up luxury sweaters and cardigans and place them inside a bag.

Darryl

Very much agree with value of the personal touch. A little handwritten note elevates the experience, and for me increases the sense of relationship with the brand/artisan. This makes the experience far richer than a mass of silly packaging. Packaging that performs its primary function of protection; is neat, clean, sturdy, and recylable, this surely has to be the order of the day.

BobBob

The answer is that there is no correct answer. From a commercial point of view I suspect there would be more people put off by the lack of “appropriate” packaging -v- those put off by the waste that such packaging creates.

From a personal perspective I’m fully supportive of reduced packaging and get annoyed each time Amazon rings the doorbell and hands over a giant box containing a single small item that would otherwise have fitted through the letter box had it only been in a sensible packet but ultimately I still order.

We do have a fair few “luxury” packagings stored in the house but thats typically more because resale values are higher with the box than without else they’d have been recycled. Those that reuse such packaging always feels a little tacky to me, back in the day of going into the office there were two folk who routinely carried their lunch etc in in a, now slightly shabby, Channel and Hermes paper/card bag.

Rafael

Do not change the packaging. Contrary to that customer’s view, I get pleasure in knowing that I’m paying for the best possible product at a given price point, rather than on the “experience” of unpackaging a luxury item, with the shot of adrenaline that comes from the anticipation.

as an anecdote, haven’t see anything more wasteful than Mr Porter, and if anything puts me off ordering from them

Gabor

Maybe I got this wrong but Mr. Porter has the actual option of ‘eco’ packaging which is basicly a plain carboard box – I’m not saying this is somewhat close to zero waste but I do consider it as an effort.
Great topic that is absolutely worth discussing.

René

Hi Simon,

Great topic and a dificult one at that. I absolutely feel you are have got it right and for all the right reasons as well.

That beeing said I too am a victim of the luxury pacakaging and I absolutely love how it levitates the experience form everyday onlines shopping.
I even feel it brings the shop or brand experiance in to my living room and makes up for what the online experiance is lackaing when it comes to luxury shopping.

I may not be at rue saint honoré but I can have a tiny bit of the experiance at home and feel connected to it.
I remeber when Drakes changed their packaging and how flat that felt.

In the end I think that commercially it is a way brands can set them self appart as somthing more – but ethically it is probabably not the right thing to do.

I still love though.

Kind regargds René

Hugh

I think René has really hit the nail on the head. I find mes chaussettes rouges has really lovely packaging. Products in a simple cloth pouch and a hand written note on a heavy, lightly scented card stock.

I feel PS could thread this needle by explaining the lack of over the top packaging. Making the decision explicit and principled, rather than making it seem like either an oversight or simply a way to keep down costs

Stefan

I wanted to latch onto your reply, Simon, and relate it to a point I haven’t seen covered yet:
When buying from a company that is selling through physical stores as well as online, my guess is that if you treated these two distribution channels as two divisions the “online division” would have a higher operating margin (though I could be wrong on the industry economics here since I don’t have any insights).
So really, when you expect more luxurious packaging without paying a premium for it, you want to be treated more equally and less as a cash-cow for the company. Price-discrimination (and increased transparency) should then be the answer, but I don’t think shops and brands would be keen on it. Would be interesting to know if shops’ numbers support this or if I am projecting sentiment into accounting here.

Tamaki

Hi, Simon
For what it is worth, I’m on the opinion that the packaging isn’t very important if they are minimal nice. For the products I bought from PWVC and PS, I was very satisfied with the quality level of the package. Very simple but nice.

But I can certainly see the appeal of “gorgeous” packaging, especially if the purchase was meant as a present. For example, some time ago I bought some neckties from Gentlemen Gazette and the box they came in was pretty neat and something that would increase the charm of the present.

I would prefer for the packages from PS, and other shops, to be like what you and PWVC do, Nice and simple, but maybe having an “gift wrapping” option in case the purchase is intended as a present.

Kind regards,
Tamaki

George

Would actually completely agree with this.
If I were giving a PS shirt as a gift – I would pay an extra 5-er (maybe 10 at a stretch) to have a bit of a premium box etc. Make the user really feel special and give that extra bit of joy. Buying something for myself (I think this is ultra relevant for users of this site) it matters way less.

The incremental gain of packaging is inverse to my knowledge of the product.

Something I have researched a lot and have gone into massive detail on making sure it is the coat with the right weight of cloth and pocket position I want – I am excited about the product and the packaging is a nice touch, but thats about it.

A gift from my wife where I have little knowledge of what I am receiving – the anticipation and pleasure of the luxurious packaging adds a lot to the anticipation and care of the experience

zo

Tricky one. Personally I detest wasteful packaging. As long as the product is protected from damage, I am happy with the most minimal packaging. Better for the environment, less hassle for me, etc.

That said, most people buying from Harrods, Tom Ford, Hermes etc do so for the ‘experience’. And fancy packaging is part of that experience. So I can see the appeal. I mean would you like your shiny new Cartier Tank to have come in a basic jiffy bag?

I don’t think at PS you’re trying to sell any such experience. You’re simply selling the product with no frills attached.

Ian Skelly

I think that’s a really good point, I think readers of Simon’s are aware they can simply buy a £800 Tom Ford jumper in a sexy store being served by a supermodel and then wrapped in a pretty box but they would rather buy the quality knitwear of an italian artisan than pay for the feeling of validation / status amongst peers a high end brand provides. speaking of the ps shop are new chambray shirts coming out anytime soon ? ps please bring back the ps merino crew necks!

Carl Melin

I think the customer is wrong. We all have a responsibility to reduce waste and the climatw
impact. But of course, even paper can be more or less beaufiful. But I dont want you to add something that probably most customers would throw away.

Liam

I think most of us expect packaging to match and align with the quality of the product we are purchasing. I’m certainly turned off by packaging solutions that are wasteful and low quality and the ability to efficiently return in the original packaging is always a good first test. This is classic innovation territory – we should expect quality brands to up their game quickly to find solutions that are high quality but also sustainable. In time this will spread to the mainstream like Amazon. Some form of government nudge, given our aspiration on net zero, would also be helpful.

Ajbjasus

No excessive packaging please, just the carefully considered beautifully designed minimum. Even Luca Faloni’s lovely raw cotton bags irk me slightly, I don’t need to store my ever6 shirt and jumper in it’s own bag.

philippos

Well, the packaging question depends on what you are trying to sell – if you just trying to sell a physical product (e.g. a toaster) customers won’t expect luxury packaging. But if you’re aim is to sell a lifestyle as most luxury brands do the focus is not mainly on the product itself but also on its sorroundings – for many people shopping at Hermes, Santa Maria Novella or the like might be a kind of fairytale experience so if you take a part of that away by delivering in an ordinary package it would loose some of its glamour. Would you still buy soap for up to 30 € if it is packed like supermarket soap? As for PS I think you are not trying to sell a lifestyle but a technical and qualitywise superior product – so in my view your packaging reflects that and it may even seem odd to overdo the packaging.

MB

For me, attractive packaging adds to the “experience” but it’s a relatively small part and I don’t think it influences my choices on where to make purchases. I certainly wouldn’t decline to shop somewhere because I didn’t feel the packaging was up to scratch. Perhaps the simplest option is to be able to opt for a more impressive gift wrap (or opt out, if you wanted to create a sense that the luxury option is standard) but I don’t think I’d suggest paying extra for that as it feels mean (even though at a practical level, it probably would mean I’d be subsidising it for others as most of the time I’d opt out).

I definitely agree that handwritten notes are most appreciated touch though. The chap at Mes Chaussettes Rouge has incredible handwriting and it always makes me smile!

Stephen

Hi Simon,

Ironically, I have the opposite reaction than that reader. When I get a luxurious product in a “simple” packaging, I see that positively as it gives me the feeling that my money has not been spent for some fancy packaging which is of no use to me. And there is also the environmental aspect which is important to me.

Daniel

Hello Simon,
Drakes delivery in a mainly recycled envelope with the item wrapped in tissue paper feels considered and right. I suppose ultimately it’s best ( in the spirit of PS ) to make fewer but higher quality purchases.

Hristo (STEMESO Socks)

This is so true, Simon!
There are chocolate-coated marshmallow treats in Germany, which are put into a cardboard box, which is printed in full colour. The cardboard has 3D effects of the surface (it is not smooth but with figures) and it is with a special aluminum laminate coating on the inside. And the marshmallows inside are additionally separated by a plastic separator.
So if you consider this very complex and expensive packaging, the taxes, the margin of the supermarket, possible margins of the distributors, costs for waste due to expiration ect. and considering the shelf price which is not far above 1 GBP per box, I have the feeling that the cost of the food is maybe like several small percent of the price that the customer pays. Which is absolutely not what one would want to be the cost structure of food.

Noel

Hi Simon, nice of you to raise this point to get reader’s feedback.

Personally I think the package should be first and foremost practical and protect the product for shipment as best as possible. If it’s to be thrown away (like it is for shirts for example) it shouldn’t be expensive and ideally easy to recycle.

Now if the packaging will be used for storage then there’s an argument for a more luxurious package. For example I liked the valstarino came with a hanger and I would have appreciated a “suit bag” to store it during winter as most suit bags are too long.

Joe

I’ve always thought that the primary purpose of packaging is to protect the goods being transported and avoid items being returned at a cost to the seller (and buyer in cases)? And then maybe secondary purposes to add a sense of purpose or create an impression of luxuriousness.
I noted Rafael’s comment above about his experience with Mr Porter which to me was interesting. Because I recently purchased goods from the same trader and I thought it was one of the most pleasurable experiences in buying clothing over the internet. And the packaging certainly played its part: my trousers arrived safely and securely packaged in brown cardboard box. Inside the box there was soft tissue to cushion the product during transportation. Then the trousers were neatly folded on a hangar which contained a resealable plastic strip to secure/release the trousers from the hanger. And then the neatly folder trousers and hangar was placed inside a dust jacket ready to be hung in my wardrobe. Finally there was a return label already in situ in the box in the event (any event) that you wanted to return the item.
Does this matter? Well yes, it certainly did to me. I’ve bought more expensive items of tailoring without the same level of consideration being applied as to how the clothes were packaged for transportation or prepared for subsequent storage. And I have since purchased more items from Mr Porter simply because it gave me a certain level of comfort that both the clothing and client were treated with respect and attention. This was just my experience.

Yash

Hello Simon,

Interesting post. I have bought a few things from the PS Store including a couple of the shawl collar cardigans and the watch caps. They all came packaged, in what I would say was an appropriate fashion for the item and it was just fine. Not something that I thought about too much because I was more excited to receive the items themselves, if that makes sense? In the case of the PS packaging I think it chimes with the products, nothing superfluous just what is required (in the best possible way).

I do have boxes and packaging from other companies that I love and have kept or repurposed for storage and it gives me great pleasure to look at the design, colours and even the materials. On the other hand I actually find it frustrating to throw away ribbons, tissue paper and other – non core – items (although the ribbons do entertain the kids for a while)!

So I guess for me the conclusion is that packaging is lovely when done well, but it it not a deal breaker and it would be better if it was limited to the important stuff that can be reused or repurposed, like beautiful boxes or shoe (dust) bags etc etc and perhaps enhanced with a little card that you keep outlining the history or details of the make, materials etc behind the product.

Many thanks.

John

Packaging (paper) provides employment the whole way from the forest, through the pulp mill, the paper and board mill, the designer’s studio, the carton maker, the printer and the delivery driver – don’t let’s forget unintended consequences.

That said, my personal view is that there should be just enough packaging to provide the necessary amount of protection and no more. If you have to protect it you should at least try to make that protection reflective of your brand values.

Finally, the easiest way to cut down on packaging waste is to buy direct from a store on the high street and not from/through Amazon.

MatthewV

I love well put together packaging but then I have trouble throwing it away! As my wife will attest to.
We do try and reuse. But it is a conundrum and there is a significant cost to the brand / retailer and the environment.
The amount of cardboard we have had to recycle (Amazon etc) in lockdown is astonishing.

Sean

Maybe there should be a box at checkout where you can opt to pay an extra £5 for the experience of unpacking the item from luxury wrapping?
Personally, I’m with your earlier contributor in preferring to spend my money on the item. I’d rather not subsidise those who want the whole nine yards.

Christopher

Interesting topic Simon.
I understand that when buying a luxury product, one may need to get the experience of a luxury packaging as well, but as you said, as lovely as a packaging may be, 95% of the time, it just ends up being discarded.

There’s no point in a luxurious packaging I won’t be re-using it, for me it should just protect the product when shipping. I prefer brands such as Mes Chaussettes Rouges or The Anthology who send their products with minimal packaging, but with a nice personal note. This is a much nicer touch than an impersonal packaging, luxurious as it may be.

Finally, it’s nice to see this is a topic that is being studied by more and more brands. About a year ago, Atelier Particulier, a French brand promoting small artisans and factories, had a survey asking its customers if they prefered plastic packaging, cardboard boxes, no packaging, the choice between each, etc.

Alexander

I really liked the packaging of my PS-shirt. Just a little annotation: The metal element (little ring) on the cloth bag was a bit rusty and the rust has spread a little on the cloth of the bag. Fortunately the shirt itself was flawless, but I would leave off that metal element on the packaging.

Lucas

Yes, shirts… I haven’t bought any PS Shirts but all the shirts I buy (MTM) have waaaaay too much things stuffed into them just to look nice when delivered: plastic collar bands, metal clips, cardboard inlays and what not. The first thing I do anyway is throw the shirt in the washing machine.

So stop that, all you shirtmakers. You know who you are…

Paul Boileau

I generally prefer cardboard to plastic as the cardboard usually ends up in our compost bins or the wormery.

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Very good pint. As far as clothing is concerned, I couldn’t care less. As a matter of fact, I despise fancy packing. I buy the garments for their quality and joy they bring me, not for packaging which would be thrown away anyway. I use MTM service for shirts on regular basis. I enjoy great fit, possibility to choose a material I like, buttons, I play with little details of the collar and so on. Since a certain point, I always leave the box, tissue paper end even a plastic sleeve in the shop and walk away with nothing but my shirt. If I could, I would take it without metal clips and cardboard trimmings supporting the folded shirt. As with my few bespoke tailored pieces I own, I think there’s something special about no packaging at all. I like the fact it was made by people I met and it’s delivered to me by them in the shop, as opposed to a properly packed product made in a factory. It’s nice to receive a good hanger and garment bag with bespoke jacket or a suit. But this is not really a packaging but rather a practical thing I can use (and use) for years.

Andrew Hughes

Before Covid, if I bought an item from a shop such as Trunk or The Real McCoys, I would request the item of clothing to be be wrapped in tissue paper and put it in my own bag. I like to be anonymous and not display the company who I buy from.

Fred

Dear Simon, great topic.
My take, packaging should be firstly functional and then make it beautiful. Lock and Co. is an excellent example of good packaging – you need a hat box, you will keep it, and they look fab. Tie boxes also useful.
On the other hand a lot of luxury brand type packaging annoys me because it is wasteful and a transparent con trick by marketing depts to make us feel better about paying far too much for so so products.

Kenny

I agree and use Lock’s hat boxes because they are useful for storage and travel. It’s necessary to have a tube box when travelling to protect a rollable Panama which, can cost up to several thousand pounds.

I was very sad to learn recently that Olney Headwear of Luton went out of business in December, another Covid casualty. It manufactured hats and caps for many retailers. I found them to be excellent value, especially when bought direct at a fraction of the crazy prices charged by Lock and Bates.

Ferdinand

As mentioned by some readers, the solution is clear: just let the customer decide at checkout whether he wants fancy or eco packaging. I personally really don’t care about boxes and tissue papers (or the 25th pair of shoe dust bags…), and also not about the pseudo-personal hand-written notes some firms add these days, but I agree that it makes a difference when buying as a gift, or when you intend to use the box for storage, so would be nice to be given the option.

As a side note, when I was in university some people would also leave their Hermès boxes visible somewhere in their rooms – the same people also keeping empty Moet bottles as candleholders – and it was generally ridiculed.

Adam Jones

My answer is – it depends.

If I was purchasing from a Luxury “Designer” house – I would expect it. These companies rely heavily on branding and that is part of their brand and as one reader said – resell value is much better with the packaging. I personally don’t waste the packaging by throwing it away – Mr Porter Boxes for example are storing out of season clothes in the loft as we speak. There is no need to waste quality boxes when they can be re purposed. Lets all be honest it is a great feeling when in person shopping to get that little bit extra!

In respect of the PS packaging – I actually think its perfect. I would have no need for a shirt sized purple box and the bags are incredibly useful for storage and packing when travelling. I use them for Knitwear or raw denim jeans to protect other items. Much more useful than a box.

one bugbear though – (not necessarily PS) is the amount of packaging for shirts – i know some outer plastic is needed but endless tissue paper, clips, pins, cardboard. do we really need that much considering if we return items they will be re packaged again with another load of plastic clips, pins and cardboard.

Ant

Hi Simon

I actually also gave some negative feedback on a recent purchase of 3 PS shirts – I was genuinely disappointed having spent over £600 on 3 shirts.

I do appreciate the environmental aspects, but some tissue paper and a nice box is not particularly problematic, and can always be easily recycled once the ‘newness’ has worn off, if required.

I also received a first order from Luca Faloni, and have made a few recent purchases from PWVC (incl. the brown PS donegal!) and the experience was very different. It felt like a thanks for buying from them; conversely, the PS shirts arrived and conveyed a sense of being slung together and in the post asap, bordering on the fact it should be me thanking them/’you’ (not you or your team, of course).

Really appreciate the discussion and in conclusion, I would happily pay a premium for a better packaged product befitting of the quality of it and cost.

Cheers,
Ant

Rafael

Minimum amount of packaging – just enough to protect the garment. Minimal need not mean characterless. There is a romance to beautiful, layered packaging which most consumers will always prefer and traditionally has played a key part of the luxury experience. However the path to a more sustainable environment requires sacrifices. Additional packaging is a small sacrifice to make, I would rather protect the environment to ensure future supplies of cashmere and wool. It seems odd that garments we view as long term investments are themselves dressed in disposable, consumable packaging – gorgeous as it may be.

Peter Hall

I detest waste,but understand that receiving a nice parcel is part of the enjoyment and pleasure of receiving gifts/clothes.

Would it be possible for the customer to decide? Ie. a tick box if you require the full bells and whistles included in your parcel.

Personally, I think there is little that could not be wrapped in good paper and string. Then boxed for despatch(recyclable).

There is a retailer in Den Haag who always wraps shirts in cheap cotton cloth and ties with string. This is nice and I reuse the cloth to line my drawers. Obviously,I’m picking up the cost, but it’s enjoyable to stroll through town with a parcel.

Whatever the solution, it must be recyclable.

P.D. Williams

Hello Simon,

My thoughts echo most other commenters, personally I seek out brands that prioritise quality product over marketing and expect minimal packaging to go along with that. I’ve purchased plenty of staple items from Asket and always appreciate their (relatively) eco-friendly packaging.

I also purchased a bridge coat from PS about six months ago and have already forgotten what the packaging was. To my mind that’s a good thing! Hopefully it was minimal as it went straight in the rubbish bin. (Love the coat, by the way.)

Anonymous

I think it depends on what you’re selling (or buying) is it a product or is it an experience.? The more it’s an experience, the more the packaging – opening it, feeling it in your hands, hearing the crinkle – is important.

Tom

Hi Simon, personally I find it appealing to receive a luxurious product in simple packaging – perhaps it feels more connected to the craft involved.

However, I can see an argument for having an ‘opt-in’ system for fancier packaging, particularly where it is intended as a gift for another. I imagine that 90% of PS shop orders are ‘gifts’ for ourselves (eg, my fantastic PS pearl cufflinks) and would be happy with the current packaging. It seems appropriate that the remaining 10% should have the option (even if they just prefer it for themselves).

Kev F

The more we move from buying in shops to the internet the more packaging there will be. I agree with many contributors on here that packaging should be sufficient to protect the item in transit and no more. I do try and recycle as much as possible, using sturdy boxes or reusing packaging. Can’t say I’m fussed about logos, designs etc on any of it; just more waste of resources and unnecessary – no more than I’d want such things sewn on or printed on the actual clothes. I agree though with one comment above – the best touch is when you you get that small, hand-written acknowledgement.

Tim

Hey Simon,

I think the best packaging is something that is elegant and fit for purpose. When done well, my inclination is to keep and use the packaging given it should be the right size and composition to both store and protect those precious items we all buy. Some good examples for me are Edward Green and Brunello Cucinelli.

Excessive packaging is wasteful and off putting. And I do not understand why some manufacturers still insist on using plastic. Two that spring to mind are Sunspel and John Smedley who still individually seal each tshirt/knit in plastic bags when paper would suffice.

While we know we’re paying for it, at its best is does enhance the experience of buying something luxurious.

Peter K

I wonder is some of the packaging has mote to do with ease of handling and warehouse storage. If you’re stacking many sweaters on a warehouse shelf then packaging each one in plastic could make them easier to handle. Similarly, Amazon might package small items in large, standardized boxes so they are easier to stack and move around.

I’m not saying this to justify the packaging. I just think there may be reasons for it that arise from the way a product is moved from manufacturer to consumer.

Victor Snellman

As little packaging as possible – always. If something needs to come in a box, fine, make it nice. But as little as possible.

Nigel C

I get conflicted when think about this. My wife also has that pile of Hermes boxes – even in a cupboard they look great. If you can re-use those fancy bags or boxes then you have value. I get distressed that they are usually just discarded in perfect condition.
In an e-commerce world there is no fancy store to visit and interact with staff to get the full sensory experience of buying something. Let’s remember most of us buy for reasons other than absolute necessity anyway. If your only non-product experience is the box and it’s a let down, or there’s no nice little note, then where’s the joy? It just becomes another act of consumerism potentially.
Best wishes N

Nigel C

To be fair I did say potentially. I agree with you too; we should buy things that are in themselves functional and beautiful which improve our lives and so give us pleasure. I have things that I have bought on trips or had a nice experience buying that I recall which enhances my continued enjoyment. I wonder if the process of commissioning some of your bespoke items is part the joy too. E-commerce denies you all this so to at least have the joy of it being presented on arrival in a manner consistent with the ethos / character of the vendor is nice. I wonder if your correspondent just misunderstood you and PS, anticipating a Mr Porter experience. Imagine going into a Ralph Lauren store and finding John Pawson had given it a makeover! N

Ashford Bain

My biggest bugbear is the growing collection of cotton bags I collect for shoes. I understand for premium English shoes you’d want to have a bag to prevent dust, but for sneakers which are rarely resoled it means there’s a growing medley in my wardrobe I can’t bring myself to put in the garbage. Also the pointless tote bags some brands want to give me.

Anonymous

I don’t think stylish packaging has to be expensive. A solid paper package with cords can look much more stylish than oversized (plastic) boxes.

That being said, it’s ultimately about the product inside and the smallest possible environmental footprint. If that’s the reason for small packaging (and it’s communicated to the customer), the packaging doesn’t matter to me.

Stephen

Hi Simon
An interesting range of views. What’s also of interest is how something so apparently simple becomes quite emotive in some cases – it is possibly a sign of the times. When specifically considering online purchases. – for me it falls into following simple categories:
1) Security of packing – so your purchase arrives in the condition in which it was sent.
2) Cost – as there is no such thing as free – the most cost effective cubic measurement and weight. Either passed on to the customer or retailer bottom line. For example a slightly smaller box can be considerably cheaper to send as can soft (sometimes known as letterboxable packaging). Also the larger retailers will have various deals with couriers that may be based on volumes as well as individual packages.
3) Marketing. This is to some extent dependent on brand and item. Would a Chanel bag be as cool a present if it wasn’t in the great box (see next point) ? Or a bouquet without the fancy wrapping? Generally- Yes it is pleasant to get something in a nice package- but it is usually discarded.
4) Future use – I really like getting a hanger and garment bag as they are useful and over time garment bags deteriorate so useful getting a new one. Also as you say Simon some boxes can either be used for other storage or for the item purchased. My wife stores most of her more expensive handbags in original boxes.
4) Gift packaging – this is where I believe there should be options. A good looking protective package should usually suffice- with the option to enhance at a premium.
Points 3 and 4 also would apply to bricks and mortar retail as well.
I personally wouldn’t complain about packaging unless it wasn’t fit for purpose.
It looks like I have too much time on my hands! Think I should get back to my gardening now!
All the best.

Sam

The logical solution here would seem to be allowing the option to add a more “presentation” style box for a small extra fee. This would not only cover costs for you, but would allow you to source a fully recyclable box.

I just got an order from Universal Works that is literally a large, brown paper bag / sack. I actually found the simplicity very refreshing, and sort of fits in with the workwear aesthetic of the brand. In all honesty though, if I did order something frmo the PS shop I’d probably expect something a bit fancier.

Richard

I’m not fond of excessive packaging of any description, be it provided by the brand or the store from which you have purchased the product.
We have all been conditioned in recent years of the damage plastic is doing to our planet.
Every few years, I buy a ream of coloured (bleed resistance), acid-free tissue paper.
I take a couple of sheets in my bag when shopping just in case they don’t have any themselves.
I also use it when folding and packing my clothes when going away on trips. It means everything comes out of the suitcase uncreased with a nice new sounding crunch!

Chancellor

I’ve never seen so many comments (53!) when I first come online in the morning in North America. This is clearly more controversial than I would have expected.

I mildly enjoy nice packaging, but it is short and fleeting, and leaves me with the irritation of having to deal with the choice of either throwing out very nice packaging (and I have to throw out anything) or finding a use for it, which is often difficult. It’s probably akin go some junk food–short term positive hit, with longer term regret.

The next time I do bespoke commissions, I’ve considered asking if I can get a small reduction in price by opting out of packaging (don’t expect it will be much, but even a cup of coffee is something). On that note, I dislike the bag the PS shirts come in; I’ve never found a use for them. I’d prefer everything is packaged simply, but with obvious some care (perhaps carefully wrapped in brown paper, the box precisely taped). PWVC, as others have noted, is a good example with a simple box, but one well designed to make a return easy.

I do appreciate the personal notes that come with an order, and I also like the hangars I get with bespoke tailoring—practical and usable, and I don’t have extra hangers lying around.

Tommy Mack

“the choice of either throwing out very nice packaging (and I have to throw out anything) or finding a use for it, which is often difficult” – absolutely this: there’s only so much tissue paper I can cram in my kids’ craft box!

Russ

Simon, your PS shop shirt pouches are indeed lovely to look at, lovely to hold etc, but I don’t value them because I cannot use them for anything. They are too nice to throw away, so languish, unused, at the bottom of a drawer. It’s too much of a faff to put the shirt back in a pouch after ironing (far easier to hang it up). So I’m afraid I’d prefer you to use tissue paper as I can at least reuse that for Christmas presents provided it doesn’t have Sellotape on it. To my mind the right approach is from companies such as The Rake and Flax London where you now get your item with at most one sheet of tissue paper (often none) in an easy to open box which can immediately be reused if the item needs to be returned, or can be used for storage (in the Marie Condo style) or easily recycled. I live your shirts and woollens btw, but the pouch could do with a rethink. No offence intended.

Josh H

Agreed, this is a good idea. Mes Chaussettes Rouges offer a similar option, although you sometimes end up receiving a bag even when you ask not to.

The PS bags are super handy for storing knitwear, but not sure I would use them for anything else. Glad to hear you are looking into redesigning the bags (having also experienced the rust issue mentioned above). Something similar to what LF offers would be great!

Rich

Hi Simon, I’m more likely to buy knowing there’s reduced packaging, or I chose that option at the checkout. It’s a more understated approach that strikes me is entirely consistent with your approach to style. I’m very keen on your blue button down shirt – one question though. I have a shirt I bought in Naples from Finamore (with a 15 and 3/4in collar!) but it’s very fine cotton and extremely (unattractively) see through and I can only wear it underneath a jumper. The collar roll looks great at least. It looks like your Oxford cloth is by definition more ‘robust’ and can be worn quite happily casually in warmer weather without being see through. I’m just seeking reassurance that indeed is the case. Thanks.

Gary Mitchell

Packaging definitely important but not in the ‘fancy’ way. Just received a polo from Trunk today in a thick brown paper bag… perfect. If it looks well wrapped I’m happy although like yourself I do have a few named boxes used for storing other things. I can smile recalling a few times when I bought a Mont Blanc pen and at the counter I removed them from the boxes put the pen in my pocket the receipt in another pocket and pushed the box back to them…. they were horrified that I did not want the box, but pens are a tool not a display item for me. Oddly, not on the high end front, a few years ago I landed in UK and forgot my trainers, I nipped into Lilywhites in Piccadilly and bought a pair, I tried to refuse the box but it was forced on me on the basis that they MUST give the box with the trainers and were not allowed to keep it… So I took the trainers, my mate with me took the box and squashed it into the first rubbish bin we found outside.

Vali

I’ve always enjoyed opening something nicely packaged and I kept some of the nicer boxes for storage. I never put much thought into it until I bought a Brunello Cucinelli item on a massive sale on YOOX and I was extremely disappointed when it came in a basic shipping cardboard box. I guess I was also expecting an unboxing experience and I didn’t get it. So yes, I guess it matters to me.

Russ

By the way, an option for customers to eschew all but the most protective of packaging, in favour of the supplier making a donation instead to an appropriate charity would be worth considering. I bet those pouches cost you a couple of quid each. That would feed a family in Bangladesh for a couple of days and I’d rather know someone was benefiting from my ‘no non-essential containers’ request than have another piece of packaging to deal with.

limekiln

Great topic and excellent comments. Wasteful and unnecessary packaging is like pornography. Difficult to define but you recognise it when you see it.

Zach S

I had been thinking about this, as I do work in retail and we switched the plastic shirts come in for recycled and reusable bags but all the same, still going through a huge amount of packaging.

I’d also picked up some items from Pink and HN White recently and while the packaging is lovely, I would often rather something more plain and economical. As you suggested, the odd nice box may be lovely but when they build up there really is nothing but to throw them away, which feels both wasteful and just upsetting.

It sounds like you’re striking a really nice middle ground with the PS packaging, and honestly the less packaging businesses and individuals are using in the current state of the world the better
Less waste, better for everyone.

Stephen Mendes

Beautiful packaging is integral to the purchasing experience if it is appreciated at a point before the sale. There is an art to showcasing beautiful window displays to attract and delight.
The transition to on-line sales has shifted that emphasis toward beautiful photography / videography and story telling of maker and craft.
Increasingly people are environmentally conscious and will seek out producers who strive to limit waste. That maker’s effort to curb ones footprint in itself already is a feature that people will judge alongside the quality of craftsmanship.
Perhaps the biggest negative aspect of all this is it will limit our ability at Christmastime to encase presents in beautiful intentionally misleading repurposed packaging!

Calum

My thoughts on packaging are also mixed and depend on the item.

Shoes, for instance, I would always expect to be packaged well, as this is part of not just the experience but also a functional aspect. I keep all of my shoes in the box and therefore the packaging almost becomes decor. I’ve always enjoyed the velvet dust pouches included with George Cleverley for that reason of presenting well, but also being functional in protecting the shoe. And thus, the packaging is genuinely offering value to the product.

However, I remember purchasing a scarf from N Peal which came wrapped in tissue paper, it’s own box, and a bag to place it in. This I thought was entirely wasteful for a single item that is quickly removed when home and the packaging binned. I have a stack of that type of ‘luxury retailer’ bags in one of my cupboards, convinced I will re-use them.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of it is down to what the customer expects. For some, it is important that if they spend three figures in a store, they would like to walk down the street on the way home with a bag/box to prove it.

OP

I’ve only purchased a few pieces from the PS shop, and I almost cannot remember the packaging. I consider it an attestant to quality and thought, rather than to flamboyance.
Santa Maria Novella products are the opposite, they’re almost a burden. Their paper boxes aren’t as sturdy as wooden shoe boxes or cigar boxes, which one can happily reuse. Though the unboxing is exciting, that excitement disappears a moment later and I one is left with a product which is used daily and loses its glamour, and with a lovely paper box that’s going in the bin. There’s always that moment when I feel bad for tossing it, and I wonder what should I use it for, but it never holds up. If the packaging is to be re-used it should be designed for it, and if it shouldn’t, it should be elegant yet disposable. Most luxury packaging fall in-between – not useful enough to keep yet too sturdy and extravagant to throw. It is especially true with small, frequently purchased items (such as toiletries). I agree with others regarding the personal touch. I fondly remember handwritten notes from from Baudoin & Lange and Mes Chaussettes Rouge.

Jesse Jackson IV

I care deeply about the packaging as an integral part of the retail experience. It helps to deliver on the brand story, and can create moments of deeper connection – like you mention with the Hermes packaging.

The waste issue is the best counter argument to investing into large amounts of packaging, and does make one question the purpose of the packaging. Are there ways to integrate that packaging into the overall lifecycle of the product? How might we improve the sustainability/recyclability of the packaging, while still delivering on the romance of the purchase? All valid questions, but ones ultimately worth exploring.

Anonymous

High quality doesn’t necessarily mean larger by volume. An item can be sent in a single, high quality, well presented box. I understand the issue of boxes inside boxes just for the sake of it and I agree that is a waste. But if something is going to be sent in a box, then it should be the best it can be or at least on the higher end of that scale (if you are buying a luxury item). So I don’t think this is really an environmental issue as you can have extremely high quality, beautiful packing without using a lot of it.

I would say that decent packing is generally expected in high end goods and it just goes with the territory. How something arrives is an extension of the brand and the goods themselves. Remember that if someone does have a bad experience with their online order such as below par packing then there is the high likelihood of losing future custom, so standards must be kept up. That goes into the sense of pride when being a shopkeeper and wanting people to have the best experience you can for them, just as if you had a physical shop you’d want to create a certain atmosphere and ambience for the shopping experience.

I understand some people don’t care at all and that’s fine but when selling goods that the price point the PS shop does, regardless of margins involved I would think it was pertinent to err on the side of quality and style. I haven’t bought anything from the PS store so I can’t really comment on the packing itself but I would say I’d rather be impressed than underwhelmed with any aspect of the buying journey.

Anonymous

I suppose I am happy to pay to certain extent especially if the packaging is of a high enough quality to show where that money went. I completely get the PS ethos of focusing totally on quality and cutting costs elsewhere, my point is really just that if something is going to be done it should be done to best it can reasonably done. So whilst advertising and marketing can be side-stepped completely, packaging cannot, items need to arrive somehow and I think therefore real effort should be put in to make it a great experience.

I know some retailers now simply offer a ‘no frills’ option when checking out. I like this because the default is still the way they wish to represent their brand and to give an experience as close to being inside a physical store would be, but also allow others who would really rather not ( as shown in this comment section) the ability to chose not to. As far as I remember the cost doesn’t go down if you select the no thrills, I assume the retailer expects the packaging cost and every time that it’s not chosen is just money saved. When done the other way round, ie charging for anything above absolute standard packing, doesn’t come across well when you are already spending a lot of money. To be charged extra for it to be sent in packaging that reflects the quality of the goods paid for can actually be quite off-putting all together.

That all said I do appreciate the someone buying from PS is probably more aware of this total focus on product ethos and therefore may not be so off put, I’m talking more generally about e-commerce I suppose. By the sounds of things many people are already very happy with the quality of PS packaging so there may not be much of an issue at all, I’ll have to order myself and find out!

Michael K.

I admit to liking some personality in packaging that is likely to be kept around — shoe boxes, for instance, Edward Green or Alden, instantly recognizable. But I really don’t care if that shoe box arrives on my doorstep in a plain cardboard box with some inflated plastic bags to stop the contents shifting. I was actually really pleased that the PS x Private White waxed jacket turned up in a plain box with just some plastic around the jacket.

MW

Simon – I really enjoyed this post!

As you said, I think we all enjoy packaging like Hermes boxes. That said, like many PS readers, I want to feel that I am paying a fair price (even if it’s quite high) for goods of impeccable quality. So I think there is a middle ground.

I expect bespoke suits to come in a nice branded garment bag with a great wooden hanger. I don’t think, however, that it makes sense to wrap them in tissue paper, include ribbon, and/or have a custom embossed box. I do know that some fairly high quality tailors (WW Chan and Tofani) simply ship a folded suit in a regular box, with no bag or hander. I find that a bit too minimal for bespoke garment delivery.

D Yeh (@womenintailoring)

Very good point.

I personally would like to separate the packaging discussion into two categories first, functional packaging (such as a beautiful shoebox that would be used) and shipping packaging (box, tape, that would end up in the trash bin).

For the former, a durable and visually pleasing packaging enhances the user experience, hence connects to brand image/affinity. But the key is that the customer actually uses it. The opposite example of this would be a beautiful shirt box, which is a delight to see at the beginning, that would quickly become not so useful (at least for me).

For ecom shipping packaing, branded tape or simple logo box is more than sufficient.

EL

What you have to remember is that the online customer never goes in a store, so the physical packaging is in some way a proxy for the store. It makes the product feel nicer. Imagine going into a dumpy store with really nice product. The product will simply feel less nice. I find that good packaging improves my initial opinion of the product. Packaging doesn’t make as big of a difference to me when I buy a product in-store.

As for wastefulness, if the product comes in a really nice box, I will use that box for storing other things. I also use the hangers.

Ben

I was going to add a comment to this thread, but this one perfectly sums up how I feel. Thanks EL!

Drew

I’ve always preferred nice packaging, even knowing it’s wasteful and I have paid for it. I try to recycle and reuse when I can. However, I’ve equated a brand caring about how their product is packaged and shipped with how a brand cares about the construction/manufacture of their product. For me attention to detail isn’t a switch you can turn on and off. It’s a culture, and either your brand lives it or they don’t.

Aaron Daniels

I pretty much always have an immediate reaction of “oh, this is nice packaging” but that’s about it. As you say, some is reusable – the boxes I have from buying accessories from the Gentleman’s Gazette shop are very useful with their magnetic closures, and that is something I do wish were optional because whilst useful I also only need a few. If every type of packaging was optional I would only opt for the nicer, more luxurious option if it were to be a gift. My priorities are that it keeps the item in pristine condition throughout postage, that the packaging is not larger than necessary and that it is recyclable, either through putting it literally into the recycling waste or through personal reuse.

Quite frankly, I find the thought of returning an item because the packaging isn’t luxurious enough to be highly pretentious. It’s clothing, not a sacred item. Admittedly I’d be disgruntled if I ordered a shirt and they taped up a binbag, but that’s more because I doubt it’d properly protect the item. Also probably too big and therefore a waste.

Frederic

Minimal packaging for me. I can’t justify the waste of all these boxes that ultimately end up in the trash, even if we use them for a while to store other items. However, I appreciate extras that I might use, like garment bags. I was a bit shocked that Private White didn’t include a hanger with the purchase of a coat. Even Suitsupply gives give a hanger and a bag…

Noel

It depends on the bag Simon. Overcoats and bomber jackets have different lengths so a standard suit bag is either too small or too large. I will have to buy an overcoat bag when I store the Donegal cost during winter for example. The problem for you Simon it’s that it’s not easy to determine which customer would appreciate such a bag and which one would consider it superfluous.

R Abbott

Good point. If a suit comes with a nice cedar hanger, that’s something I appreciate. But if it’s a cheap plastic hanger, it usually goes straight into trash / recycling.

Garment bags are more wasteful – most of the ones that come with suits or jackets are pretty cheap and certainly not suitable for regular use. In theory, I suppose one might use them to store a suit for the off season, but I have my own system and never use them for that purpose/

RT

I find myself very much in the minimal packaging camp, principally for environmental reasons. The product is what I’m buying and that’s what I value. I’m only really interested in the packaging being sufficiently robust to protect the product in transit. I find excessive packaging annoying and off-putting. I do understand the appeal of upmarket packaging, it’s just not something that I particularly value or would be prepared to pay for.

Interesting comments about suit bags and hangers. I don’t regard these as packaging, rather as useful accessories and something I do expect from high end tailoring. My one disappointment with a PS product was the fact that the bridge coat wasn’t supplied with a hangar or cover and I had to source them elsewhere. That didn’t detract from my appreciation of the coat in any way – I absolutely love it – but I do see it more as a service issue.

Andrey

Nice packaging is nice of course, but as you say, you’d throw them away most of the time (I kept Drakes suit bags and bought some extra because they are made of cotton and great, but that’s rare). I think making people understand that nice packaging comes at a price is a good way of explaining why you don’t do that. I for one never had any issues with PS packaging, and it actually never crossed my mind that there could be something wrong with that. But I’m also not the one who is keen to pay extra for some super-fast courier delivery. If you introduced an option “luxury packaging” I wouldn’t bother to tick that box even if it came for free.

Kim

Several months ago I bought the indulgent cardigan. I’ll be honest and say I was a little surprised at how it was packed. It was a negative impression, so not a good one from my first PS purchase. I didn’t expect any luxury packaging, but I guess I did expect more than (I think it was) just a plastic bag, or maybe it was just a sheet of tissue paper. But I certainly never would have thought of returning it because of the minimal packaging. That said, the ratio of quality to price was extremely high, imo, and I’m extremely appreciative of that.

I don’t think the idea of making better packaging a transactional issue is a good one, with the possible exception of gift packaging.

Lewis

I have worked for both Tom Ford and Harrods and can confirm there is a lot of waste. How many plastic and paper collar separators are thrown in the bin along with metal clips?
The machine that enables this and that also gives us the expectation of packaging is also changing as we gain momentum about our environmental impact. I personally love packaging on purchases where it’s needed such a luggage and bags but on others maybe not so much.
People like different things and as awareness grows hopefully we can eliminate a fraction of the waste that’s just going directly in the bin.

Chris

Let’s keep it simple – item you want to enjoy arrives in tact, minimise environmental damage.
Yes packaging does give me some pleasure when unpacking an item but I’d happily sacrifice that to know the world was a more sustainable place.

David

Any and all packaging, whether basic or extravagant should be completely recyclable. Full stop. In today’s world, anything less is unacceptable. As one who has had to deal with this issue for decades, I can safely say that today there are more responsible and creative packaging options than ever before. So no excuse. And of course, less is more!
Simon, thanks for raising this issue.

L

It would seem that true luxury packaging should be such that it does not contribute to the destruction of the natural world. And the sacrifice of the endorphins from opening shiny packaging, is but a very small price to pay for such a worthy aim. As to what the packaging should be made of when required, is non mixed mediums which make them far more difficult to recycle, or entirely impossible to do so. And what is more for the necessary plastic used to be incorporated in such a way that it is easily separated from the otherwise recyclable materials.

Robert

Difficult to wear packaging and soon, as you elude, you have no place to put all the packaging – ” a place for everything and everything in its place”.

Diego

Hi Simon – great topic.

I think that you are in a particularly tricky situation, as you operate within a segment and price range that has some traditional associations to what “quality” and luxury means. Having said that, I think that your brand has got a clear identity and you should remain loyal to it. With that in mind, the packaging should offer the best possible quality in a cost efficient manner. Then, what is quality for packaging? It has got to protect the item using resources efficiently. I also think that it should have some intrinsic beauty to generate an emotional reaction. This can be achieved by the selection of materials and graphic design. Oppositely, an excess of packaging is totally off-putting and unrefined. An abundance of boxes, plastic and papers usually makes me question my consumerism more than the jumper number n that came inside of all of it.

I am yet to buy a PS product but, from many of the comments, it seems that you already have packaging under control.

Jai Kharbanda

Completely agree on the overpackaging piece. Wherever possible I opt for less packaging or none at all if practical.

On the subject of the cotton bags that come with PS merchandise, I’ve got several that were shipped to Italy and have rust marks around the rivets and on the cotton bags themselves. As such I’m scared to use them as intended in case the rust rubs off.

Something to perhaps raise with whomever supplies these.

Justin T.

I always love receiving well packaged products, but I don’t think it’s always necessary. I personally think a simple handwritten thank you not goes a long way and is more impactful to me. I’ve learned a lot about packaging from running my own e-commerce store. I started by just using tissue paper then moved to cotton bags that I stamped my logo on, and I finally got some really nice quality bags similar to shoe bags with my logo professionally done this year. As much as I would love to have some beautiful presentation boxes it simply isn’t feasible due to cost and MOQs. Plus I’ve realized I really wouldn’t want to charge my customers any more just for a box they probably won’t reuse. Honestly I have never had any negative comments on my packaging, but I have always received positive comments on the handwritten notes I include with every order!

Chris

Yes, I do care.

It‘s easy to dismiss „nice“ packaging as unnecessary, but you could make the same argument for „nice“ clothing as well. Must we package ourselves in £4000 overcoats? Nope. Certainly something basic would do exactly the same thing. Is proper tableware important? Well, not really. Might as well eat from paper plates.

So packaging for clothes is important and really not that expensive either. I also don‘t think it‘s producing waste as people wouldn’t throw away a nice Hermes-style cardboard box but rather continue to use it.

Andreas

The product itself, as well as the packaging might be fancy and expensive, but there’s nothing luxurious about having to collect a UPS package from some dubious mobile phone shop after coming home from work.

When I buy something expensive in the 1st district of my hometown Vienna, I like to receive that item nicely packaged, so I can (let’s be honest) parade it around on my way to a nice café, where my nosy friends will inspect it and ask me what I bought.

When said item is sent directly to my home, there’s no point in having fancy packaging; it’s like putting on your best suit to watch TV on your couch.

Matt

The less packaging the better. I buy clothes to wear – not look at the box they came in. Same with other things like music. I listen to it and have no time for the objects of its delivery. People need to understand that unnecessary consumption of products is an antiquated, wasteful and damaging approach.

Ian A

You could always offer two prices! One price for the luxury and one for the budget packaging 😉

Kind of like a gift wrap service. Personally I’m a budget Charlie! Just wander onto your site and buy your products for the styling advice and superior build compared to the poor quality items sold on the ever shrinking high street.

Joe

Plastic or paper makes a huge difference and is the biggest issue, IMO.

Rory

Personally not a fan of packaging. Initially nice to look at sure, but it’s a very fleeting feeling. I often wonder if ornate packaging is an attempt to disguise an underwhelming product.

What I really appreciate are hand written thank you cards. I have saved every one I have ever received (and threw out all the packaging within minutes of opening). Equus leather and Hermes come to mind in the artisanal/luxury segment.

For your brand specifically, I think adding a thank you card is much more important than packaging. You are the brand and your loyal readers are your tribe. Acknowledging your tribe, especially during COVID, is surely an excellent business decision.

Ahmed Bashir

Thoughtful packaging makes a great impression; when done right, the customer will keep it and use it to store little trinkets and such. My opinion is to either have hassle-free packaging that is easy to dispose of or beautiful packaging which can be repurposed at home.

Incidentally, I don’t necessarily think nice packaging needs to be expensive.

Peter O

Customers could be given a choice between bare and fancy packaging. Latter is in fact gift packaging.
PS: Rubbish quantities and costs to incinerate and salvage skyrocket. Ask for example local garbagemen and city cleaners who have worked for years.

Lendall

I for one couldn’t care less about packaging as long as it protects the item within properly. I simply don’t care for the experience of opening more than I care about the item I’m wearing.

NickD

Fancy packaging looks nice, but unless it’s something that I need to keep the item in, I’d prefer not to litter the planet.

I keep all my shoes in the original shoeboxes, with cloth and bags, but for every other clothing related item the packaging has been superfluous.

Anonymous

I find standard Amazon packaging far more problematic than most luxury menswear. I can’t think of how many times Amazon has sent me a small, non-breakable item packaged in a large box with loads of inflatable padding or bubble wrap.

When I get a particularly nice box, I often reuse it for storage purposes.

That said, I value certain types of packaging more than others. For instance, the handwritten notes and candies that Luca Faloni sends are a nice gesture. The candies are particularly effective: they sit at my desk for several weeks after I receive the package (until I finish them) and in the meantime, serve as a pleasant reminder of the company that sent them. I personally find the mini garment bags less useful. I don’t use them during the season because they’re not practical – I like to be able to see all my sweaters when I open a drawer and can’t do that if some of them are in individual bags. I suppose I could use them for off-season storage, but again, don’t see the value of individually wrapping my garments. I prefer to put them in several large transparent boxes, add some cedar blocks for anti-moth protection, and then tuck them into basement. I ended up keeping a couple of the bags for travel purposes (I find that shirts and sweaters travel better if individually wrapped) but threw out the rest.

Rob

From a customer psychology point of view, I suspect returns may reduce with classier packaging. Sounds illogical but likely to be true based on various experiments over the years. Spending more on it may therefore be financially beneficial. For the same reason, it should fit with the look and feel of the site itself.

Anonymous

Resorting to name calling about elitism seems somewhat ironic on this site. The Cambridge definition of “snob” relates to:

“A person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people”

To say that only applies to packaging, as opposed to £5,000 bespoke suits from a Saville Row tailor, seems somewhat out of context, in light of our Covid-19 era, surely?

R Abbott

For me, it’s less about the packaging than the accessories. For instance, if I spend a significant amount of money on a sports jacket, I expect to get a good quality wooden hanger.

This may come across as irrational – after all, if the jacket is a good quality and fit, does it really matter? But I can think of one occasion in which I spent a lot of money and got a jacket rolled up in a box with no hanger or garment bag, and that just left a sour taste in my mouth. Just human nature I suppose.

R Abbott

I get mildly annoyed at excessive and wasteful packaging and believe we should all try to minimize waste, but some of the comments here (about packaging “destroying the planet”) are hyperbolic. Most packaging is cardboard and paper, which are biodegradable, and is not very difficult to harvest responsibly.

In the grander scheme of things, excessive packaging ranks pretty low as an environmental concern. The reality is that a lot of the steps we take for environmental purposes are really done to make us feel better about ourselves and have little practical environmental benefit. For instance, although riding a bicycle is environmentally friendly, there is a lot of research showing that bicycle lanes in dense urban areas actually increase pollution by reducin lanes for cars thereby increasing congestion. And the reusable shopping bags we love to use take a lot more energy to produce and frequently are not used regularly enough to provide any actual benefit. (In order to be a net positive, the typical reusable grocery bag has to be used 200 times, and how often does that happen?)

Maël

While I do appreciate a nice packaging, it’s very ephemeral and unneeded, since it’s gonna end up in the garbage bin minutes after opening it.

I strongly support the most simple/eco-friendly/cheaper packaging possible. What I pay for is the product, not the unboxing experience.

I’ve seen some shops offering the option to have nicer packaging (often reusable canvas pouches instead of paper, nice the first time but not so much when you have dozens already) for a fee for those who appreciate that and are willing to pay extra for it.

Magnus

Interesting article.
I highly prefer minimal packaging. I hate the environmental impact of all the extras and I actually really appreciate when a product comes simply packaged in some brown paper or other recyclable material. Luxury packaging is somewhat of a bad look these days, if you ask me.

Dario

Wow, what an amount of comments on this one!
I recently got two ties for my birthday, both bought online because every shop was closed in Copenhagen at the time. One from Hugo Boss, one from a local menswear shop.
Having not paid anything for them, I can safely say that the tie box and note from the local shop feel nicer than the plastic tie covering that the Boss tie was packaged in. And they also make me more willing to check out their shop and maybe buy something from them myself.
I also find SuitSupply bags and hangers super useful. Of course they are not the nicest but they hold the shape of those jackets very well and I never felt the need to change them.
Regarding the customer message that inspired this post, I think it is a bit over the top- Returning something because you didn’t like the packaging is something I would never do, provided the packaging did the right job of protecting the item during travel.

Marc

Hello Simon

I very much like these articles of yours, the ones that emerge right out of previous articles and comments.
About the topic of packaging, as an owner of more than one pair of the Permanent Style shorts, I have to admit that I have forgotten about how the shorts were packed. And that is a good thing because it means that the packaging was neither too little nor too much. As you write in your article, this fact is very in tune with the idea of the Permanent Style products.
I do however like more exclusive packaging. I have some clothes from Drake’s which always come in sturdy cardboard boxes. These boxes are now in use for all kinds of purposes – they are just very practical. The same goes for very special bottles of perfume or even distillates. They always seem to find another purpose in my home.
So in summary, I don’t think that there is a need for more luxurious packaging of the Permanent Style products.

Erwan

I’m with you, Simon, luxury packaging for the sake of it is a thing of the past. I was completely put off by a new cycling clothing brand that included a fold back paper clip to keep the pair of socks I bought from them. Yes, it’s as reusable as your Hermes boxes, but I’d rather pay less or even let them increase their margin rather than know I was charged for it. It seems like a very poor use of a creative mind to pay someone to come up with this sort of packaging innovation.

Chris Jones

Surely it’s all about the experience? Luxury goods are invariably overpriced but those elaborate stores in the worlds best locations don’t come cheap but they are as much of the brand as the products are themselves (I.e. Ralph Lauren stores are much nicer to shop in than buying the same product in a concession in a department store). Some things are meant to be kept (I.e boxes for a Rolex even though you may not actually use it each night when you take it off). Sometimes, it is all about the product. I just bought an Edward Sexton 7 Fold Grenadine silk tie that came in nothing other than a clear plastic sleeve and a DHL envelope. It didn’t detract from the tie. I guess it depends on the brand. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc. is all about the experience (plus the product) for most people as they sell the dream. Others are happy to just sell the product on its own reputation (I.e. Barbour). It’s when fancy packaging is used to mask an inferior product (for the price) that is smoke and mirrors incarnate.

Edward

Hi Simon, slightly off topic but on the environmental/waste point I have noted a number of pictures on your site where your pose includes a takeaway coffee cup. This is a bugbear of mine as the takeaway coffee cup is a seemingly omnipresent prop in advertising. I feel that has the effect of normalising waste, and even making it seem chic. Please invest in a good reuseable. Your writing is excellent and thought provoking, and the takeaway cup doesn’t fit.

Anurag

I find it fascinating that no-one has yet made the connection that clothes are packaging for the human body. We are subscribed to this website because we share the belief that presentation is important, and we share a joy of careful deliberation and selection and craftsmanship throughout the experience. We all know first impressions are important.

So it seems to me that the problem with cheap packaging is that it conveys a lack of care that directly contradicts the core experience of the product it contains. This is not an environmental concern or economic concern, it is an emotional response to the whole experience being marred by what feels, to some, to be a slapdash sticker on top.

Bring the same careful deliberation to the packaging and you will find this abates. Create a “gift box version” for a not-insignificant amount – say 10% – and the customer will find themselves making an active choice between environmentalism and having a nice box they can use for gifting or to keep for storage for many years to come.

Anurag

Of course it is. I would certainly make the choice for environmentally-friendly and cost effective packaging, as you and many others here have too.

Many people will flat out not care either way.

But for some, it is a bad surprise. And that’s really the issue – the surprise. If they knew and understood in advance they would probably be fine.

Storytelling is the art of setting up and then meeting expectations. Packaging tells a story; of the care with which a product was created and looked after. The disappointment is a result of the expectation not being set correctly.

It’s somewhat like the lift mirror story. People were complaining that lifts were too slow, so they put in mirrors and the complaints stopped. Just because people are complaining about something (lift speed/packaging) doesn’t mean that it is the problem – but there may be something else (boredom/expectations) that is.

That’s not to say it’s a failing of yours – there will always be those who complain. I also don’t know what the right answer is – I’m simply offering a perspective on packaging that I find helps me better understand the issue.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, i believe the presentation of the product when delivered is important. However, for me the main issue is of sustainability. Whilst it is very pleasurable to unwrap multiple layers of shiny packaging i find it rather distasteful in the current environmental climate. I would like to see basic but considered packaging in entirely recycled and recyclable materials. I bigger issue for me is also trying to buy made to order clothing wherever possible to avoid wastage. Happily there are more and more places to do this nowadays with some great small brands using this as a business model. I feel the desire for luxury packaging is somewhat vane. Buy good quality products that will last years and stop worrying about the 20 second dopamine hit of unwrapping lots of tissues and bows!

John

I would say it depends a lot on what type of product it is as well as what type of brand. In general, I dislike “wasteful” packaging, but if the packaging is unable to live up to the “brand persona”, which is generally the case when the packaging isn’t a conscious decision, it tends affect my view of the product. For instance, getting a mass-produced and cheap plastic hanger (or travel bag) with an expensive coat/suit as opposed to say will usually make me wonder what other corners they cut, even though I wouldn’t think that way if none were included. Conversely, a more premium addition, such as a wooden shoe box, will influence my view of the product or brand positively. Which means that the packaging (and other included items) generally have a very polarised influence (very bad-very good). It usually doesn’t matter if its cheap or premium though, as long as it is a conscious choice of packaging with a “personal touch”. Which means, a crisply folded shirt in neat paper with a ribbon is much better than a shirt thrown in a premium-feeling cardboard box. Not really sure where im going with this input, but in essence I value a) items/packaging that gives additional value to me as a consumer and b) personal and neat packaging that conveys a conscious decision. Which means that if the packaging/items does not give the consumer additional value (ie. say a shirt pouch) I don’t find that it usually matters very little. However, if the packaging have a personal/genuine touch, especially if it resonates with the brand/product it will influence my initial impression of the product. Conversely, packaging that feels haphazard will do the opposite. Solid packaging only made to perform the function of protecting the product during transportation will be recognised as such though and do nothing for my impression of the product.

Charles

Hi Simon,

It’s a great issue and it indeed deserves to be discussed. It is always nice to open a nice box, or get your parcel into a nice packaging. For example, plastic envelopes create a poor impression. However I think that the design and quality of the product is far more important. I never keep a box, as I find it creates clutter and I try to avoid unecessary hoarding onto things. I would rather have an exceptional item, and have it coming in a simple paper wrap or even no packaging if possible. In this case, why would I want to pay for almost immediate waste? It makes no sense.

Kevin

A few points:

1. I love the hand written note I receive from Mes Chaussettes Rouge. I’ve kept them all…

2. In an Allen Edmonds shoebox. There’s really nothing special about this shoebox. It isn’t designed to be anything other than a shoebox, and I doubt any reader here would find the box alone interesting, let alone exciting. But it’s full of cards and cool labels, and has a little tin with sewing supplies, and an old billfold wallet, and some random stamps, and some pins I got from god only knows where. But the way it sits on the shelf in the closet with a giant scarf atop it makes me…happy. And the other boxes I have give me a strong sense of giddiness as well. I still have a small cedar box I got at Yellowstone in the mid ’80’s. I still have Reses’s Peanut Butter Cup tins I got at Christmas decades ago. I have cigar boxes from my college years that now hold whatever I need them to.

3. So there seems to be–at least in my case–something profoundly psychological about specific packaging at least when these packages are reusable boxes (I’m sure many other comments mention this same thing). So like the Hermes boxes, if there was a Permanent Style Box, I would keep it literally for the rest of my life. And I’m not a hoarder. I tend towards minimalism more than extravagance. The past doesn’t mean much to me.

4. I’ve never ordered from PS, but if items arrived in a bow-wrapped ensemble like in the initial photo above, it would be…weird. It would be like watching you strut around in a vintage Tommy Nutter suit. It’s just not “on brand.” But it seems many readers would be elated with a simple PS box.

Alex

I first got into menswear when I was in my early teens living in London, reading PS. I remember being so excited by Turnbull and Asser, Drakes, Budd, A&S or whatever it was that I’d always save the bags, tie or cufflink boxes. They felt too nice to throw out. The bags would end up getting folded into each other until I had a big bag full of lots of smaller ones sitting in the corner of my room. I also had all the little cufflinks in their boxes in a grid on my bedside table. When I was cleaning out my room to go to college I was struck by the amount of waste from all those boxes and bags-also a sobbering reminder of how much stuff I’d bought over the years. But all the elegant presentations definitely made me feel special at the time when I’d save up for a month or two to buy a tie or shirt. Now I’ll forego the packaging and just put whatever the new item is into my saddlebag before I leave the shop. It definitely feels better that way.

Tommy Mack

I enjoy luxurious packaging but I agree that less is better. I dislike waste and reuse whatever I can (my little girl has a multistripe tag from my Paul Smith jacket as a bookmark!)

Can I just add that in terms of environmental impact, carbon footprint is far more important than recyclability. Obviously waste should be minimised wherever possible but for example, a thin plastic bag that goes straight into landfill may be less harmful to the environment than a hefty cardboard box which has to be transported and recycled into low grade paper.

BespokeNYC

Curious if you were able to find out out if the reader in question, was buying the item as a gift?

I agree with the other commenters who said they’d be willing to pay extra for packaging if it’s for a gift, but it should be something you request and pay more for when you need it, rather than the default.

Michael Bingaman

Gumps, Takashimaya, Bergdorf, Neiman Marcus all traditionally wrapped purchases beautifully. Tiffany has blue boxes, Hermes orange. When I buy bespoke, I do expect to receive it beautifully wrapped. Not necessarily as a gift, but with something special; a colorful tissue paper, a special ribbon, something that says the seller appreciates my business and wants me to return. That little extra “something” will keep me returning over and over.

Paul Shapiro

A bit shocked by the comments insisting the chap is a snob or fool. This was a really thoughtful piece on the pros and cons. Nice packaging can be very much a part of the experience and if you look at watch box inflation definitely a consumer preference. Think Patek going from boxes barely bigger than the watch to lacquered wood boxes that would double as a high end humidor with a bit of cedar lining, Omega has brought the box size and complexity to almost comic levels where for a long time they came in little plastic boxes, or even Rolex with similar but ever bigger and more elaborate versions of the green box with crown. With many brands it is very much part and parcel and just exquisitely done: Hermes, Cartier, and yes even Mr. Porter (I still have a fantastic trunk like box from them with beautiful book liner paper covering). On the other hand most packaging is not that nice or special let alone useful for anything else and just gets tossed. Now if you are in the shop you can always say “no box please” or “I have a bag”. Not so by mail. Offering the eco option when ordering is certainly a good suggestion, although of course it means two sets of packaging for PS. The really important suggestion for non-essential packaging (like the nice box versus the bubble wrap or protective covers) is to make it nice enough for people to really appreciate and even want to keep, and if you are really at it, to make it easily re-employable: For example, if it is a box, make any inserts or item holders easily removable without making the inside look ugly. Not hard to do, just requires a bit of design. Wish cartier would do that, the boxes are beautiful but each one has a fixed interior designed for the shape of its contents and you would destroy the lined interior trying to remove it… With some imagination you could also provide little internal dividers with suggestions on that the box might be good for holding or organising. Just a thought.

ANM

Absolutely.

Once you receive something packaged exquisitely, you value it more.

It is why more packages are featuring that matte texture (implied quality, and value). It is why phones and computers come encased like fine jewelry.

The Japanese have known this for centuries.

Fine watches are valued more if they come with the original packages.

The last two credit cards I have received have come in wooden boxes! If banks (who have obviously done extensive research into what is important), believe packaging, and presentation is important, you know it is….

Jerome Mackay

Very interesting topic and views, here. Thanks to Simon and all who’ve contributed. It feels like the largest consensus is:
– keep basic delivery packaging to a minimum: just what is needed to protect the items in transit, but make sure this can be easily recycled. It seems solid kraft packaging is the trend here at the moment. If necessary, accompany more minimal choices with a quick explanation about these choices and give examples of re-use-recycle
– brand packaging needs to convey the spirit of the brand both in its style and substance (think of all the senses). Adapt to the item’s specific needs where possible but again keep this simple and well designed. Full recycling options always best (avoid laminating for example) these days.
– offer a more substantial gifting option which can be purchased when needed
– offer optional garment storage “up-sells”, like proper hangers, garment bags, etc. Shoemakers already do this with shoe trees.

I won’t add more about the consumer packaging, so much has been said already, but I was interested in the point about in-shop packaging (Tom Ford boxes chucked out!) and have a little anecdote. Unless you have worked in retail, you might not know the extent of the waste happening behind the scenes. First of all there are all the delivery boxes from the warehouses to the store which often have OTT protection around each item: each shoe box protected by tissue or bubble wrap, placed in a delivery box and this is placed in a bigger box with extra packing…. like russian dolls having a ball before the product has even reached the shop floor (virtual or physical). You then move items around the store but this has to look smart so sales staff often use the nicer carrier bags during opening hours. These bags might cost £5-£10 each or more wholesale and get wasted on a ridiculous scale. Well, this really annoyed my wife who works for one of the top French fashion houses and her suggestion to start using well-made cloth bags instead to move items in the store is now being taken up globally and may well end up saving this brand significant costs on previously wasted packaging. These cloth bags can be washed and will not rip. The hard bit is now to get all the staff to use them instead of the customer carrier bags under the till – much like our grocery bags for life, they keep forgetting to bring them back to/from the stock rooms!

Zach Uttich

I own a small MTM store in Chicago and we educate our clients that with their very first suit/jacket, we include a 600 denier poly-canvas bag that is embroidered versus the nylon screen printed one most retailers provide. Afterwards, they get a recycled and recyclable plastic garment bag. 99% of our clients have a pile of garment bags under their bed or in a closet and don’t need the excess waste. Many even return with their first bag to pick up new garments. We’re now trying to figure the best way to reduce the packaging with shirts, as they include a number of components to successfully ship from a production line to our store.

Neil

From my humble perspective, the less packaging the better…..unless the packaging is going to CELARLY serve some fundamental purpose (for instance the shirt bags you use), I would rather not have it as it is something to just throw out. George Cleverly puts their bespoke shoes in amazing shoe boxes which I actually USE to keep and store the shoes. Literally almost every other purchase I make I find myself throwing out the majority of the packaging.

Less is more…..focus on the quality in the product (like you do) and functionality of the packaging (protecting the product during shipping, and potentially storing the item when arrived). Everything else is excessive and wasteful.

David

A fantastic post. I detest waste, but at the same time I really enjoy attractive and well designed packaging.

After looking through all the comments, no one seems to have mentioned what I think is an important point. How do you want to position the PS shop to your customers? On the one hand, you’re selling extremely high end goods and competing at some level directly with the luxury houses. On the other, it’s a direct to consumer business and part of your pitch is that customers are paying a fair price for the actual goods without any of the extra marketing costs and fripperies of the big brands.

That’s a tough balance to get right. Drakes tries to do it with their plain brown recycled cardboard boxes. That might be a good solution for a single item. However, once you have a bunch of them, they’re more likely to go in the bin – they don’t have the visual appeal of the Hermès orange boxes.

Anthony

Interesting article. I understand the commercial logic behind the use of luxuriant, and ostentatious packaging by specific brands. Its part of their business psychology, image and identity in their and buyers mind. It speaks of social status and the economic ability of their market which distinguishes the buyer in terms of their economic power and cultural capital. At that level for some paying a few extra quid, (ha as an Australian I’m old enough to remember our use of the Imperial monetary system) is part of the game. It reinforces the buyers ideas of their own identify and position in society and represents service and quality.

However this does not excuse them from using recycled materials in that packaging, and or cutting down on the packaging component. The earth is not flat and climate change is real so we all have to do our share in contributing to the continued health of the planet.

Maybe its a hangover of being a child to parents who were born in the great depression, but the wife and I try and recycle packaging for practical storage if not then its into the recycle bin. I’ve found Drakes boxes to be very useful in terms of document and photographic storage. Most of the time I will forgo the use of bags either branded, plastic or paper if possible.

Luke Strezo

I clicked on this article because I’m, 100%, a sucker for good packaging – a well-wrapped piece gets me fired up when it gets to my door. Even down to the foods I sometimes pick out at the grocery store, packaging is everything (until I eat the food, of course). However, I also believe in recycling so I don’t exactly know where I stand here. On one hand, things need to be packaged in order to be shipped – and at that, I’d like them to be packed well. But on the other hand, if the packaging isn’t “keep-the-box worthy,” it can be super wasteful. I think if something’s got to be packaged, like food, people should pay good attention to detail because it can really make a difference. But with clothes, I think brands should be more mindful of the resources they use, especially if they’re not on Hermès’s level.

Joel

I love nice packaging. It feels nicer opening a Chanel fragrance from Chanel than ordering it from an online seller.

Joel

The cost of packaging will be built into the cost of an item when it’s bought.

There’s a Clive Christian fragrance I love but it’s generally way out of my budget for aftershave. I can’t bring myself to pay £250 for a 50ml bottle.

Clive Christian used to have a shop at Bicester Outlet Village, I find it ironic their old slogan used to be “the most expensive perfume in the world” and it’s at a discount village.

That aside the shop workers told me that the only difference buying at Bicester instead of Harrods is the packaging.

AG

Having made several commissions from Savile Row over the last 12 years I have noticed that the quality of the suit carriers has gone downhill somewhat. They said it was because the material and manufacturing costs were going up..

…but frankly when you spend £3,000+ on a new suit I don’t think an extra £30 on a more robust bag is really going to break the bank!