My initial excitement about Motor City Denim has faded.


When I first heard of Motor City Denim I was very excited. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to support Michigan made products. At first glance, a company founded by a guy who used to make things for the auto industry is certainly something I should be wild about. I was - until I found out their target audience. It sure isn't me.

I guess my disappointment is my own fault. My thought pattern went this way: A company making jeans that is trying to be a part of the resurrection of The Motor City - which played a huge part in creating and sustaining middle class existence in Michigan and a large part of the Mid-West - would be targeting the regular people. Henry Ford broke things wide open when he concentrated his efforts on producing automobiles that EVERY family could afford. When I heard MCD co-founder Mark D'Andreta on the radio talking about the importance of keeping regular people employed and his drive to make a product in the US instead of overseas I was fist pumping and talking back to the radio.
Fast forward to the MCD website which is offering pre-orders on these made-in-Michigan jeans. My enthusiasm drained like the coffers of the City of Detroit when I learned that if I wanted to own a pair of Michigan made jeans I had to spend a minimum of $149 (8/28/11 - now they are $178) for a pair. (They have two styles for men - the Eight Mile for$149 and the Ambasadors for $169.) Believe me, I was NOT expecting to own a pair for the same $25 to $30 a pair I spend on Lee jeans made wherever Lee can find the cheapest labor force. My wife makes jewelry here in Michigan and I know we cannot compete with Chinese mass production in the area of price. By the same token we do not stock our store with strickly high end merchandise either. I guess in my mind the MCD jeans would come in around $50 to $60 at which point I would have been the proud owner, wearer, and advocate/salesman. Sorry, Mark - but $150 ($178) jeans are out of the range of my interest for casual, functional attire.
I wish MCD the best of luck and good fortune with their product. I am happy to see them working to keep Michiganders employed. I am truly bummed that I will not be buying their jeans. They do offer t-shirts for $25 and $30 bucks, but a shirt promoting jeans I don't wear is kind of silly in my book.
I can only surmise that Mark and his team have looked into their crystal ball and decided that the future of clothing Made in Michigan and/or the USA does NOT lie in the wallets of the dwindling middle class. They have set their sights on bigger check books than mine.
Bummer.

UPDATE: The same day I wrote this piece, I contacted Motor City Denim via the form on their website and expressed myself regarding their products and pricing. I thought it was the right thing to do. I asked if they would be introducing any lower priced jeans and expressed that I felt it was odd to be targeting high ticket sales only from the Motor City. They never responded.

2/23/13 - ON A POSITIVE NOTE - I have found some jeans that are made in the USA and sell for less than $100. (Wish they were made in Michigan, but.....). I found them through the Duluth Trading Company on page 29 of the catalog dated March 2013. Price is $84.50 - right in my comfort zone. Apparently, many of  their customers had been asking for jeans made in America and they found some. The catalog states:

"So when we found a company in Tennessee that still makes jeans in America - out of high quality domestic denim - we signed 'em up in a hurry."

They are made by a company with FIVE generations in the clothing business. I ordered some today. There are 195 reviews on their website and the score averaged out is 4.5 stars out of 5 so I am anticipating a nice, high quality product. Will let you know how they work out

In the meantime, you can get your own here: Duluth Trading

3/16/13 - I have worn my Ballroom jeans from Duluth many times - including spending two long days in them traveling back and forth on vacation to Hawaii. I am VERY happy with them. They are very well made and comfortable. I ordered my first pair in the dark denim and will be ordering a second pair of them in the stone washed color. Excellent product at a reasonable price.
Just received my second pair: My review is here.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I just watch a Detroit documentary on the discovery channel.I was so impressed with MCD until, like you, I saw the pricing. The price has gone up $20 since your posting. Women's jeans are even more. WOW
Anonymous said…
Wow...totally bummed out. I saw the documentary as well and I live in NC now but was born and raised in Michigan and Michigan is and will always be my home. I thought that I would buy some jeans for my family...and maybe get the buzz out there and help the growth of Mich....but at 150 plus...sorry working folk can't afford that especially in todays state of ecomony
Cori said…
Same here...Detroiter living in Toronto (moved here for work when my former employer downsized and couldn't find anything in Michigan, or much of the US for that matter). I expect $200 jeans in Toronto...I do not expect them in Detroit. Cliff, I agree with everything you said and had the same reaction. I'd pay a small premium for that...then the shell shock hit as I visited their website. I wish all the luck to them keeping alive in boutique clothing shops in Royal Oak, Rochester and Birmingham. Hopefully some day they'll expand their line and we'll be able to support them as well!

~Cori
Anonymous said…
While I agree with your frustration, not sure I agree with your conclusion.

Back in the day, Henry Ford's peers paid far more in today's dollars for a pair of jeans--but they wore them and wore them and wore them. The notion that we need 10 pairs in the closet is real new.

Walmart has trained consumers that $30 is the 'right' price for a pair of jeans, but with that comes all the side effects as well. You pretty much need to choose...
Cliff Yankovich said…
As I mentioned, I am not ignorant enough to expect Made In Michigan (USA) jeans to be $20 to $30. At the same time Motor City Denim is out of my league at the prices they charge.
One more thing - Wal-Mart hasn't trained this consumer about anything. Wal-Mart hasn't received any of my money in almost a decade.
Could you agree that there is some room between $30 a pair and $178? Six times the price is a pretty serious difference.
Anonymous said…
Just like you I was really bummed out regarding the prices of these jeans, not to mention they are not that spectacular for $178...I've also heard that most of their merchandise is NOT made in Michigan...Don't be fooled by the label...some rock stars (that I will not name)like to pretend that they are producing made in the USA products when they are not!!!!!
Cliff Yankovich said…
Not being made in Michigan is kind of a tough accusation. May I ask how you came to this conclusion? I am not trying to call you a liar, I am interested in findout out your documentation/evidence. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
If you do some back of the envelop math you will see that a small US-based quality jeans company will have to price the product at around $100 per pair to stay in business (premium denim, labor, mkt, SG&A, profit).
Cliff Yankovich said…
Yeah - I could probably handle 100 bucks, but not almost 200.
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately Mr. D'andreta and his team are trying to succeed but is not catering to the Average American buyer. I would like to know where the raw material is made as well. My guess is Mexico and it is shipped up to Michigan to be assembled. Is that worth a $200 pair of jeans? Mr. D'Andreta is living in his own bubble.
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately Mr. D'andreta and his team are trying to succeed but is not catering to the Average American buyer. I would like to know where the raw material is made as well. My guess is Mexico and it is shipped up to Michigan to be assembled. Is that worth a $200 pair of jeans? Mr. D'Andreta is living in his own bubble.
Anonymous said…
Motor City Denim Co. was actually created by Joe Faris who was on Project Runway and his original goal was to create a jean for the 'average Joe' under $100 but Mr. D'andreta and his team controlled the manufacturing and wouldn't have it so they high-jacked the company from Joe. D'andreta and TDIC are only concerned about big profits just like the corporate types who help destroy Detroit. Joe on the other hand continues to do positive work in Detroit and is a big part of the resurrection of the motor city.
Marco D'Andreta said…
Why didn't you post my last comment? Not interested in the truth or opposing points of view?
Cliff Yankovich said…
Marco D'Andreta - Two things. First, I thought I did publish your last comment. I read it and while I did not like reading about what went down, I appreciated learning about it. I am sure I clicked the "publish" button after I read it. Sorry it did not appear.
In my defense (point #2) if you read much of my blog - the most popular piece is about an olive oil cleanse is the best example- you will see I put up opposing points of view all of the time.
So - please repost the story - I would love to share it and will do my best to see it gets posted.
Cliff Yankovich said…
Here is the original post from Marco - I found it in my email and when I went to publish it, it would not work (?) so I am copying and pasting -
Marco wrote: "Let’s set the record straight. First, Joe approached TDIC with the concept of making jeans. I believed the idea had merit; so I hired him for the job of creating a line of jeans, and showing us how to make and market them. We were already a successful cut and sew operation and we still are, but retail was another story and we needed an expert. Joe convinced me he was that man. Before starting the Motor City Denim Co. project we had many discussions with Joe about the productions issues that we needed guidance on. He assured us that he could help us with all of that and more. The fact is, making a pair of jeans in the US with US made denim and components, while paying living wages is a very difficult proposition. It is simple math. It takes at least 2 hours to make a pair of jeans, here, in LA or China. 2 hours is 2 hours. We pay good wages and provide excellent health care and benefits including profit sharing to our employees. We have a clean well run air conditioned plant. These are good things right? But when you add up the labor, washes, benefits, overhead, fabric, and other components a pair of jeans cost us $60. That is with NO profit to the manufacturer. The stores mark up the product over 200%. So let’s just say for arguments sake that we are willing to make zero profit. The retail cost of MCDC jeans would be $120 - $150. So the reality is not that we stand for big profit, it was that we believed a con man who knew our cost issues going in, and convinced us it was not a problem. Wanting to make a pair of $100 jeans is one thing blaming others when you are clueless and discover it is not possible is another. Fast forward 2 ½ years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, it turns out Joe is a charlatan. He was not capable or interested in making anything but only to feed his ego. His desire is to be famous, not successful.
Second, the Company was NEVER high-jacked from Joe. He never owned anything; he was a contract employee of TDIC. He failed to live up to the conditions in his contract. My talented and hardworking staff pulled in all the slack for Joe while watching him miss deadline after deadline, never completing the line; sometimes disappearing for days with uncompleted tasks some months old. With a production capability behind him that currently creates 15 new products a week for the automotive industry, we are very capable. Me and TDIC were not the problem.
The real issue is, and let’s be honest here, Joe has no talent or business skills. His big claim to fame is washing out 6th out of 16 contestants on a reality show in 2008. That’s a finish in the 60th percentile. Where I grew up 60% was a D, and not a “D” for Detroit, but as in one grade above failing. The stores that did pick up the line were not able to sell them and they all dropped it. The last straw was when his designs were rejected by Project the premium denim buying show in Las Vegas. After that he was fired.
Mr. Anonymous, I would like to know what BIG part of the resurrection of the Motor City Detroit Joe is responsible for. Are you referring to Fashion in Detroit; a defunct fashion event that still owes people money? Joe has had legal judgments for lack of payment against him for FID? Not to mention the things he stole from me when he was fired. It was not the corporate types like me that destroyed Detroit; it was liars, crooks and charlatans like Joe. None of his web sites are up. What has he done? Where can you purchase anything he has created? Seriously what??
I would put my accomplishments up against his any day and I am willing to put my name on that.
Ps. No one is more disappointed than I am at not being able to deliver the promise we started out to. Unfortunately it was not to be. So we are back doing what we do best, growing our industrial business and creating jobs.
Sincerely,
Mark D’Andreta
President TD Industrial Coverings"
Cliff Yankovich said…
Thanks very much for sharing this Marco, I was unaware of any of it. My post was written in May of 2011. I did not follow any of the drama at MCD that you described. I only updated this post when I found some American made jeans that fit in my budget. If everything you claim is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) then I am very sorry you got mixed up with a character like Joe.

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