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ModCloth: it's not that great

modcloth is meh

ModCloth, popular online retailer of vintage-inspired clothing, has a lot going for it: independent designers, an in-house collection, fair trade options, and diverse models and size ranges. But I don't like them. I've placed a dozen or so orders over the past few years and have returned almost everything due to poor quality and fit.

I recently discovered that ModCloth purchases from the same LA fashion district warehouses as Forever 21 and other discount retailers. This wouldn't be an issue if ModCloth garments were priced in the range of Forever 21. But they're often quite expensive; full priced dresses start at $44.99 and tend toward the imported and cheaply made variety. Despite thinking I know a lot about the retail industry, it hadn't dawned on me that ModCloth was using its wholesome reputation to generate absurd profit.


Personal Disappointment

I purchased several pairs of domestically produced high waist jeans in the price range of 35.00 to 50.00 over the past year. A button fell off the first pair on the second wear. The second pair had a grossly off-center waist placket; when I exchanged it for another pair, I found the button hole impossible to fasten. When I got in touch with a representative to voice my quality control concerns, I was dismissed. The third pair I purchased went back due to a defect, as well. That one happened to be the last pair in my size and I noticed a few days after my return that the size was back in stock with 1 pair left, so I know they ignored the defect and resold them as new.


Poor Corporate Environment

As if quality control issues weren't bad enough, I read recently that warehouse conditions are sub par, with grueling hourly processing expectations preventing employees from adequately looking over garments. The social environment is akin to that of my old employer; it's a drink-the-koolaid-or-else mentality that offers all the surface level bells and whistles without any of the personal fulfillment or long term security.

modcloth article quote


Deceptive Branding

I've gotta hand it to them for their genius social media and branding tactics that make them seem like a small but thriving happy band of social justice warriors. It's genius because it isn't quite true. ModCloth's sales exceeded 100 million dollars last year. And in a recent interview with Mashable, co-founder Eric Koger, states, "We want the brand to come across as if Susan is still writing copy, not a big organization." On some level, this makes sense and it's certainly a great way to ensure personable customer service. But when customers are led to believe they're supporting a small business, they're more likely to overpay and over-advertise the company to their social networks. When they're being duped into doing it for a large, established company like ModCloth, the feel-good branding doesn't feel so good anymore.

modcloth article quote, stylewiseguide.com

I like some of the things ModCloth stands for: individuality, community, diversity. But I fear that it's all a big marketing ploy. I fear it's all smoke and mirrors to cover up widespread quality control issues, poor sourcing practices, and meh corporate standards.
*I'm shooting myself in the foot here because I just applied to be a model for ModCloth. Oh well. Also, they just changed their return policy, so beware: returns are no longer free!

7 comments

  1. I really agree with this and have come to a similar conclusion over the last year. I've only made a few purchases from ModCloth, and most were from fair trade brands I know like People Tree and Synergy, so those pieces worked out for me. I did get a few items from unknown brands that were really sub-par, though. They have a gigantic inventory and they rename all the pieces, so a dress with one name at Mata Traders will have a totally different name at ModCloth. That makes it hard to comparison shop, too.

    I contacted them once to ask about their American-made brands and never received a response. And I worked with them on a small blogger campaign/contest that offered "exposure" in return for a free post mentioning them. That sort of thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially since it's obvious that they have an enormous inventory and budget, and could easily pay/reimburse bloggers to advertise, like Mata Traders does.

    Since I started letting my hair go grey, I've quit shopping there completely. I just can't do Peter Pan collars any longer.

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  2. I view ModCloth as "better than 100% terrible". The marketing is definitely disingenuous, but that's true of every large corporate entity. I'm willing to work with/for them within certain bounds, but I don't think they deserve the cult following they've accumulated.

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  3. I always get sucked in by their clothes, but I very rarely like them upon receiving them. Since they no longer have free returns, there's even less of a reason to buy anything. I do have a couple pair of jeans that ended up working out, but I got them on sale; I wouldn't have paid 70.00 for them.

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  4. I guess I just hate the Man, really. I mean, I really appreciate Susan Koger's vintage selling roots and find it inspirational. I just think they could have gone a different, better direction by selling higher quality clothing and curating their collection that would have been more ethical and more honest.

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  5. I've really been enjoying your though pieces lately, Leah - particularly this one and "You don't have to feel it" (I've been meaning to write something similar for a while, but yours is very well-said!).

    I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with ModCloth for similar reasons (where else can you get Mata Traders, People Tree, and Swedish Hasbeens all in one place?). I wish there was an online boutique out there with similar styling but exclusively ethical options. Unfortunately, most of the fair trade/ ethical boutiques are either very limited or carry brands that are way out of my price range. Someday, right? :)

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  6. I've really been enjoying your though pieces lately, Leah - particularly this one and "You don't have to feel it" (I've been meaning to write something similar for a while, but yours is very well-said!).

    I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with ModCloth for similar reasons (where else can you get Mata Traders, People Tree, and Swedish Hasbeens all in one place?). I wish there was an online boutique out there with similar styling but exclusively ethical options. Unfortunately, most of the fair trade/ ethical boutiques are either very limited or carry brands that are way out of my price range. Someday, right? :)

    Jacqui
    www.birds-of-a-thread.com

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  7. Thanks for your encouragement. I think a lot of my disappointment with ModCloth stems from wanting them to have taken a different turn early on in their development. I really want to create my own ethical shop, though, so maybe Platinum & Rust Vintage can be a full scale ethical retailer someday!

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