Okay, so... one complaint we hear most often about clothing is "Well if it cost $X to make, then why does it cost $XX to buy???"

A) Fashion brands are businesses.

B) That $X only accounts for direct materials and labor. It doesn't account for the overhead of making apparel.
There are INNUMERABLE people and processes involved before the materials for a garment are even purchased and sent to a factory for bulk production. I'll go through them starting from my end as a designer, and then talk about other people and functions.
First - what are we making? Every season/line starts out with imagining what we'll actually make for the customer to buy in 12-18 months. Design directors, trend researchers, consultants, etc. do research to make educated guesses about what will be saleable in a year's time.
They research color, pattern, silhouette. It's a bit different for every brand, but imperative for a healthy business to get this right. It must consider the tastes/budget of the customer, their appetite for newness and what they might already own. It's cool, but high-pressure.
So we have our inspiration. Staff designers then take that and design ideas/concepts for specific garments. The garments have to be compelling on their own but also work with the whole collection. Designers work in specific categories; I designed jeans and plus in a past job.
(This step is often a lot less glamorous than it looks in movies... many places imagine designs through computer sketches, though some places have their designer sew actual samples to present. Also, the job is designing FOR YOUR CUSTOMER - not for your personal tastes.)
Right now I'm a print/CAD designer. These are folks who design the prints that go onto fabric. Again, every brand is a bit different. We have the luxury of having a large department and we paint proprietary prints. I also take those prints and computerize them for production.
There are also people who work on color (colorists). Their job is to make sure the colors of the different fabrics match perfectly each season, or else the collection looks haphazard (and customers get upset). You have to take a color acuity test to land this job. It's important.
Fabric teams help identify and develop fabrics that will please a brand's customer and also work within the brand's production budget. They make sure the fabrics feel good, perform well, and in our case, take printing very well.
You could also be a fabric/textile designer, a person who selects the threads/yarns and designs the way they're woven or knit to perform in specific ways. We don't do this in-house, but we work with mills/factories that do.
Okay, who else is there? I'm nowhere near done.
Okay, so we've got our seasonal direction, our proposed designs, colors, prints. Patternmakers look at the designers ideas and create patterns for the garment. This is a highly skilled and incredibly specialized job.
Then we'll need samples. A sample is a literally that - a prototype garment that shows whether our ideas can work in real life or not. (They often DON'T and we don't know that until there's a sample.) Some sampling happens overseas, some brands have an on-site sample room.
Tech designers are my personal MVPs - I work closely with them. They examine the fit of a sample, and make (often ingenious) adjustments so that a garment lays on the body in a comfortable and flattering way. We also need fit models to wear the samples while techs do this.
As a designer, I worked with techs to make sure the jeans I designed were fitting the way I imagined. As a print designer, I work with techs to place prints in specific ways on the body of garment.
(Have you noticed how long this thread is getting yet? Cool.)
We also have something called Product Development or Production teams. These folks run the numbers on the materials and labor for specific garments on determine whether they're feasible to produce in bulk - or not. PD kills a lot of dreams. (I kinda love them for it.)
PD works closely with factories to negotiate prices and to get garments manufactured and shipped on time. They often end up telling designers, "That fabric is far too expensive, we're going to have to find an alternative." Stuff like that. (PD friends can chime in.)
(We still haven't gotten to actually manufacturing the garment.)
Once all of these people do their jobs, sort out the fabrics, colors, prints, designs, the design director/VP/CEO reviews all of the samples that have been created and asks....

Is this good enough? Will it sell?

If you've ever heard me mention line review, well... 😂😂😂
There are several line reviews, which means we go through this process a number of times. Which feels like madness, but makes sense when you consider a brand's biggest expenditure is INVENTORY.

If we're going to spend $XXXXXX to put a shirt into production, it has to sell.
Now up until this point, I've ONLY talked about folks who work on what we call "product teams" - designing and producing the product. But there are still many other integral jobs beyond that.
Merchants/merchandiser/buyers are the numbers people who look at how things have sold in the past, and they use that data to determine what and how much of it we'll sell in the future. Down to "How many dresses? How many skirts? How many things in navy?"
They're also very attuned to the wants and needs of the customer, and inform us on the design side what the customer is looking for, what she wants to spend on, what she's leaving in the store. They are very cool, very sharp people.
There are also the folks running the warehouse/distribution center. Honestly, you don't have a clothing business if you don't have people who can ship product accurately and on time. They develop systems of storing/organizing the product and packing them for shipment.
Then of course there are teams working in marketing, digital commerce, store relations, creative communications, HR, internal communications, etc. etc. etc.

In short, A LOT of friggin' people involved in the process of making clothes to sell.
So when you say "If it costs $X, why am I paying $XX?" you're not taking into account *ALL* of the work involved in creating apparel. The factory is absolutely crucial, but the work does not start and end there.
Yes yes yes! I'm occasionally, tangentially working with 3D virtual sampling, but I know @Sauniell has much more to say!
Also... I didn't even mention the people working the retail stores! Also crucial to this process!
TL;DR: Producing clothing in bulk is a MASSIVE and financially risky process. Good businesses make sure to do it right, so that means hiring and paying people to do all the processes involved effectively.

That's why you're not paying landed price for a skirt.
All these processes are important for EVERY brand, even the "non-trendy" ones - probably even more so! Nike/Adidas invests in textile performance/innovation, outdoor brands need materials/construction that are durable/reliable, etc. So these processes in getting it right are key.
Yessss, heat seals! LOL! At my old job, I had to pick the color of the heat seal - same why I had to pick the color of thread, buttons, zippers, etc. - but for some reason the heat seals always amused me. 😂
@Sauniell has a great thread on tech opportunities in fashion. I can tell you from personal experience, especially since the onset of COVID, 3D sampling has become WAAAAAY more interesting to folks in apparel.

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