It all started off so innocently!
As a pre-teenage girl growing up in Wellington's Lower Hutt and having only ever been exposed to Farmers fashion and the occasional piece from The Warehouse, my excitement reached FEVER PITCH when I discovered Route 66, a tiny, fashion-forward boutique dedicated to stocking the latest and greatest pieces from an assortment of Australian and other international labels.
After acquiring my first item from there (a black and white, swirly, Girlstar number!), the other items in my wardrobe no longer compared. They seemed monotonous. Frumpy! Uninspiring! This soon became my future attitude towards ANY other article of clothing that didn't carry an exclusive (and expensive) brand name, and it didn't stop as I entered my teenage years and moved to Australia, either. (Ooh, no!) While initially devouring anything that cost less than a $20 note and making ''hey, at this price, I'll LEARN to love it!'' my shopping mantra with my best friend, my belief that an item's quality was in direct relation to its price tag swiftly returned.
It only became worse as I entered the world of full-time employment, and braced the shopping malls armed with a disposable income. Once again, all of my cheaper items were relegated to the back of my closet or donated to charity, and I promised myself that from that moment on, I would only ever purchase items which boasted attractive designer names on the label - all because, in my mind, this constituted as ''quality''. I'd eagerly fork out $200 for a plain white t-shirt, indistinguishable from any of the chain store varieties, purely because I believed that it was ''an investment piece''. I wouldn't set foot into a discount department store, and one of my earliest career goals was to purchase a Chanel handbag with my first hard-earned bonus. But slowly, the magic allure of the designer label began to fade. I realised (the difficult, financially-draining way!) that happiness WASN'T as instantaneous as finally owning a highly-coveted accessory, or that a couple of extra digits on the price tag of a dress didn't make it indestructible from snagging, losing its shape or fading in colour.
The spell was finally broken when last year, I spied a Marc Jacobs sweater in a high-end store with a sale price of $150. It had originally been marked as $500, and without even considering whether I needed it, had anything to pair with it or if it was marginally flattering, I marched over the register and immediately presented my bank card to the sales assistant, infatuated with the price reduction and in the midst of a TOTAL designer headrush. As she scanned the item, she looked confused and said ''I'm sorry, but it's not scanning at the sale price...'' I prepared myself for disappointment, until she continued: ''... but I'll just re-enter it in the system. Wow... $150 for a Marc Jacobs sweater? That's amazing!'' She looked dubious and slightly suspicious as though I'd somehow manipulated the bargain myself, but wrapped it up anyway. I was ELATED, and began mentally patting myself on the back for being such a savvy bargain shopper. Until I arrived home, that is.
Upon proudly sharing the story with my boyfriend and eagerly flinging my new purchase at him, he carefully studied it, inside and out, and said slowly, ''I don't get it.'' I stared at him, confused and anticipating what I was sure would be complimentary. ''What?'' I said nervously, after a few minutes of silence. ''What don't you 'get'?'' ''Well,'' he started. ''The whole designer thing. To me, it just looks like an ordinary jumper - and it's made in China. It's not like it was crafted by hand in Paris and has cashmere in it or something, you know? I don't know. I probably just don't understand, but the fact that someone might've paid $500 for this? It seems kind of... odd.''
He wasn't trying to be unkind, he was just being honest. And although it upset me at the time, I realised that he was ENTIRELY correct!
Price doesn't necessarily equate to quality, and a brand name doesn't bridge the gap between extra ordinary and extraordinary. While I can completely justify purchasing a more expensive item that's been beautifully created and will last (such as a leather jacket, or a fabulous shoe!), too often an emphasis is placed on which name or store produced the item without the exploration of how much of an essential, worthwhile piece it really is. These days, I'm much more content with finding my clothing at vintage and second-hand charity stores or Ebay, and spending the rest of the amount I've saved on experiences, such as travel, dinner with my favourite people or tickets to see an amazing band!
When it comes to fashion and the big brand names, what’s YOUR opinion? Are you happy to spend, or keen to save?
I've been trying to break my designer addiction for years. I even lie to my husband about how much I spend sometimes, and I know it's wrong.
Hello beautiful! When you get time can you shoot me a quick email with your address again for the gift taggie?! Exciting! <3 you x
For me, quality trumps all these days. Sure, some brands do have quality on their side, but even in discount places or cheaper clothing stores you can find quality if you know what you're looking for. My wardrobe boasts a combination of quality brands, with cheaper basics and just because there is a brand attached to something, doesn't mean it's always the best quality so I try to strike a balance.
I think it's something we're all guilty of at some point. While I don't see the allure of big-name designers, I am something of a brand-snob when it comes to shoes - the only sneakers I will wear are Converse All Stars. I wear them almost daily, and since I got my first pair several years ago I've not even considered buying anything else. However, I DO think I'm paying ($80+) for quality as they last a while, and if I'm going to be wearing them every day, they'd better look and feel damn good.
The lure is strong ... but I've found myself able to buy designer ONLY if I can afford it and it has something super special about it. Actually, my only designer piece is my Miu Miu sunglasses. They set me back $125, are the ONLY big-lens sunnies that have ever looked good on me, and have crowns on them ... and crowns are a personal symbol of mine. So I think that's justified.
Otherwise, I think it's better to buy what looks and feels good to you, no matter who made it.
5ft0 - My goodness, Mimco products are INSANELY expensive.. I think their designs are gorgeous, but I don't even set foot into their stores anymore because I'm constantly baffled at how they can charge so much for their accessories!
Julie - Me too. That's my new shopping rule: quality, not brands. And sometimes, quality can be found at a discount store such as Target, but sometimes, it's a pricier garment such as an elaborately detailed coat.. I hear you!
Sarah - Thank-you very much, and UGH, I know that feeling! I once bought a lacy Ralph Lauren top, and I was thrilled because I truly thought that it was something that would last me a while.. the lace ripped within a month. Boo!
Tamara - I know. 'The Sunday Telegraph' in Australia recently ran a really eye-opening article on the construction of some designers' clothes, and it was staggering: in some cases, designers were paying their workers $12 per the creation of a piece, yet would later charge $358 for the same item in stores.. madness, and saddening.
Alex - YES! Precisely.
Miss Peregin - Now, that IS awesome! :) What a fabulous place to work!
Hear hear! What a wonderful article. As you probably know, I get most of my clothes on the cheap - there's only a few things in my wardrobe that I've ever paid over $50 for.
I'm a firm believer that the best bet for brand names are stores like Trade Secret, who I work for - brand names at up to 75% off the RRP. And that's before they get marked down. We had a 50% off any marked down items sale over the weekend, and people were walking out of the store with Calvin Klein Jeans for $15. Awesome!
I'd only ever buy a designer item if it was majorly reduced (i.e. I could get it for the same price as at a chain store) or pay full price if it was something important like a wedding dress etc.
And hey, when you can find a lot of designer pieces in opshops for about 1/9999th of the price, who wants to pay top dollar?!
I don't understand why we pay premium prices on certain brands that have their products made in sweatshops by people who will never in their lifetime reap the rewards of the of money being charged to the buyer......
what an awesome post! its so true, designer does not ALWAYS equal quality.
there is a difference in paying for quality, well made garments, like u said and designer. sometimes u really are paying for the label when u consider fabrics and where it was made and by whom. plus, when its something like t-shirts, cotton is cotton!
i wore vera wang heels to my year 12 formal and the strap broke before id even stepped out the door. ugh.
I think that there are some items that are worth investing big $$ on because they are quality. Things that you'll use the rest of your life like a good pair of jeans or a good coat. However when it comes to t-shirts and accessories I don't get why people would pay a $100 AUS for a tank top.
But quality doesn't mean big brands. I guess that because I have never been able to buy those big brands I don't take them into consideration. I look for quality, not brands.
Many branded items of clothing and accessories are ridiculously overpriced!
Mimco for instance, is a great example. It now costs $800 for some of their bags and the design is rather...interesting. Their jewellery? Same thing.
I think with any branded products, I refuse to pay it full price nowadays, just because I know how little it cost to make those products.
The jewelleries sold at Sportsgirl, Witchery (or any store that stocks costume jewellery), the necklaces may only cost 50c to make - but by the time it hits the stores, it could be anything from $15 to $60.
Thank God for their sales, they still make a huge profit when they do those sales.