What Is Fashion Worth To You?
Designer clothes are not for the weak at heart, nor for weak wallets. When it comes to fashion, there are certainly no shortages of ways to spend money, but where does all this money go? Is it all about cache, or is there truly something special about the designer garments that justify their high cost?
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fashion. I myself have had $300 jeans fall apart for no reason in the washing machine, but other pairs that were just as expensive that I would swear by and purchase again. On the flip side, I’m sure many of you have experienced that great find at a lower priced store that outlasts a similar product that costs twice as much. So what is going on here?
Generally speaking, the cost should reflect the quality of the item. While that doesn’t always happen, there are some situations where there’s no question that you are paying an appropriate price for a fine product. The top, top end of fashion, Haute Couture, as those in the industry refer to it, are not kidding around when it comes to quality matching cost. High fashion designers have a very select base of clientele who have gowns and clothing designed specifically for them. The seemingly outrageous prices reflect not just the exceptional materials used for the clothing, but the actual hours of labour and staff required to create a truly original and perfectly fitted garment.
The process of purchasing an Haute Couture gown, for instance, is not the same as heading to the high end boutiques found in the upscale shopping district of your city. The first step is making an appointment to meet with a design house. Depending on “who you are”, this may need to be made months or even years in advance. After an appointment is secured, a meeting is arranged with a vendeuse. The vendeuse will go over the designer’s collection with the client and oversees the production of the gown. The dress is made specifically for the client’s measurements and body shape, and is meticulously hand made. This, of course, follows a carefully crafted prototype of sorts, called the toile. Each step in this process requires strict attention to detail, many hours of effort, and a large and knowledgeable staff.
In true lavish lifestyle extravagance, designers don’t usually make much profit from their Haute Couture pieces. In fact, money is often lost on collections because such a small percentage of the population can afford them. The real profits are made in the recreations of their oeuvre, the more wearable “prêt-a-porter” versions of high fashion. These are the garments we see in high-end stores that are still well made and expensive. They are sources of further, shall we say “inspiration” to a vast spectrum of shops, all the way down to the dreaded knock off.
As with high fashion, the amount of work and the quality of materials generally reflects the clothing cost. Some stores are able to reduce their prices because of the simple economics of supply and demand. There are some pieces that many people want, so they may have a higher quality and a lower price. Conversely, items that are more specialized, such as eveningwear, may be more expensive simply because they aren’t purchased as often as turtlenecks or your basic cotton tee.
It gets a little bit tricky in this mid-priced range, as some designers can overprice their items in an attempt to feign quality. These are the trendier labels, looking to cater to a certain crowd and to appear more exclusive than other brands. The mentality behind their pricing is that the higher the cost, the smaller the group of people who can afford them. This is also appealing to the buyer, as you feel that you are buying something unique, something more representative of yourself and your own personal style.
Fashion and designers are constantly evolving and more affordable yet well-fitting and well-made items are being produced at higher and higher rates. While purchasing some select and luxurious pieces is a wise investment, it certainly isn’t always necessary, nor is cost the sole indicator of quality. In order to be confident that you are getting what you are paying for, be sure to pay close attention to how the garment is sewn, the feel of the material, and the way it fits your body. If it happens to cost half the price than you were expecting, bonus. Now you have even more ammunition to head out and find a truly worthwhile indulgence!