It all started off so innocently!
As a pre-teenage girl growing up in Wellington’s Lower Hutt and having only ever been exposed toFarmers 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, they would constitute 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 head-rush. 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?