Is designer fashion really worth it? Hooray for the high street I say!
Gemma Cartwright writes...
I often wonder, if I had the money, if I'd actually be a designer shopper. Obviously I'd wear couture to the Oscars (accompanying my imaginary beautiful actor husband), but would I really be able to relax in £250 jeans? I spend all day looking at clothes and still find myself shocked at how much people will ask for a bit of material, a few buttons and a zip. Of course, sometimes the price reflects the work that's gone into a piece. A hand knit 3/4 length cashmere cardigan, for example, or an intricately beaded and embroidered lace dress that four nuns in Italy spent two years creating. But usually, it's just a case of rehashing something from the past, running it up in a factory not dissimilar to the ones the high street use, whacking the words 'Marc Jacobs' on it and flogging it for £600...
I've fallen for it. Many times. Designers do have access to better fabrics and there is some truth in the phrase 'there's nothing like the real thing'. I carry a designer handbag every day and I have to admit it's already lasted much longer than any cheapie I've carried before. When an email containing the words 'Sample Sale' appears in my inbox I stop everything to read it and look for the magic words (70% off, London, free entry). I pine for an Alexander McQueen coat, some Anna Sui slacks, a Proenza Schouler waistcoat and a Betsey Johnson prom dress, and when I'm feeling down I put on my designer shoes and drink Pinot Grigio in my living room while listening to dreary acoustic rock. I have to admit it usually cheers me up to know that, for once, I have Marc Jacobs on my feet instead of New Look.
But I do think some of the appeal of designer clothing disappears when it's readily available to you all the time. Wearing Dior to go to the supermarket is a waste. That feeling of excited smugness is lost when every pair of shoes you own cost you over £200 and they still hurt your feet. Saving up for that one perfect item makes you appreciate it all the more, and it also ensures you invest in something timeless.
I truly believe there's no fun - or creativity - in dressing in head-to-toe designer clothing all the time. Especially if it's all the same designer - any idiot with enough cash can carbon copy a look off the catwalk and look amazing. The fun is in mixing it up. Adding a bit of high street and still looking amazing. Mixing high-end with vintage, buying interesting things from ebay sellers in far-flung places, or discovering cult labels, eco fashion brands or tiny boutiques that do something a bit fun and outlandish.
I like to think, even if I were rich, that I'd be able to 'do and SJP' and mix Bitten-esque low-end pieces with my favourite designer finds. After all, I have designer items in my wardrobe that I've never worn and I have hand-me-downs that I've worn to death. Lest we forget, places like Topshop, Zara and Forever 21 are so good at bringing the catwalk to the high street that most of us mere mortals have no reason to throw away £800 on a coat that'll be 'sooooo last season' before you can say "my credit rating's that bad?"
Who's with me?!