‘Too expensive, innit?’

I’m not normally one to take to the internet when I’m cross, but a conversation that keeps cropping up with people in my life is really beginning to bother me and I need to get this down on paper, so to speak.

And that conversation goes something like this: what is the point of paying a fortune for designer clothes when you can go down *insert high street store here* and get something for £10?

Usually tacked on to that statement is: what’s the point of fashion anyway? which is a post for another day.

Before I leap into content, here’s a lovely picture for you to look at. I styled this young lady as part of my fashion styling course:

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That’s one of my favourite images from my course. I think it looks awesome – I love the green of the kimono, the pop of the pink skirt against the background and the sass of the model, who was a lovely person to work with.

In keeping with the tone of this post, guess how much the outfit the model is wearing cost.

Hundreds? It must be some amazingly expensive designer outfit to look that good, or even be suitable for a fashion shoot. Not thousands, a fashion student doesn’t have that budget (much as we’d like to).

Totally wrong. The kimono cost £1 from a charity shop and the skirt was £39.99 from Next, and it’s one of my office skirts. I never paid more than £40 for an outfit for any of my shoots and now I wear a lot of the clothes I used for the shoots.

After that shameless bit of bragging about how cheap I can be, let’s get back on topic: why is designer fashion so expensive, and what’s the point of it anyway?

The fact it costs so much can be summed up in one word: exclusivity. A luxury brand, say for instance Hermes, charges the prices it does so that its customers feel exclusive. Look, the customer says, I have an Hermes scarf, I paid X hundred/thousand pounds for it. You don’t have an Hermes scarf. I am more exclusive than you.

The feeling of ‘look at me, I have a Thing that you don’t’ is what the luxury brands are aiming for, both with the designs and prices of their items. They’re not meant to be ‘affordable’, they’re meant to be coveted by those who can’t afford them. It’s not just fashion brands either – think of the luxury car brands. I recently test drove a Porsche and I did feel like winding down the window and yelling ‘where’s your 500 horsepower SUV, peasants?!’ but I didn’t. And stepping back into my Volvo afterwards felt like such a comedown. It’s THAT feeling, that you’re just that bit better than everyone else. That’s why designers charge the prices they do.

But what about those of us that can’t drop £2000 on a high end jacket? We can scroll through Instagram, sigh in longing and go and look for a convincing replica of what we covet on the high street. That’s why the ‘get the look’ pages in fashion magazines exist – they’re showing us how to recreate the look without the sky high price tag. You can have the feeling of being on trend and exclusive without making your accountant cry.

And then of course there’s couture. That’s really a league of its own, and the prices charged for those dresses because of the craftsmanship and the hours that go into them are entirely justified. I recommend everyone watches the ‘Inside Dior’ documentary that was on television earlier this year, if only to gain some insight into how couture works and the amount of hours that go into a dress. It’s fascinating. For those of you not in the UK, it should be available online somewhere. I think it’s still available on All4 for those of us in the UK.

Maybe that wasn’t too much of a descent into rage. I have a feeling I’ll have the ‘too expensive, innit’ conversation with people again before the week is out. I think it’s time for an iced coffee and a sit down! We are still on Heatwave here in Surrey. Send help!

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