As a discriminating young person who has grown up in the age of brands, I find myself at a difficult crossroads. There are a number of trends and patterns that are flowing simultaneously, all of which are difficult to resolve into a clear “right” way to progress.
In the past, brand names were reliable and people paid extra for them because they could be trusted. Their products were superior and their reputation is what did most of the sales pitch, not a salesperson. Similarly, people were loyal to brands, and rarely strayed from their chosen brand, in any and all categories. That sentiment seems to live on today in some form, though it is joined by other, competing thoughts.
One of those is – there are inconsistencies and breaks with tradition when it comes to brand names that have changed management or gone public and are now at the mercy of shareholders. Most fashion brands and brands that have high visibility are like that. There are only a handful of high- and low-end brands that aren’t owned in small incrementsÂ by thousands of people. Chanel and Hermes are two high-end brands that are still family-owned.
The other modern thought is – brand loyalty is a joke. This is probably a sub-thread of the first thought, but people feel less connected to any given brand, for one reason or another, and are less likely now to stick to one brand than they were in the past. My theory is – there are just too many choices and people like to be different on different days of the week rather than sticking to the norm.
In any case, here is my personal dilemma. I am a brand whore. I like to think I’m not but as much as I resist, I do love a good designer sale. I spent most of my college years obsessing over Louis Vuitton, and probably spent a total of $3,000 over that time, on stuff that now sits in my closet. Even now, in my less manic state, I still fall into the trap of Burberry, or Theory. And that would be all fine and good, except that, the quality leaves something to be desired. I could probably find most of what Burberry and Theory sell at J.Crew or Club Monaco with comparable quality, and with significantly lower prices.
The fact of the matter is, things like Ralph Lauren Purple Label just aren’t worth the money. Neither are Gucci sunglasses, or Prada perfume. All of that stuff is produced en masse, in factories in China or India (despite the ‘made in’ labels)…and little attention is paid to the product itself and its inherent qualities which are what their brand name was built on to begin with. Sorry to diss on those countries…but the products could be mass-produced in the US and the result would be the same (see Ford Motorcars).
The crux of the problem is: where does someone, like me, shop for brand-whore type things that are also guaranteed to be of high quality, like in the old days? Brands like Loro Piana, Hermes and Stubbs & Wootton seem to offer superior products at (unfortunately) very superior prices. I will likely continue to be happy to purchase some brand-name things and some non-brand name things, all of which I will choose carefully, theoretically ensuring their quality of construction and cut. (Read: no more buying from GILT sight-unseen).
A permanent and 100% satisfying solution is still a work in progress (or at least, several pay raises away).
Thanks for reading!