I is for Investment Wardrobe. If you aren’t familiar with the practice of buying expensive clothes because they will “last longer” we are going to tell you everything you need to know about this practice and then some. Get ready for a serious fashion eduction.
Investment Wardrobe: Buying high priced clothes (aka seasonless investment pieces) on the assumption their quality is better, they will last longer and they won’t go out of style.
“I like my money right where I can see it, hanging in my closet!” Carrie Bradshaw
As someone who manufactured luxury men’s dress shirts that sold at Saks Fifth Avenue for over $425, I can personally attest to the difference in quality between high end luxury goods and lower price alternatives. Having manufacturer goods in the U.S.A, Portugal, and China I know firsthand how different the quality of craftsmanship is for luxury goods.
What is so different between the craftsmanship of high versus low end apparel?
There is no comparison to the fabric used on luxury goods, blindfold me and I’ll feel the imposter every time. The quality of lower price cotton from China pales in comparison to the weight and hand to a 100% cotton fabric from Austria. There is no close second to a hand printed Liberty of London fabric.
On luxury goods there are more stitches per inch creating a garment that holds together over the years in a way that low price aren’t simply aren’t designed to do. The process of single needle tailoring allowed clothes to gather at the seams more smoothly.
The pattern on luxury goods cannot be matched by a low price alternative. For those $425 luxury shirts made in the U.S. we flew in a world renowned patterns maker and spent weeks coming up with the perfect patterns for our men’s shirts. Pattern making was this man’s art and really the pillar that luxury apparel stands on. Designs that make your body look as beautiful as possible. Ask your well dressed business man what he loves about his Brioni shirt and he will undoubtedly say fit.
Luxury goods are produced in smaller quantities which generally lends to part of the increase in price. The production process between a legacy apparel manufacturer in the United States and cost conscious apparel production overseas is vastly different. When luxury apparel is manufactured the process is highly nurtured. When our first order was going to Saks I flew across the country and personally watched every shirt come down the line. I was quality control, I was packaging, and I was there side by side with the cutters, the sewers and the factory workers to make sure they knew exactly what I wanted the final product to look like. No language barrier, just a highly nurtured process from start to finish.
An Argument in Favor of an Investment Wardrobe
Cost Per Wear
The most common argument in favor of an investment wardrobe is “cost per wear”. What is cost per wear?
Cost per wear: Cost of the item / the number of times you will wear it
For example: My first Louis Vuitton was a Monogram Speedy that cost around $800. I was in college when I got it and proudly carried that bag day in and day out for easily 4 years until I got my next Louis Vuitton. The cost per wear of that bag (not even factoring that I still carry it sometimes and will for decades) is .54 cents.
$800 divided by (365 days in a year times 4 years )= .54 cents a day
The lesser known argument I have in favor of an investment wardrobe is something called “planned obsolescence”. It’s a term you might not know but it’s consequence you pay for every day.
Planned Obsolescence: Planned obsolescence is a business strategy in which the obsolescence (the process of becoming obsolete—that is, unfashionable or no longer usable) of a product is planned and built into it from its conception. This is done so that in future the consumer feels a need to purchase new products and services that the manufacturer brings out as replacements for the old ones. (source: The Economist)
Let me put it in context for you. Have you ever thought about how cell phones plans never exceed two year contracts? And that your phone generally starts to act up around the third year? The phone was essentially designed to break. Software programs are made upwardly compatible so that there is a reduced value to consumers for the previous version.
The fashion industry, and women’s clothing in particular, by design is deeply committed to built-in obsolescence. Each year designers come out with two collections in the Spring and Fall. Things are in fashion or they aren’t and that ebb and flow is what drives the production and marketing of new styles. Hemlines are up, maxi skirts are in. This seasons color is green, and next season it is orange.
Knowing that consumers will tire of their trendy pieces by year’s end, apparel manufactures cut their costs and produce lower quality products. Quality fabrics get swapped for poly blends and stitching widens.
Clothes sold at a lower price point are less expensive for 3 reasons:
- Larger production batch
- Lower cost of materials
- Lower production cost
Knowing all this, an investment wardrobe of high quality pieces that won’t cycle out with the trend that are constructed with a level of quality and craftsmanship to be admired, might just be the right decision.
An Argument Against the Justification of an Investment Wardrobe
Are Your Clothes Really Investment?
Come on, who really sells their clothes for more than they paid for them. Investment applies that you are stashing your money for safe keeping and growth. Nobody’s worn in, stretched out, smelly Christian Louboutin’s are worth more than the day they bought them. There is no such thing as an investment when it comes to clothes.
Now, it’s obvious that investment dressing is fiscally irresponsible for those that don’t have massive amounts of disposable income. But is it socially irresponsible to continue to feed the message to young woman that they need these things they can’t afford? To give them a false illusion that this is an investment? Our financial literacy is lacking so adding a some smoke mirrors and pretty things, is not helping set young women up for a successful financial future.
Now that I’ve infused a whole new element of economic practices into my little niche of fashion love, I hope that if you made it all the way down here to the bottom you at least learned something new about the business of fashion. And at the end of the day, whether you are advocate for “investment wardrobes” or not, there are a handful of good arguments in your corner regardless of which side of the closet you are standing on.
Share your perspective on this discussion! Who is an investment shopper and has curated a collection of timeless pieces that you will have till the end of time? Tell us what those pieces are! Are you an investment wardrobe neigh sayer? Give us your reasons!