Versace, Armani, Chanel, Cardin, all huge names in the world of fashion design. Middle class women will spend an entire paycheck on a Marc Jacobs handbag, or even save and spend a year’s salary, or charge it, for Gadino – made of rare white crocodile and studded with diamonds. But, when you purchase a true designer piece, whether it’s an accessory or a skirt, are you getting your money’s worth?
When you purchase designer goods, you are, first of all, paying for the design. That may sound obvious, but knock-offs are common. Knock-offs go for the look without the details that make the designer piece truly valuable. Seams, attachments, top-stitching, and other elements of the design are part of the indicator of whether or not the piece you are considering is the real thing or not.
Construction goes right along with design, here. Most designer pieces are well-constructed – no designer wants a piece of theirs to fall apart at a fancy party or awards ceremony. Why do you think so many designer pieces last for decades? Gowns worn by Marilyn Monroe have recently been sold at auction for millions. If they were cheaply made, they would have rotted on the hanger.
Perhaps the materials used in truly designer clothes set them apart from off-the-rack clothing. The white crocodile mentioned above is just one example of rare and normally un-attainable materials, although the white color was probably achieved through bleaching. Fendi sells bags made of the most rare animal skins in the world: something called “lush deer skin” and Roman calf.
Fabrics are more finely woven and deeply dyed than general retail goods. Prints are more carefully matched. In fact, if you go to a fairly reliable department store and find a designer name on the rack, and it feels like good material, it probably is designer material. The second cuts from the original production line are often used for other garments for the “boxed wine” edition of the designer’s line. (Even fine wine makers sell their “off” products as cheap boxed wine, usually under another name.) This way, the fine fabric is not wasted, but the best cuts are used for the first run. Print materials are cut to make the prints line up at the seams or to create a certain graphic across the entire piece. The remnants won’t line up as well, so something will seem “off” to the untrained eye in subsequent runs.
Cashmere, silk, and satin are the most commonly used fabrics in designer clothing. These are all fine fabrics that last forever if they are properly cared for. When you’re shopping and see an item billed as “cashmere”, look carefully at the tag. If it doesn’t say the product is 100% cashmere, you probably aren’t getting a first-cut designer item. You’re buying the boxed wine version.