Designer labels cost big bucks

Christine Guerrini

Let’s face it. We’ve all seen the stereotypical Villanova fashion trends: thick Chanel shades, a Burberry scarf under a perfect pea coat, an oversized Coach bag, Seven jeans. It’s the living, breathing embodiment of our – or daddy’s – hard-earned cash. And for anyone who ventures inside the King of Prussia mall, it’s hard to fathom how stores like Versace stay alive when it seems as if there’s never a customer inside.

And really, who wants to spend his or her life’s savings on a piece of fabric? Therein lies the question. Why are we so willing to shell out an exorbitant amount of money for a barely-there shirt or a pair of jeans, especially when some companies don’t even give you the opportunity to rip them for yourself?

First, we have to explore the practical answer as to why some clothing or accessories can cost enough to feed a small country when a less expensive brand seems to be just as good of a fit or look. In all honesty, some of the high-fashion items coming out these days are just plain ugly. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather sport a cheaper coat that I like than suffer being seen on campus looking like my Armani feather jacket was made at the expense of Big Bird. But for the overwhelming majority of products that are attractive, two things set apart brands and bargains.

A customer service agent from Nordstroms in Philadelphia contends that the biggest factor in a company’s decision about pricing is quality. Better fabrics and more elaborate designs not only cause an increase in price, but so does the amount of time needed to produce the item.

Secondly, there is the issue of exclusivity. Certain products, such as a tailored suit from Hugo Boss, are not as readily available as a standard men’s suit and pants combination. Although some of the scarcity of these items is due to the need for special materials, it is more likely that companies purposely produce less to increase the hype around their products.

Freshman Mayuri Khemlani uses her economics class to explain this in the reverse sense.

“A substitute is cheaper because it has to do with supply and demand. You’d rather buy a polo shirt that costs less than an authentic Ralph Lauren, so the company can keep its prices down,” she said.

On the other hand, psychological reasons are an even larger factor in the sky-rocketing prices of designer fashion. The eager shoppers of our generation are a marketer’s dream. It’s all about the image, with celebrities and peers having a huge impact on our purchases.

“People identify certain brands with quality so that is a partial justification [by the company] for the price increase,” junior Steve Guerrini said.

In all sorts of media, the perfect outfit is an absolute must. When stars such as Halle Berry don a $170 pair of jeans or when Chad Michael Murray wears a pricey, although casual-looking, button-down shirt, one can’t help but think, “I have to have that.”

Associating a brand with the fame and beauty of a celebrity certainly ups the appeal; in a way, it’s as if the fabrics transform you in to something more notable. Advertising also has a way of sending the message that “you are what you wear,” and if you don’t wear certain things, you will not be noticed.

When asked how she would describe her expectations of brands, sophomore Mona Munayyer replied, “If I’m spending more money on jeans like Sevens and Rock and Republic, I expect better quality and a better fit than some of the less expensive jeans.” She added, “Your friends definitely have some type of influence on your style, but in the end it’s all about your individual look and how much money you want to spend on it.”

As she said, the opinion of peers greatly affects what one wears. Starting earlier and earlier, our society stresses fashion and high-styled living.

By the time we get from high school to Villanova, the ante is up and a shirt from Abercrombie isn’t going to compare to your roommate’s Prada bag.

Junior Broc Flores said, “People tend to keep with the trends because it is shoved in their heads.” However, he does admit, “I don’t preach because there are brands that I like as well, but when it comes to it, a pair of jeans doesn’t need to cost $200.” Unless the willingness to spend an entire month’s paycheck on a single article of clothing changes, we can expect that prices will stay consistent.

When it comes down to it, whether you love the big brands or hate them, fashion is about comfort and feeling good with how you look. Don’t buy an expensive pair of shoes that make your feet scream bloody murder just because they’ve got a name stamped across the heel.

In the end, those modestly priced heels you purchased that you could walk around in all day, every day, will make you, your toes and your wallet a whole lot happier.