x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Designer duds have their place, but fashionistas know signs of quality

Most of us lack confidence when it comes to buying, which is normally why we head straight for the designer price tag, which isn't always the right choice.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04: A model walks the runway during the Chanel Ready to Wear Spring / Summer 2012 show during Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais on October 4, 2011 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04: A model walks the runway during the Chanel Ready to Wear Spring / Summer 2012 show during Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais on October 4, 2011 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Most of us feel that designer wear is the enemy, one with two aims: to make us appear both rich and thin, which, let's face it, always manages to disappoint. However, the luxury industry (one that used to be the sole preserve of the elite) has now, with such an expanding middle class, been forced to open its doors to a wider audience. So, with the successful expansion of high-street retailers such as H&M, Zara and Topshop and the rising popularity of diffusion lines such as Marc by Marc Jacobs and See by Chloé continuing to flourish, why should we continue to spend? Is designer wear still worth it?

Well, yes we should, but we need to know what we are doing. Like most things, time is money, so look for attention to detail: complex stitching, hand finishings and silk lining all indicate quality and craftsmanship, so don't be afraid to ask where things have been made or what exactly they have been made from. Leather, gold, cashmere and silk are all materials with inherent value - but remember that rarity doesn't always mean quality.

Feel the item, and watch how it falls. If it moves with ease and is soft to the touch you are more than likely dealing with quality. Aside from the actual manual labour, fabric contributes the most to the cost of the garment. Higher-end brands can afford to use natural fabrics, which in turn will breathe and wear better, and the lower-end brands will have to experiment with synthetic blends that are simply not built to last. Make sure to check for loose threads, as cheap brands cut corners in garment construction as well. Unreinforced seams can slip and tear, unbacked buttons can fall off easily and cheap lining will trap odour.

Most of us lack confidence when it comes to buying, which is normally why we head straight for the designer price tag, which isn't always the right choice. My advice: spend what you have on bags, shoes and, maybe surprisingly to some, underwear. The first two speak for themselves, but somewhere along the line underwear has been largely forgotten, which unbeknown to most of us, can utterly transform both your entire shape and the outfit.

Believe it or not, the way most fashion professionals shop is quite sensible: they splash out on one big-ticket item per season, wear the life out of it and pack it away for a few seasons to follow, before bringing it back as vintage again.

Now, I understand that we can't all be skating around in our brand-new Chanel box jacket and Alexander McQueen armadillo shoes. That's a given. But that doesn't need to mean we have to stick to cheap skirt suits and a good practical shoe, either. Trick the system by buying out of season; shorts and bikinis in January, and coats and jumpers in July, as the markdown will be around 50 per cent and you are more likely to get a better quality wardrobe in the long run if you can bear the wait. Buy outfits, not items, and plan your collection meticulously - never scrimp on denim, T-shirts or accessories as these are the staples that tend not to go out of fashion and will hold their worth.

In the grand old scheme of things, we're not meant to ponder fashion too much - except, of course, when it comes to ethics. If a shirt can somehow only cost Dh60 at retail price, think about the working conditions involved to achieve that cost. In reality, what most of us feel is expensive is probably a garment's true cost, so try, if nothing else, to be careful of your investments.

 

ktrotter@thenational.ae