Reading Lucinda Chambers honest account of her sacking, the state of the publishing world and how the fashion business is more about profit than creativity, got me thinking. Over the last few years the fashion cycle has becomet even faster and trend driven due to the constant onslaught of our image based world and as Lucinda said ‘there are very few fashion magazines that make you feel empowered. Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people’.
She also said ‘the clothes (in Vogue) are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive’, which of course is true – who are these people who flick through the pages of Vogue and decide to buy a dress for £2000? And why are the clothes so excessively expensive?
On a recent episode of Desert Island Discs Kirsty Young asked Stella McCartney about a dress she’d seen online for £3,500 and about the “ethics” and “morals” of someone paying a lot of money for an article of clothing.
“Look at some of my competitors and that’s probably fairly well-priced. I mean, I do struggle with that concept, but I work really hard to have a lot of products that are available on a better price point. I have things that I think are very well-priced, but I also really struggle with fast fashion and fabrics that aren’t beautiful, that don’t use the best mills in Italy and in Japan and in England…I think you have to also keep those crafts alive in order to make something that will last you a lifetime, that you can give to your daughters, that they can give to their daughters. I’m in that business and I think that is luxury.”
While there is no doubt that Stella uses the best quality fabrics and her clothes are beautifully made, but they are not timeless, in a Jean Muir or Marni sort of way – therefore I would question their longivity. And a quick scroll through the website left me questioning how a relatively basic denim dress could cost £630?
Not wanting to single out Stella McCartney however, my cynicism with the luxury fashion industry extends to all the big luxury labels, as the price points are similarly extortionate across the board. Once upon a time a pair of Gucci loafers cost £175 ( I know because I bought some in the 80s) and now they cost £540. They are more or less the same shoes in similar leather, with the same details – and I’m no accountant – but do the maths – isn’t that a 400+% increase?
It seems to me the reason these clothes cost so much is because they can. A little like a terraced house in London costs over a millions pounds – it isn’t actually worth any more than a terraced house in Hull – but people will pay it, because that’s what houses in London cost.
As we get older, most of us love the idea of buying less and buying better – but just who are these brands targeting? Apart from Dries, Marni and the occasional piece from Miu Miu and Prada, even if I had the money, I would find it hard to buy from brands who seem to target fashion obsessed women with more money than sense.
The gap between cheap fast fashion and high end luxury brands is bigger now than ever and while there are some interesting labels in the middle who offer well made, timeless style (Acne, Maje, Margaret Howell etc) at more reasonable price points, there is still lots of room for more – as I for one, won’t be buying a pair of trainers for £545 any time soon.