Are designer clothes really better quality than high street ones?

Christian Louboutin shoebox

“I’d NEVER spend that much money on shoes/a bag/ a dress/ delete as appropriate!”

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that line, I’d be able to buy all the designer clothes my heart desires – well, SOME of them, anyway. The comment, when it comes, is normally followed-up by some variation of the question, “What’s the point? Are designer shoes REALLY worth the money? Is there a huge difference between a high-end handbag, and one from the high street?” Well: IS there?

I’ll start off here by saying there isn’t really a simple answer to that question. I, for instance, have a closet fulled with brands going all the way from Primark to Prada: I’m definitely not a clothes snob, and I’m not a reverse snob either – basically, if I like something, and if I think the quality and price represents good value for money, I’ll wear it. What this means is that I have quite a hard time answering the “is it worth it?” questions I often get from people who are horrified by the cost of some of my shoes and handbags, and who want to know if the quality really is so much better than I’d be able to find on the high street, for a fraction of the price tag.

My answer? Yes and no. Which really isn’t much of an answer, is it? The fact is, though, I have “cheap” clothes which are genuinely great quality, which have lasted for years, and which people are always surprised to find came from H&M, or some other high-street brand. I’ve also seen (although haven’t bought!) designer clothes which really have made me question the sanity of the people buying them, because the quality has been nowhere near what I’d expect for the price tag.

Going by that, you’d assume that no, the designer clothes really aren’t worth the extra cash, wouldn’t you? That’s not quite true, though: for one thing, they’re not ALL like that. For every badly made designer item I’ve come across, there have been many more which are so exquisitely made that it’s not hard at all to see why they cost so much: all of that hand-stitching and attention to detail doesn’t come cheap after all. Where designer items really have the high street beat, however (in my opinion, at least), is in the quality of the actual design. This doesn’t apply to ALL designer items, of course, but the ones  I’ve chosen to buy have all been justified because they have that certain something about them that I just can’t find anywhere else.

Sometimes it’s the quality of the fabric, or the skill of the workmanship, but more often it’s that indefinable something that makes the item really special. There are tons of pairs of pointed toe pumps out there, for instance, but although they all sound the same on paper, none of the ones I’ve found on the high street come close to matching the style of my beloved Louboutins – which have now been worn so often that the cost-per-wear is way less than many of my much cheaper shoes. Similarly, although almost every store on the high street sells some variation on the classic trench coat, you can spot a Burberry trench a mile off – not because of the signature check in the lining, but because of that je ne sais quoi that really makes it special.

With all of that said, I’m not ever going to stop shopping primarily on the high street: not just because I can’t afford NOT to, but because I think we’re really lucky to have such an awesome selection of affordable clothing available to us – and some of it really IS every bit as nice as its designer counterparts.

So the answer is that there is no answer, really. Unless you’d like to offer your own perspective?


1 Comment

  • I really like what you said about cost-per-wear, I will try to remind myself of this the next time I am thinking of buying the cheaper option. I working to build a wardrobe with less but better quality items, we should all feel great when we get dressed.

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