Tuesday, August 19, 2008

chain gang.

Whether or not Erin Wasson's upcoming jewelry line, Low Luv (top picture), is a rip off of indie designer Bliss Lau's (bottom picture), the pieces supposedly start at $1200 each. Um, why? I know the revelation that "fashion is overpriced!" is about as groundbreaking as the sky being blue, but I still don't understand the price on these things. How did $1200 become the STARTING price for a bunch of interlocking chains?

Look, I realize art is expensive, creativity is a pricey commodity, and that when supply is low and demand is high, prices go up. But $1200? Why is it that some pieces are insanely overpriced beyond their worth? Is it because, with a name like Erin Wasson ("She's so cool! She was Alexander Wang's MUSE!"), people will inevitably buy her stuff, no matter the cost?

If something is made very well, from fine materials, or just extremely original, I have no problem paying a relatively high cost for it (within reason). I like independent designers more than fashion's big players and I realize that with such a small production team (often of one!), they have to charge high prices to cover costs and still make a profit. Spending a fair bit of money on a few solid pieces, quality over quantity, is something that both Tim Gunn and I subscribe to. But what about those expensive, mass-produced, nothing special items that carry a designer label but were probably made at the cost of pennies?

I often think about this with some of my own overindulgent, less spectacular pieces I've purchased. I bought an ADAM by Adam Lippes dress for well over $400 (it was for my college graduation and I was feeling impulsive), and it was still manufactured in China. For that price, I'd expect Mr. Lippes himself to have handcrafted it while his assistant circled him and the dress with a sage stick for good measure. Adam Lippes isn't very well-known, the dress wasn't THAT amazing, and it was produced en masse by people in China. And still, priced at $400, which is insane but actually quite measley in the world of fashion? To give you some perspective, Moschino's Cheap and Chic line barely STARTS at $400.

As I've mentioned before, high prices don't guarantee that the workers are paid fairly. And as far as quality? I've felt my share of designer pieces while perusing Neiman Marcus: some of them are impeccable, others feel like the stuff at H&M. By the way, if you ever want to feel poor, ask someone in Neiman Marcus for help finding something!

Anyway, Erin's line looks to be a bunch of interlocking chains, which is interesting (though Bliss's are cuter and actually priced -- relatively -- within reason, starting at $200). But uh...Lulu made the same thing for about $9 with supplies from Home Depot. See?

So, are designers just egomaniacs? Greedy? Appealing to an upper class elite I can't even begin to understand? What do you think about the lofty prices?

As for me, I'm feeling like a hypocrite, because an item's subjective worth is in the eye of the beholder. Alexander Wang's amazing dresses, at $700, are disgustingly expensive but still covetable, and I'd pay that much if I could afford it (as I kicked myself for being a sucker). If I didn't like his designs, I'd think he was an asshole, just like all those other designers who charge the same but don't appeal to my aesthetic. And if there are those who actually like Roberto Cavalli, someone, somewhere, has GOT to think Alexander Wang's designs are ugly.

Related: "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster"

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