I love pretty clothes but I hate “fashion news” because – although I have no difficulty understanding the vocabulary – deep in my gut I just don’t get it. Like this press release about the “Brand Keys Fashion Brand Index,” which says that the popularity of designer-brand clothes has skyrocketed in the past decade, recession be damned: “When it comes to fashion, brands matter more -- up 10X in 10 years.”
Capsule summary: once upon a time, only 3 percent of polled American consumers claimed to care about brand names in their fashion choices, but now it’s up to 30 percent. If you are a fashionable male then, statistically speaking, you’re supposed to really, really care about brands like Armani, Burberry and Ralph Lauren/Polo; meanwhile, a stylish lady is statistically enamored of brands including Chanel, Armani, Victoria’s Secret and the Gap.
I don’t disagree with any of this; I’m just saying I don’t get it. Thing is, with the exceptions of shoes, socks, swimsuits and underthings, pretty much all of the clothes I’ve bought in my adult life came from thrift stores or secondhand shops, so when I’m trying things on my only three concerns are: “Do they flatter me, are they comfortable, and are they in good condition?”
If I answer yes to all three, I don’t care about the brand – my closet does indeed contain some high-end labels, but also companies I’ve never heard of, and I doubt the Brand Keys Fashion Index has, either. (For many of those brands, I had no idea they were so expensive until I’d visit an upscale mall and notice entire stores with the same name as the label I’d just cut out of my new seven-dollar dress or five-dollar sweater.)
So when I read about people who truly, sincerely, honestly care about clothes branding … well, if you read science fiction you’re familiar with the trope where otherwise-intelligent aliens are utterly incapable of comprehending basic human emotions: “Earthling, why does the demise of your offspring upset you so? He was an unhealthy specimen and a poor candidate to reproduce your genes into the next generation. Now that your inferior offspring is dead, you have more resources to invest in healthy offspring capable of continuing your genetic legacy ....”
That’s kind of how I feel about fashion-label loyalty. I’m not denying that it exists; I’m just saying that I do not get it.