Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It's not what you buy, it's how you put it together

This article couldn't have said it better.
Reproduced from fashion.telegraph website

High fliers turn to the high street
Once coveted designer labels are losing their allure as discerning shoppers head for the thrift stores, says Clare Coulson

Research published yesterday which revealed that high-earners are increasingly buying their clothes and accessories from the high street will come as no surprise to most women.

Over the past couple of years, the astounding improvement in the quantity and quality of chain-store and supermarket clothes has brought about a huge shift in our shopping habits.

At the same time, the survey found, many people on lower incomes who would have shopped at the cheaper end of the market are indulging in exclusive brands - thanks partly to society's obsession with celebrities and designer labels.

There's a certain satisfaction to be gained from telling your friends that your wallpaper-print camisole (inspired by Miu Miu, of course) came from Topshop, or that your tweed jacket was snapped up at Zara for a fraction of the price of the Chanel version. Mixing cheap and expensive clothes has become an essential part of the game for women who know the season's trends.
Foraging for bargains also displays shopping savviness, and this, perhaps, is one of the key reasons why women who could easily afford to kit themselves out at Harvey Nichols are choosing to spend just as much time rummaging around high-street stores. If you have the cash, it's easy to wander down Bond Street and drape yourself in designer labels, but it's much more challenging - and satisfying - to hunt for genuine bargains at the high-street stores, searching through endless rails of tat before chancing upon the real gems.

"It's so much more individual to combine the two," says Navaz Daruwalla, a London barrister. "I buy lots of casual tops at Topshop, but all of my jeans are designer labels. I certainly buy more from the high street than I ever have before; the quality and the design are so much better than they have ever been."

Designer Anya Hindmarch has always been a fan of the high-street stores. "I think you have to be a bit of a mug to wear top-to-toe designer," she says. "I have always mixed everything up. Today, I am wearing a Miu Miu coat with a pair of Hennes sunglasses that cost £3.99, and a new cashmere sweater with a white shirt from Zara."

Kate Jones, a successful, London-based literary agent, is typical of many of her contemporaries. She shops at Topshop, Uniqlo, Jigsaw, M&S and Camden market as well as Maxmara, Kenzo, Amanda Wakeley and Joseph. "I will shop anywhere at all," she says. "My only requirements are a changing room with enough room for me and a five-year-old."

Affluent women are trawling the high street more than ever, but there are some things that they still seem to prefer to buy from more expensive labels. Daruwalla, for instance, continues to buy tailoring and suits from department stores such as Liberty, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, as well as the season's key accessories. "And I wouldn't buy evening tops on the high street: not because I don't like them," she says, "but because I would worry that someone else will be wearing the same thing."

Cara Goodley, a company director from London, who wears items from Topshop and Mango with designer pieces by Marni, Chloé and Pucci, says: "I don't like people to know what I am wearing, so I tend to look for things on the high street that people can't really identify. You can buy a pair of Marc Jacobs wedges which look really expensive and wear them with a cheap high-street dress and feel much more original than if you had flicked through Vogue and then bought a whole look from Yves Saint Laurent."

Goodley agrees that there are some areas in which affluent shoppers such as herself are unlikely to compromise: "I never buy cheap bags or shoes."

But while high-earning women are flocking to the high street, traditional high-street shoppers are increasingly buying expensive, aspirational labels - whether they can afford them or not.
Emma Seares, a 23-year-old graduate from Essex, is typical of the new breed: "I live at home and I don't pay bills, so I can spend all my money on clothes and going out."

Seares has a vast collection of accessories from Prada and Gucci, and clothes from Missoni and Julien Macdonald, which she buys from Harrods, Selfridges and www.net-a-porter.com.
"Sometimes, I go shopping three times a week," she says. "I don't buy things just because celebrities have them, but if I had something that Kate Moss was wearing, I would think it was a privilege."

Filed on 13/05/2005

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