If you’ve ever watched a fashion show, or seen the photos, you might find yourself scratching your head thinking: Who would wear that? Fashion often straddles the line between art and functionality. However, while most of us will never wear (or be able to afford) the getups that make headlines on the world’s most famous runways, many people seek practical fashion brands that improve their style, shape their identity, and just make them feel good wearing it.
With that in mind, how do you determine what makes a certain clothing item or accessory worth spending more than a few bucks on? Experts help us weigh the factors that make a fashion brand worth paying more for.
What’s in a Brand Name
A brand name in and of itself may not mean that a particular item is worth the money. However, brand name products often do use higher quality fabrics and materials, according to Muaz Notiar, co-founder of Meet Your Wardrobe, a re-commerce and wardrobe tracking analytics platform, and Revstance, an upcoming marketplace for independent fashion brands.
You are also paying for the brand recognition itself, particularly if you’re moving into what Notiar calls “the luxury segment.” He says, “The more you move towards the luxury segment the costlier [a brand name] will be. Plus [you pay for] the recognition of the brand in the segment. This is because the fabrics and the construction techniques used as you move towards luxury are more costly, which is reflected in the price of the item.”
So along with brand name alone, some of the following qualities make that brand worth a bit more.
Robustness and Durability
Higher quality materials have what Notiar calls greater robustness. “The more robust a product is, the more utility an individual can extract from the product before a replacement is needed. As a result, a higher cost would be accepted for an item on a relative scale as it increases in robustness,” he says.
Cost Per Wear
You can break down robustness into a more concrete measure Notiar calls “cost per wear” in a recent blog post. In essence, if you buy two items, for example, say two jackets, you may notice over time that one of them holds up better than the other. Often, it is likely the one you paid more money for. So the price tag alone isn’t a good determining factor if you get a great deal of use out of the item before it breaks down.
Rameez Usmani, director of e-commerce and retail at Selkirk, adds that brand names often use “superior components” making them “exceptionally long-lasting.” While this makes them more expensive, he adds, “You may make better use of them because they last for a significantly longer amount of time.”
Another way to think of what you’re getting from paying more for a fashion brand is “sustainability,” according to Phil Scully, a social media and content creation expert in the fashion industry.
“There has been a massive push towards more sustainability in the fashion industry, with designers like Vivienne Westwood purposefully moving to use fabrics that will last longer no matter how much they are worn or washed…When it comes down to it, the reason some clothes are worth more, is because they will give you much more wearability over a longer period of time, which in this day and age is something more and more consumers should be paying attention to.”
In a blog post for Revstance, Notiar points out that luxury brands do put more emphasis on expert craftsmanship, “to create one-of-a-kind pieces” and often handmade pieces. Many designers treat their products like an art project.
Much of the clothing you buy at affordable stores, ranging from Target to Old Navy, is made from synthetic materials. While those materials often travel, pack and wash decently well, they aren’t built to last, according to Slater McLean, CEO of the clothing line Oliver Charles, whose company uses 3D knitting machines and Yak wool to make go-to sweaters.
In a recent blog post, McLean pointed out that not only do synthetic fabrics not last as long, but they’re bad for the planet as well. Natural fibers, such as cotton, or wools made from animals, have a much better profile and longevity, and are worth paying more for.
Customer Service and Experience
Sometimes, paying more for your fashion means getting improved customer service, Notiar says, “When you visit a Prada or Louis Vuitton store, you will get only the best customer service you can imagine. While good customer service exists in mass market brands, you won’t get that one-on-one attention you get with luxury brands.”
Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
Fast fashion — that is, products made out of cheaper-to-produce materials — wears quickly, says Eric Elggren, Co-Founder of Andar, handcrafted and full-grain leather accessories and handbags.
“On a personal financial level, you’re not actually cutting costs or saving money on spending by buying cheaper clothing. Those fabrics are typically not quality-made, will wear even further in the wash, and you’ll wind up having to purchase clothing on a more frequent basis. By going with organic materials or brands that are a little pricier, you’ll notice your clothes last a much longer time, and you can feel even better about doing your part to help the environment.”
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: What Makes Certain Fashion Brands Worth Paying More For, According to Experts