Designer Brands: Why Are We So Obsessed?

coach-signature-stripe-pink-handbag1.jpgDuring my freshman year of college I was amazed at how many girls wore designer denim to class and toted their books around in enormous Coach bags every day. How do they afford it? Why would they waste such a cute, expensive outfit on 8 AM class? It wasn’t the parade of sweats and pajamas I had been prepared for by older friends.

Instead I saw Seven For All Mankind, Paige, Primp, BCBG, Free People, Steve Madden, etc. etc. etc: What distinguishes these particular brands from Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, or those created by T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s? After questioning several of my designer brand sporting friends and trying to justify several of my own purchases, I came up with the following list:



1. Product Quality – Many people who don’t believe in buying designer brands say that you are only paying for the brand name and that the product is no better than any other. While you are paying in part for the “privilege” to wear the brand’s name, you are also probably purchasing a product that is high quality. For example, I buy designer denim because it fits better and lasts longer than the jeans I buy for $25.00 at Bob’s. Designer clothes are usually made from finer fabrics and have superior stitching compared to those of bargain stores.

2. Consistency – Most people who wear designer clothes swear by a few designers. For example, someone might own thirty pairs of Paige jeans but refuse to even look at Joe’s Jeans. Both are expensive, high quality brands, so what’s the difference? Paige jeans consistently fit, last, and look great, where Joe’s Jeans aren’t as flattering (this isn’t my personal opinion, it’s just an example). People keep going back to the same brands because they consistently perform well for them.

3. Self Identity – Certain brands represent certain things (according to the advertising class I took last semester). For example, Ralph Lauren represents classic preppy. Club Monaco is worn most often by young stylish professionals. Abercrombie reminds you of a skinny and popular thirteen year old girl. People buy certain brands because what you wear represents who you are.

4. Social Status – Wearing designer clothing aligns you with an elite group: those who can afford it. People who wear designer clothing recognize designer clothing. They can also usually recognize cheap clothing. When you are wearing a Juicy Couture dress, you appear wealthier and of higher social status than others. And who doesn’t want others to be insanely jealous of your clothes?

5. Uniqueness and Rarity – Ok, so this one is pretty similar to #3 and 4, but I have another point I need to make. Why is a Monet painting so expensive? Because it’s rare. Why are designer clothes so expensive? Bingo, you got it. If you pay $45.00 for an (overpriced) Abercrombie tank top, I guarantee you that during its shelf life in your wardrobe, you will run into at least 3 people who own the exact same tank and at least 20 people who own a tank very similar. If you pay $500.00 for a pair of Balenciaga shoes, I can almost guarantee you that no one else will be wearing them at the same time as you. You’re never going to experience that awkward moment where you bump into someone wearing the same outfit as you, which you probably handle by smiling and saying “Nice outfit!”

6. Celebrities Wear Designer Clothes – Yes, it’s stupid to buy something just because Nicole Richie wears it. Have I done it? Yup. I own three Primp tops even though the only reason Primp became trendy is because Paris Hilton and Britney Spears both wear it. Celebrities started the big sunglasses trend (or Rachel Zoe started making celebrities wear big sunglasses). Now I own a pair of huge sunglasses (which my boyfriend doesn’t hesitant to call hideous). People copy celebrities, and no matter how shallow or sheep-in-a-flock syndromish (yea it’s not a word) that is, it’s always going to be that way. Celebrities are like living bulletin boards for designers.

So there you have it – the 6 main reasons people wear designer clothes. I’m not saying that you should wear designer clothes, but I’m also not advising you against it. My wardrobe consists of a mix of American Eagle, H&M, and random deals I got on designer items (courtesy of Filene’s Basement and the demise of Jasmine Sola). Do I think it’s a little ridiculous to spend $2,500 on a dress you’re going to wear once? Yes. Would I do it if I could afford it? Of course!

It’s important to remember that fashion is an art, and clothes designed by Dior or Emilio Pucci are works of art. They are meant to be looked at, admired, and copied. And worn by rich people and famous style icons (who want to be looked at, admired, and copied). And finally to be discovered and treasured by you and when you get your hands on them for half the price!



  1. Lexi says:

    good points you made, but it is quite obvious you are designer inexperienced…

  2. Victoria W - Bingham says:

    Designer inexperienced? Please. Its a great article and she intelligently laid out justifications that cause individuals to chase designer gear and worship labels. Great article Anna, I especially liked the sections on social status and self identity.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Wow, I agree with the designer inexperienced.

    For one, Juicy Couture is not even close to be considered high end–it's more like "trashy, wanna-be high end, but I can't afford the good stuff"

  4. sara says:

    Juicy Couture isn't the high end, but it is still "designer" to us poor people :P Coach isn't high end either- a bag that sells for $400 isn't comparable to Louis Vuitton or Fendi. There are definitely different degrees of "designer"

  5. Jes says:

    haha snobbbbby… :)

    "it’s more like “trashy, wanna-be high end, but I can’t afford the good stuff”

    ….haha its okay, Stephanie sounds like:

    "Oh my god, I would SO never wear Juicy… that is sooo trashy, did you see what Becky wore to Jenny's party last night? OMG. I dont really know what "trashy" is, or I'd realize I'm soooo much trashier than she is. I have no life.. I just fixate on judging other people by what they wear, because I can't recognize "character," I've never had one…"


  6. Heather says:

    i think designer clothes are crap. theres people in the world that cant eat, and some that spend 500 dollars on a purse. now that is pathetic.

  7. Courtney says:

    …and those people that 'can't eat' will magically have food appear if a chick doesn't buy a $500.00 handbag?…fundementally yes, I see your point about the extemes in economic situations. but in reality, the two really don't play in to each other at all… it isn't logical to think that you can get all people who buy expensive handbags or clothes or sunglasses to instead give that money to people who don't have money to eat. ….so why be harsh to people who can/chose to spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on?

  8. what says:

    Good reasons, most of which point out the lack of real creativity and fear of being the outcast saturating our world. Nothing says cool more and DIY materials in ones life.

    Just don't expect your first DIY stuff to be great.

  9. heather says:

    im not saying that because someone doesnt buy a bag it will feed someone. im making the point that there is wasted money in the world when people desperately need it. and designer prices are so ridiculous that i can possibly spend the money without thinking it would do better elsewhere. i usually try to pick up some cool fair-trade goods when im in the mood for a splurge. it makes me feel better knowing i helped someone out with the money i spent, and i also can get something unique and handmade that has been shipped around the world.

    i guess i just really have something against what i consider to be wasteful and over-extravagant, but it extends past designer clothes and can be applied to nearly everything. consumerism, however, is probably the most obvious example of how we are wasteful in america, and id rather not be a part of it. not only does it cause excess waste, but it undermines the intelligence of the consumer.

  10. heather says:


  11. Lovely says:

    Is it wise to bring high end clothing to college? today i bought some missoni tops and dior sunglasses.. i hope that people don't get jealous.

  12. Anna - Northeastern says:

    just be careful … like when you wash them make sure you go right down and take them out of the dryer/wash when they're done. people have seriously stolen my clothes at school a couple of times. creepy but it happens.

  13. Alexsa says:

    I agree with variety and consistency. But social status and self identity… if you're expecting someone to be jealous of you because of what you're wearing maybe you just really haven't gotten a jist of what life is really about. Most people can't tell the difference between regular clothes and designer clothes if they don't look at the stitching or your tag. Unless you're some label whore.

  14. Jessica says:

    Am I the only one who thinks Coach is ugly as fuck?

    And I can't stand those snooty bitches who work there, with their pretentious neck scarves. Retarded.

  15. Angie says:

    it's ok jessica- i think coach is hideous as well. i can't believe some people think it's comparable to gucci or fendi

  16. Eva says:

    I personally don't buy/wear designer clothes unless it was a gift. I can only think of 2 reasons why people wear designer clothes: to look good and feel good about themselves. Perhaps they'll feel good, knowing that their Ralph Lauren label is showing for all the world to see, but the truth is,labels can't make you look good. You have to make it look good. So ultimately it doesn't matter what you wear, you can still turn heads wearing something from a bargain shop. You wear the clothes, not the other way around.

  17. Tulalabell says:

    i don't know why i am sooo obsessive over designers like Dior, Armani, Ugg Australlia its really bad cause i am only 14 !! am i the only one who is going through this or do i sound like a spoilt brat :|

    1. richgurl says:

      no dont worry your nawt. I'm 12 and i luv edsigner clothes they just make you feel better :)

    2. Aviva says:

      Ok well this is the point most people are trying to make here. You can't depend on clothes to make you feel better about yourself because then yes, you are a spoiled brat. Especially when those clothes or whatever don't come from the money you've earned yourself. It just creates a sense of entitlement that you haven't earned or deserved, and even if you have, that air of smugness is never warranted in any situation. This is partly directed to you but mostly to everyone. There's nothing wrong with buying designer if you do so with your own money, but you also can't look down on people who choose to spend their money differently.

  18. Misa says:

    Being designer brand obsessed is a terrible thing when you're a low or even middle class income college student…which is my case. Hope this phase will pass or at least wait until I'm a working professional.

  19. Victoria says:

    I agree with Misa. I'm a law student, and pretty much designer obsessed. Hopefully it will pass or I will eventually make enough money where I can afford anything that interests me.

  20. mairead says:

    thank you so much! your information really helped me:)

  21. says:

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  22. says:

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  23. JM says:

    Actually, that's wrong. Designer brands do 'not' have higher quality than any others. Actually, they might even have less quality. I bought a lot of designer clothes before, but yes, they do rip, they do tear, no matter how expensive they are. They just seem so much more fragile than the cheaper, non designer brand wear.

    1. richgurl says:

      shut the hell up loser

    2. Patrick Hawkes says:

      Go and buy a pair of shoes and a jacket from GAP, then go and buy a pair of shoes from Gucci and a jacket from Saint Laurent Paris. Then come back and tell me that designer-wear is poor quality.

  24. Adrienne says:

    I do like the look (or maybe just the idea) of designer items, but in reality, most people who buy them are just spending beyond their means in order to impress.
    While I do recognize the artistic development involved in designer clothing, I think that some of the sky-high prices are outlandish. Is a Hermes Birkin bag really worth $18,000? Hell no. But they charge it because people will pay it. I could design a plain cotton tshirt, sell it for $100, and I guarantee people would buy it simply because it's expensive!
    Admittedly, the siren song of expensive designer stuff is hard to resist. But anytime I start thinking about paying $400 for a pair of shoes, I remind myself that there are people in this country who go to bed staving at night, and my money could be put to a much better purpose.

    1. Patrick Hawkes says:

      $400 for a pair of shoes is nothing.

  25. mark says:

    you actually missed the main reason people buy desinger brands is because they're gullible and have more money than sense and are ultimately wanting to feel good about themselves. Such people (although they won't admit it) have low self esteem and so when you buy something expensive it gives the feeling of exclusivity so they can feel good that they have something really expensive that most people cannot afford. MOreover, they usually are advertised by the famous celebs and so people think and feel perhaps they can be like this famous celeb if at least they look like them. So what they're actually paying for is an artificially created image to feel good about themselves.

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