I’m a loyal reader of your blog. Because of my job, sometimes I get in touch with the odd and fascinating world of fashion, which never ceases to amuse me. Even though there are many aspects of the fashion industry that I know about and understand, some of them escape my non-fashion industry person understanding. I recently came across one of those WTF fashion moments, and I instantly thought that I had to come here to your advice column. A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get a gorgeous present: a Comme des Garçons top (see photo above.)
It was bought on sale in Selfridges, but you can guess that the price tag was pretty high (it retailed for about 1000 GBP when it was on full price). The thing is…it’s 100% polyester!!!! And here is my question: I know that Comme is an avant garde brand, and that they charge so much because of it, etc… But, how can anyone charge 1000 GBP for something made of a cheap synthetic fabric?
I know you have been quite vocal before about, for instance, Stella McCartney charging A LOT for shoes that are not even made of leather, so I guessed this is a pretty similar case. Or not?
I’ve had this disappointing contents labels discovery on many an occasion, and I feel for you… The baby boomers are the generation most Likely to look at the content label of a garment and shun synthetics, but there are also a lot of younger people who have been raised to think polyester is cheap and unattractive.
There’s two reasons why a £1000 ($1600) Comme des Garçons top might be made from polyester, and here they are.
Firstly, it might simply be that Comme des Garçons, and many of the super high end fashion labels, are off their rocker when it comes to pricing but know they can get away with it because of the power of their brand. I remember admiring a pair of flat lace up Comme des Garcons shoes at Docer Street Market a few years back. Priced at £250 ($400) they weren’t exactly expensive, but they were a very simple, flat shoe with few details, so would have cost very little to produce. The material appeared to be a patent leather, but upon closer inspection, I realized that they were made from pleather – a material I loathe and refuse to wear on my feet (read my thoughts on pleather here.) I was particularly confused about this discovery because the shoes could have very easily been made from leather and the design features would have been no different. And given this was a shoe that would have been best worn without socks, the fact that they were made from pleather was a massive turn off. I would have easily spent a bit more to get a version in leather, but there was no way in hell I was willing to buy a plastic shoe from a designer brand, at that price.
I think that a lot of brands are able to get away with using these crappy materials because the are many customers who don’t prioritize content when shopping: style, fit, and brand come first, and content is often ignored. A result, brands are able to resort to cheaper synthetic materials and still charge insane prices for their products. I find this extremely annoying.
On the other hand, there are now a number of situations where a synthetic fabric is the best option, and that’s thanks to innovation in materials and technology. While we used to associate luxury materials with natural fibres like silk, cashmere, and fur, there have been many new synthetic materials developed in the past decade that are true luxury fibres. Not only do they look beautiful, but they fit and drape well, feel good, and have features like breathability, non-creasing properties, and are easy to clean. I’m surprised to have found myself buying some synthetic clothing in recent years, and have never been disappointed. That said, I only buy these items if the material was something that simply could not be replicated in a natural fibre (so it meant that the brand didn’t choose this material to cut costs, but because it was the right fabric for the piece.)
So I suppose we need to keep an open mind about synthetics. Technological advances in fabrics have meant that there are luxury materials out there that are made from polyester and still have the qualities we expect from a high end fabric. On the other hand, I’d stay away from any synthetics that appear to have been used as cost cutting measures, rather than because that particular material was the best option for the garment. And stay away from pleather shoes, they are just gross.