THE MONEY OR THE BAG?

Phoebe Watt runs the num­bers and finds there’s no bet­ter time than now to make that ma­jor fash­ion pur­chase

Fashion Quarterly - - How To -

Stocks, bonds, prop­erty, art… when it comes to places to put your hard­earned cash, the op­tions are all but end­less. If you’re any­thing like me, you might find a kindred spirit in

Sex and the City’s Car­rie Bradshaw, who fa­mously quipped, “I like my money right where I can see it — hang­ing in my closet.”

Not that Car­rie’s a shin­ing ex­am­ple of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity. Need I men­tion that other episode of SATC, in which she guilt trips a re­cently di­vorced Char­lotte into of­fer­ing up her 2.17-carat Tif­fany & Co en­gage­ment ring so Car­rie can buy back her apart­ment from Ai­den, who only pur­chased it in the first place be­cause the own­er­ship struc­ture of Car­rie’s build­ing was chang­ing, and hav­ing frit­tered away US$40,000 on de­signer shoes, she didn’t have the sav­ings to buy her­self out of po­ten­tial home­less­ness?

In short: don’t be like Car­rie. But let’s not make fash­ion the scape­goat for her ir­re­spon­si­ble fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion-mak­ing. With all the sustainability is­sues the world is fac­ing, and as brands and con­sumers be­come in­creas­ingly con­cerned with mak­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally and so­cially as­tute choices, ‘in­vest­ing’ in fash­ion has be­come the new black. And there’s never been a bet­ter time to do it, whether that means in­vest­ing in­vest­ing, or sim­ply for­go­ing cheap, short-lived T-shirts from multi­na­tional cor­po­rate re­tail­ers in favour of one pricey but well-made T-shirt from a lo­cal de­signer that you’ll take good care of and make last for sev­eral sea­sons.

Un­for­tu­nately for those look­ing to get on the lad­der, lux­ury fash­ion prices are at an all-time high, hav­ing risen in­cre­men­tally each year for the past decade. The rea­sons for this are many: re­source scarcity, in­creased min­i­mum-wages, and an ex­pec­ta­tion on de­sign­ers to pro­duce mul­ti­ple sea­sonal col­lec­tions, which gives them less time to shift stock be­fore it’s marked down, mean­ing they have to in­flate prices at the start of the sea­son so their bot­tom line isn’t af­fected. Then there’s the fact that de­signer goods are now ac­ces­si­ble on­line to shop­pers all over the world. To en­sure their most cov­eted pieces main­tain the air of ex­clu­siv­ity that makes them cov­etable, de­sign­ers have had to shift the goal­posts.

This was all re­ported by Busi­ness of Fash­ion in 2013, but it still holds true to­day. The cost of Louis Vuit­ton’s Nev­er­full MM — per­haps its most iconic bag — has risen by up to 23% an­nu­ally since 2014. The bag that would have set you back €690 (then $1107) a few years ago is now €945 ($1462). By the end of the year, it could be even more.

But per­haps the Nev­er­full isn’t the item of your dreams. Per­haps you’ve al­ways lusted af­ter a Chanel Boy Bag, or a Burberry trench coat. In any case, the mes­sage is the same: if you have the means to make that lux­ury pur­chase (lucky you), do it now.

No mat­ter how much cash you have to splash, there are things to con­sider when

buy­ing a big-ticket item. How much wear will you get out of it? How long will it last? How many things in your cur­rent closet can you team it with?

There’s a rea­son why sta­ples like beau­ti­ful blaz­ers, cash­mere jumpers and per­fectly tai­lored LBDs are con­sid­ered the sound­est in­vest­ments: they all fall into the cat­e­gory of items that don’t date, look good with ev­ery­thing, and are in­con­spic­u­ous enough to be worn mul­ti­ple times in mul­ti­ple sit­u­a­tions with­out the wearer be­ing branded an out­fit-re­peater.

Cost isn’t al­ways an in­di­ca­tor that a gar­ment is bet­ter qual­ity or was con­structed un­der bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions than the al­most-iden­ti­cal item in the shop down the road that has one less zero on the price tag. So check on­line re­views to en­sure you’ll get what you pay for. While you’re brows­ing, you might even find your­self a deal — it pays to keep in mind that North­ern Hemi­sphere-based e-com­merce stores such as Net-a-Porter and Matches Fash­ion will be dis­count­ing their sum­mer stock just as tem­per­a­tures be­gin to rise down un­der.

Some­thing else to re­mem­ber is that cer­tain items show wear and tear faster than oth­ers, no mat­ter how well made they are. Don’t take out a sec­ond mort­gage for a pair of shoes, a de­signer phone case or any­thing white if you’re prone to scuffs and stains. By the same to­ken, there’s lit­tle point spend­ing a year’s sav­ings on some­thing that’s go­ing to sit for­ever in a box, cov­ered in pro­tec­tive tis­sue. You’ve worked hard for it — you need to en­joy it.

That said, if you are look­ing to make a fash­ion in­vest­ment in the lit­eral sense, there’s a dif­fer­ent set of rules to con­sider. Ig­nore what I said about en­joy­ing the item in ques­tion. Roll it out once, get a great ’gram, then wrap it back up in its orig­i­nal pack­ag­ing — dust cover, box, store re­ceipts in­cluded — and stow it away some­where cool and dry.

If you can on-sell an item while it’s still in sea­son, you’ll max­imise your re­turn. If it sold out quickly or has a long wait-list, you’ll be laugh­ing all the way to the bank. I’m not just talk­ing Her­mès Birkin bags, ei­ther, al­though these have some of the high­est re­sale val­ues in the world. Re­mem­ber 2015’s H&M x Bal­main col­lec­tion? Within hours, pieces from this col­lab were be­ing sold on eBay for up to five times their orig­i­nal cost, putting them in the main­line Bal­main price bracket. For­get flip­ping houses — flip­ping fash­ion is a lu­cra­tive busi­ness.

If scalp­ing isn’t your style, there are still big prof­its to be made — but you’ll have to wait 10 years for your in­vest­ment to be con­sid­ered ‘vin­tage’, and be warned, this money-mak­ing method doesn’t ap­ply to any old de­signer dress. You’re bet­ter off in­vest­ing in ac­ces­sories, as prospec­tive buy­ers are more likely to per­ceive them as ‘un­worn’, es­pe­cially if they’ve been kept in as-new con­di­tion. Steer clear of the mid­dle ground. Ac­cord­ing to Tracy DiNun­zio, CEO of on­line con­sign­ment store Tradesy, the safest in­vest­ments are your bluechip stocks (sig­na­ture styles by her­itage brands, like your Nev­er­fulls and Boy Bags), or lim­ited-run items (think the Louis Vuit­ton x Jeff Koons SS17 cap­sule col­lec­tion). The risk is higher, but the po­ten­tial pay­off far sweeter.

It sounds easy enough if you’ve got the funds, but if for you it’s more than a mat­ter of shuf­fling some money around, don’t be dis­cour­aged. They say if mil­len­ni­als stopped spend­ing all their money on av­o­cado toast, they might be able to af­ford that house de­posit. I’m not buy­ing it, but I’ve done the cal­cu­la­tions and it turns out that if I kicked the brunch habit, I could buy the leather jacket I’ve al­ways wanted, or at least a nice pair of sun­glasses. And you’ve got to start some­where.

If the item sold out quickly or has a long wait-list, you’ll be laugh­ing all the way to the bank

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