Thursday, October 9, 2008

Price Gouging + Economic Recession=Frugal Fashionistas

Devi Kroell Python Boots, $1,990

Net-a-porter sends its clients a "Look Book" at the start of each season to
help them narrow down their coveted must-have items, and when I saw these Devi Kroell python boots, I went ga-ga over them. They were perfect: flats, python, metallic...and then I saw the price tag when they appeared this week. Two thousand dollars. Are you kidding me?
While product inflation naturally occurs over time, the fashion world has astronomically increased its prices over the last five years. When I got engaged in 2004, for example, my husband bought me a tweed Chanel bag for roughly $1,600; today that same bag would be priced at $2, 700. A few years ago, my knee-high black Dior boots were priced at $800, a price I remember cringing at (I later bought them on sale); today, those same boots would be priced at $1, 200. Somehow, over time, I have become inured to the rising costs, but with the economy on the verge of imploding, I have suddenly awakened to what I now recognize as price gouging.
While this so-called realization may seem obvious to many, consider this from the fashionista's perspective. She pays for fashion and quality--two traits that usually, but not always, require a higher price. The subtle change in pricing occurs so steadily and so insidiously, like a growing cancer that goes undetected. She has become used to paying $500 for a pair of shoes, $1,500-3,000 for a handbag, and $1,500 for a dress. And if she is able to pay for said items, she invests in what she believes to be quality merchandise. She may even believe that the higher price tag makes the item more attractive in its inaccessibility. And because she sees it everywhere she turns, she accepts it.
Whether that fashionista is forced to alter her shopping paradigm by increased financial woes or not, the question remains: are these items worth it? I will admit--I will continue to buy these items, but I will also do so with increasing skepticism. Instead of buying those two thousand dollar boots, I could purchase two one thousand dollar boots (in leather, of course). If I waited until they went on sale, I could buy one of those designer boots for $500--or I could purchase two pairs from a lesser known designer for the same amount. Ultimately, one must question where the value comes from--the tag or the shopper?


Songy said...

I'm pretty sure that those boots could well be sold out. Whether people could afford them or not in this climate there will be shoppers who are willing just pay whatever in the name of fashion.

WendyB said...

Don't forget the impact of rising costs and exchange-rate problems. I'm sure the increased prices don't represent pure profit for the manufacturers.

Hadley said...

Those boots are rocking..! I just find a way to finance the purchase. :-)

Hammie said...

It was price gouging, it was exploitative and it is over.
Because looking like you just dropped €1,200 on a handbag or a pair of boots is now a little obscene. You can spend what you like, but be a bit more discreet about it.