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A few years ago, I was an avid reader of fashion blogs. I enjoyed the magazine-esque photography and the creative outfits. However, I also noticed a disturbing trend: many of these bloggers spent an enormous amount of money on their clothing. It was not uncommon for an outfit to feature several designer items that cost $1,000 each, if not more. Chanel handbags, Christian Louboutin stilettos, etc. It was like looking at a Saks Fifth Avenue catalog, except that these bloggers were supposedly "real people." Very few of us regular folks can afford to spend that much on a single item. As much as I enjoyed browsing these blogs, I kept asking myself, "how can they afford all this?"
Obviously, I have no insight into the financial well-being of any of these bloggers. Perhaps these individuals have found a way to make incredibly expensive purchases while still planning wisely for the future. Perhaps these individuals have crippling credit card debt or a trust fund from a distant relative. I'll never know and I suppose it's none of my business.
At the same time, I also noticed a second, more disturbing trend: the movers and shakers in the fashion industry referred to designer items as "investment pieces" (see here, here and here). The term "investment piece" was, and is, deployed as a euphemism to describe an exorbitantly expensive depreciating asset. This is even more worrisome, because the everyday folks reading these magazines and blogs -- myself included -- may buy into the hype. We may start to believe those tastemakers who claim that luxury goods are a bona fide investment. We may even apply this faulty rationale to justify purchasing designer goods for ourselves.
I am not contesting the idea that "you get what you pay for." In fact, I think this idea is generally true. Mr. W. and I are willing to spend money on our professional attire. We prefer to purchase well-made and classic items that will last us for years and years. However, we do not need to spend $1,000 in order to buy quality items. I also do not contest the idea that "you must spend money to make money." This saying is often true, as well. However, it very rarely applies to consumer goods. Yes, many adults should "invest" in a decent suit so that they can look professional and presentable during an interview. Without owning a suit, Mr. W. and I would never have gotten our current jobs. But as much as I stretch my imagination, I cannot think of any scenarios when owning a Louis Vuitton satchel or a Rolex watch would help me to earn money.
Referring to any designer good as an "investment" is quite misleading. In order for something to be an investment, there must be a reasonable expectation that its value will increase over time, or that the purchase will enable the purchaser to earn money that s/he could not have otherwise earned. I have no problem with people buying luxury goods, provided they have the funds. However, it's simply inaccurate to call clothing or accessories an investment. 99.9% of the time, luxury goods are depreciating assets.
Depending on one's priorities, designer items may feel like a worthwhile purchase. At times, I wish I could buy these things. If I had the winning lottery ticket, the first thing I'd do is spring for a pair of Jimmy Choo pumps. But please, stop trying to trick me into thinking that a pair of Prada sunglasses is an "investment." Just admit that you like fancy things, and leave it at that!
NB: I should explain that this post is NOT directed at anyone in particular. It reflects a general frustration with fashion advertising. I don't personally know anyone who buys luxury items and claims they are an investment. I do know one lady with an ongoing obsession with Chanel...but she fully admits to the extravagance.