Why do people purchase designer products?

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Why do people purchase designer products?

Beatrice Docavo and Ciaran Crowe

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You’re standing on line, the same one that you’ve been on for nearly three hours. It’s a brisk winter morning, a bit below freezing, yet there are hundreds of people behind you. You glance at your phone: it reads 10:58 AM. Two minutes until Supreme’s first drop of the new season. You’ve waited months for this ever since you took a look at the FW18 (Fall-Winter Collection 2018), and there’s always been that one hoodie that you couldn’t stop thinking about.

But now, you’ll finally have the satisfaction of owning it. But why are you buying this piece? Sure, your friends might compliment it, and maybe you and some people you know will think it’s cool, but it is pricey. So expensive in fact that people will look down on you due to the fact that you “wasted” your money on an “overpriced” hoodie.

But what people generally don’t understand is that you bought that hoodie for more than just its physical appearance.. Just like all the other people who buy from expensive brands. They don’t know that people purchase designer products because of the benefits that they come with.

At a set time every week, there is a new release of rare, limited quantity clothing created exclusively by brands such as Supreme, Palace, Off-White, and Bape. This results in hundreds of people lining up at stores worldwide.

People are willing to get in lines as early as 7:00 AM and wait 4 hours to buy a box logo t-shirt that says “Supreme” on it, starting at $54.00, or a shirt with a Bape logo for $100.00. To the average person, this must seem like a very prodigal thing to do. But to someone who understands the benefits of purchasing designer products, it’s a good purchase with reasoning behind it.

Now, you may be wondering what exactly these so called benefits are. But if you think about how wearing and using designer products changes your life, they should be pretty obvious. The basics ones run along the lines of the quality, the fact that people look up to it as “cool”, and that feeling of satisfaction you get when you purchase them.

But there are also the discrete ones that probably wouldn’t come to mind at first, like how it gives you something in common with celebrities, or that it’s trending right now.

The benefits that designer products come with will make the purchase worth the price to a great handful of the population, but the people who see otherwise will almost always look down on those who buy these things. However, it is evident that people purchase designer products for the benefits they come with, and they are willing to do a lot to get their hands on these pieces. But let’s explore those benefits.              

Quality

One of, if not the main reason why people purchase designer products, is the quality. Now, when you think of more hyped designer products, like Bape pieces, Supreme tees, and Stussy collections, you might not think that they come with the best quality, and you might not think that a lot of effort is put into them.     

Let’s use Supreme as an example. Supreme is rumored to be an overpriced brand that sells very basic and cheap cotton products for way more than they are manufactured for. But if you take a closer look at every the flashy brand’s statistics, you might think otherwise. 

“The last Supreme Box Logo Hoodie was worth $80 to manufacture, but went on retail for $130”. Now, you might be thinking that a $50 profit for every hoodie they sell still results in Supreme taking the bigger slice of the price paid, but for something that costs $80 to create, the truth in this scenario is that this is actually a very low retail price. 

“For those of you thinking whether or not a cashmere sweater could cost $57 to produce, the answer is a definite yes”. Any hoodie that costs $80 to produce is very likely to end up being a well made piece, and that is demonstrated by the high-end pieces of clothing that Supreme and many other brands just like it create. 

And now if we take a look at the higher end, more expensive and even better quality products, for instance the bags manufactured by Louis Vuitton, we can see that the trend does not stop. 

“Some special LV pieces take over 300 steps to produce… All skins, including Vachetta leather, are inspected for blemishes and imperfections before production begins… Zippers and closures are opened and closed more than 5,000 times, materials are exposed to UV light rays, and bags are dropped repeatedly for days on end with 7 pound weights inside”. Louis Vuitton puts long hours into testing their products, and checks their materials for flaws. The quadruple digit price that you will pay for these products may seem like a lot to ask for, but if you consider what the brand goes through to create such high quality bags, the conclusion that you should draw is that you get what you pay for.              

The manufacturers of these brands clearly put in the time and effort to make their pieces. Even the few brands that you wouldn’t expect to spend loads of money on the manufacturing side of the business don’t fail the public with their end results. The high prices are backed up by high quality, and that is promised to those who purchase designer products. 

You are almost always guaranteed what you pay for when it comes to designer products. When you spend $720 on a Hermès Clic Clak H bracelet, you aren’t gonna get some random, cheap $25 bangle from Amazon with a name to it–you’re going to get an astounding $600 piece with some of the best bracelet quality around the globe. And that is what makes these pieces worth their price tags. The money you pay for these items doesn’t go to waste.

“Cool”  

You’ve already heard that people buy designer products because they are “cool”. Although it sounds like a generic and boring reason, it is true. If someone likes the way something looks, they are probably going to buy it. And as soon as someone is rewarded with positive feedback most likely from friends, family, or peers, it is probable that they will keep buying more clothing that they like in order to gain more compliments. 

This has a very strong impact on this generation due to the influence of social media. Getting likes on your posts gives you more confidence and makes you feel better about yourself, so when someone posts a picture of themselves in expensive clothing and gets a lot of likes, they are likely to keep doing it. 

As clinical psychologist Dr. Hickey says, “The more immediate reinforcement is, the stronger it is. And if someone has not been been reinforced for other qualities, then all of a sudden, [he becomes] the guy with all these different sneakers. [Someone could] possibly attach one’s worth to it.” 

But the term “cool” has such a wide variety of different meanings. It’s hard to tell exactly what we mean when we use the word cool. But when we’re talking about clothing, it can only mean so many things. Usually it is either overall good looks, or the fact that it is trendy. 

Trends are the rise and fall of different styles, products, brands, and much more. Whenever a product is trending, it will always boost the amount of people who think that it is cool, and in the end the coolness of an item is what makes it worth the money.

To look at an example of this, let’s think back to the 1990s, where the trend was to wear really baggy clothing and to have what probably now seems to be unusual hair. To us now, that seems really odd. However, back then, that was trending, and that’s why everyone dressed that way.  

Things change over time, and that is why now in modern day we tend to wear tighter fit clothing with a bit of flash to it. Trends do change over time, but right now in 2019, designer products are the newest and coolest trend, and that is another reason why people purchase designer clothing.  

Most designer products and brands start trending after a celebrity buys and wears it, for instance if Kanye West, famous rapper and fashion influencer, or Rihanna, professional singer, buys an Off-White hoodie, the majority of their fans will immediately want it too, even if they don’t actually like the aesthetic of it.

And after their fans buy it, their fans’ friends will buy it, and then their fan’s friends’ peers will buy it, and soon enough, everyone will want (or already have) the piece.

The reason for this is because teenagers “are in the time of their [lives] when they are defining who they want to be, so that’s why is absolutely normal that they imitate some people they admire”. A lot of time teenagers will look up to a celebrity because they see them as cool, or they like their music, or they think that they have a great personality, which makes people want to be just as cool as them. And so when rappers like Tyler, the Creator started rocking Supreme, it only makes sense that loads of teenagers start wearing it too.

Chemistry  

The chemistry behind the purchases of designer products is one of the slightly more hidden reasons to those who don’t buy from designer brands. However, the dopamine rush from buying designer products is a big reason for why people spend money on them.

Getting your hands on designer products makes the buyers feel good. You probably wouldn’t think that there are scientific reasons that back up the purchases of designer products, but you would be surprised.

What a lot of people do not know, is that buying rare and expensive products creates a chemical reaction within our brains. People feel that if they buy clothes that are worth more, it increases their self-worth.

Retail expert Mark Ellwood came up with one conclusion saying, “When we act on compulsion, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that gives a good, almost euphoric feeling. The dopamine high that comes from acquiring something that increases your worth will cause you to repeat that action over and over again to get the same result.”

This is why there are usually two types of people when it comes to designer products. There are people who have never bought designer products in their lives, and there are people who line up outside Supreme once a week to cop the flashiest hyped pieces. When people buy expensive products, their bodies naturally ask them to do it again.    

Almost an addiction, in a way, although there are no physical downsides. Supreme reseller, Nate Olsen states, “I mean, it might not seem like a big deal at first, but after someone’s fourth or fifth purchase they could find themselves buying more and more expensive pieces until it turns into an obsession.”   

This is mainly because of the exclusivity of brands similar to Off-White, Bape, Supreme Palace, and more. One of the key reasons for these brands’ popularity and why they are so hyped is because of exclusivity. “If a piece from their (Supreme’s) latest drop is especially desirable, their philosophy is simple: never make it again.”  

They choose to make less products than they know they can sell as a marketing strategy. It simply makes their clothing heavily exclusive as a whole. And when people find out that something will sell out in less than five seconds, it immediately seems much more valuable. 

Graphic designer, Tamara McKenna, says “They [Supreme] manage to create so much hype around having this rare thing, so they can charge more than it’s worth.” Meaning that if people manage to get their hands on a certain piece, they will be one of very few who have it. 

This forms the idea to make the piece seem even more cool and rare, therefore the buyer/wearer seem more cool too. This also demonstrates why resellers can get away with selling designer products for double the retail price just a few days after the item has dropped.

Although it is surprising, the natural idea that buying expensive clothing upgrades your social worth is the most physiological strategy that designer masterminds use to convince people to buy their items. It might seem manipulative, or even evil, for brands to use such subtle mental tactics, but they didn’t come up with the plan. 

Societal theories form this idea that naturally builds itself into our heads, and it just so happens to be something that helps the amount of  products sold by designer brands. So don’t think that Bape or Stussy has any bad rep to it. After all, all they do is create high quality products and offer them to the people.

Collaborations  

Another thing that shouldn’t be overlooked are collaborations. Collaborations are what keep people interested in the clothing, so brands don’t just repeat previous designs. They are also another reason why people purchase designer products. Whenever two popular brands work together on a piece, the popularity goes through the roof. 

Instead of just the Off-White community getting excited for it, or just the Fear of God community, or just any group of people who like a brand, you get two of these communities. For a Bape x Stussy Collab you get these people who are interested in Bape, as well as these people who are interested in Stussy.

So, as a result you get double the hype, double the demand, double the rarity, and in the end, double the amount of money people will pay to get their hands on them. Let’s look at an interview with Joshua Hernandez, an employee at the Soho Supreme store in Manhattan, New York:  

“…their collabs are sick. Yeah, that has a lot to do with it. Not even just the hyped ones like Stone Island or Jordan… I’d say my favorite artist collabs the last couple years have been like Daniel Johnston, or Basquiat, and from some awesome obscure artists no one cares about like Mendini and like Pam Grier. Plus their fashion collabs like CDG and Neighborhood let people get a hint of these high-end brands.” 

Let’s take a look at some examples. 

For instance, let’s take Supreme and Louis Vuitton, two popular and expensive brands. Go back to June 30th, 2017, when these two massive brands created one of the most famous collaborations of all time. Your average Supreme bogo hoodie sells for $148.00, while a Supreme x Louis Vuitton bogo hoodie sold for $445.00… These normal Supreme hoodies tend to resell for around $600.00 – $800.00, while the Supreme x Louis Vuitton ones sell for a jaw-dropping $6,000.00! 

Again, let’s look at Nike’s Off-White x Jordan collaboration. Your average Jordan 1 sells for somewhere near the ballpark of $150.00 – $200.00, and the Off-White Jordans retailed for only $190.00… But Jordan keeps their non-collaborative designs restocked, unable to resell for profit. But with the Off-White Jordans (specifically the Off-White Jordan 1 Chicago), the resale price varies between $2,900 and $10,000 depending on what size you wear. 

It may seem pretty crazy, but it just comes to show how badly people want those exclusive pieces. People are willing to use a couple months of their middle class salary to pay for these sneakers, and that alone should prove that the benefits of designer products are worth the price. Even when the pieces don’t have a 5-digit price tag. 

Not only do these collaborations let brands list higher prices and get more popular results, they also bring people together. Like mentioned earlier, collaborations will bring the people from each brand together, into a slight bond over a collection. Both groups or communities will have the common interest in these pieces, and that is one more thing that they will have in common with one another. Without the collaboration, there is no commonality, and no unison. 

The work of art created by two brands is something original that cannot be replaced. It creates unique products, and unique interactions between fans. That one hyped product of the collab can bring people so much closer. 

Before Supreme became an expensive hyped brand it started out as a skate brand. Eventually, it evolved to be closer to a designer brand more than anything, but it still keeps a lot of its inspiration from skate culture. Not only skate culture, but it also has a lot of inspiration from punk and 90s culture and they demonstrate this through collaborations.

For example, their collabs with Dead Kennedys and The Misfits, which are both rock bands. These catch the attention of people who listen to these bands. The collaborations Supreme does catch the attention of a large demographic of people by incorporating  many different inspirations.  

When interviewing customers at the Supreme store and asked about why they buy Supreme, Joey Richardson, responded, “I like Supreme because of the combination of inspirations from skate, punk and 90s culture and making interesting basic clothing for people. The box logos are okay if you wanna flex but some of the stuff like this are really cool and fun to wear. But a lot of their stuff is also really wearable.”   

Another worker, Ryan Denoble said something similar,  “In my opinion and from what I’ve heard from the customers here… …they have a ton of variety… …lots of NYC skater-influenced shit but they do everything from basics to punk to throwback streetwear to Japanese-inspired stuff.” Ryan continued to talk about collabs adding, “But for me personally, what finally gave me something to identify with were the collabs. My first Supreme item was the Dead Kennedy’s collab shirt. Then when they announced their H.R. Giger shirts I had to cop those too. Supreme does a really good job of collaborating with a huge variety of artists. I think that speaks to people. But these collaborations, they give people a reason to wear the brand. Yeah, I got this shirt because it was Supreme, but it also features one of my favorite late artists.” 

Collaborations have always been a staple within the streetwear industry and it seems to be a favorite among Supreme customers. Although, a lot of people still purchase ordinary bogos, many people prefer the well thought out collaborations.   

Benefits 

All these previously mentioned benefits like, quality, image, mentality, and commonalities. They give us so much, and for such a little price difference when you think about it. Let’s use Stussy, as an example. Your average Stussy graphic shirts start at $18.00, and goes up to about $36.00. If we take a quick look at Old Navy, a well-known brand for its extremely low prices, their graphic shirts average around the price of $15.00.  

Even if we take the higher listed Stussy shirt, there is only a $21.00 price difference. And most people are just going to see this as a great reason to not buy the Stussy shirt. But that’s because they don’t see the shirts any different. They look at this $15.00 shirt, and this $36.00 shirt, and all they see are two graphic tees. They have a different picture printed on them, a different colour combination, but other than that, they seem to be equal. But that’s where they’re wrong. The reason these people pay that extra $21.00, is because of the benefits. The benefits that so many people look over. 

You’re paying $21.00 dollars for a shirt that’s gonna last you longer, make you look cooler, make you feel better, and gives you something in common with loads of other people. The quality will save you money from buying new items of clothing, the chemical reaction caused by buying the shirt will make you feel happier, and looking cool and getting something in common with other people can lead to friendships that will last forever. If you don’t believe it already, let’s look at some examples. 

Martin Sablay says that “I’ve always like Supreme’s clothing. I just always thought it was cool, and it seemed to be so different to other brands… The people that buy their stuff are usually really nice people, and I’ve even met some of my friends though it.” When asked to elaborate, he continues with: “I mean, I’m a Junior now, but on the first day of Freshman year I wore my favorite bogo at the time, and this kid named Rodney came up to me and said he liked my shirt. That kid Rodney is one of my closest friends now. We really bonded through the culture of Supreme.” 

Sablay’s clear connection through designer brands should be enough to prove that this extra $21.00 spent on a shirt is worth it, but if it isn’t enough let’s look at some more examples. 

People think that designer products are cool in general, and that is proven to be a fact. 

Peter Vincent, customer at Supreme store in SoHo, says, “I think they know how to hit that middle ground of skater and streetwear and being bold without quickly dating themselves. I mean you can wear Supreme from pretty much any year… you can look at what they dropped in 2009 and find almost everything would look great today, when most people then were wearing neon day-glo shit and shutter shades and mirrored aviators.”

Vincent’s words are a generous example of people thinking that designer products are cool. However, to many people $21.00 is worth more than good looks and friendships. So, let’s take a look at the other benefits you pay for when you purchase designer products. 

Science backs up the theory that purchasing designer products makes us feel good, but there is also proof in the experiences that people have. Theo Skilton explains, “I mean, buying their shit just gives you this feeling… It’s so hard to explain, but like, you feel so good when you cop a new supreme tee or hoodie. It really is a feeling like no other.”  

Like explained before, buying rare products gives you a dopamine rush that makes you feel good about yourself. Here, we have a person who has experienced this dopamine rush, explain it to us. This clearly demonstrates the theory that buying designer products makes you feel good about yourself, and a personal experience should be enough to persuade you that the extra $21.00 you pay for a designer piece instead of an Old Navy or Gap piece is worth it.  

But if even that isn’t enough to make you think that buying designer products are worth the extra money, let us take a peek at one final example. 

It is backed up by production price and retail price. But let’s hear it from a Supreme consumer. Brandon Hollick says, “Not only the looks of it, but the stuff they make is really high quality too. There’s this popular idea that Supreme is just low-quality pieces with a logo on them. But that’s not true… The first Supreme piece that I purchased was the Supreme Elephant Tee. I got it on retail for $32.00 if I remember right, and it lasted me a good three years with no defects before I resold it to my friend for around $200.00 just a few months ago. Their stuff’s quality alone makes their items worth the price to me.” 

Hollick’s experience with a long lasting Supreme tee that ended up with him gaining a $168.00 profit is great evidence to support Supreme’s high quality. 

Now that you’ve taken a look at these examples, these experiences, and stories, this extra $21.00 for a designer piece should seem like quite an offer, and that is because it evidently is. These designer products aren’t around for no reason. If these benefits didn’t exist, people would just settle for the cheap brands, making these big brands go out of business. They would cease to exist without these benefits, and this also demonstrates how designer products are worth the money. 

Risks 

Buying designer products can have slight downsides though. If people get too caught up with the pieces that expensive brands have to offer, they can end up demoting a lot or too much time and money to getting their hands on certain pieces. This can become an obsession. When someone is obsessed with a brand, a type of clothing, or designer products as a whole, it can be a bad thing. 

If people spend their wages on too many designer products, then they can start to lose money. When people are obsessed with purchasing designer products, they end up using a large portion of their paychecks to get their hands on Palace, Comme Des Garcon, or Bape collections.] 

This is not an issue for those who are wealthy, or for those who do not buy as much as those who are obsessed. But for those who are working middle class or lower class jobs, and who happen to love certain designer brands, products, pieces, collections, or all of the above, it can be an issue. 

When people spend a lot of money on one thing, they may not have enough money for other necessities. These necessities range from paying off taxes, electrical/plumbing/internet bills, insurance, rent, or even having food in their house. There are a lot of things that all people need, and if somebody decides to spend their money on one thing, of course they are going to run into some problems. 

The problems of not having the money for all the other basic necessities. People need to make sure that they have an even balance between purchasing designer products, and everything else in life. Because it should be well known that too many designer products can be a bad thing as well as how too much “everything else in life” can be a bad thing as well. 

And spending too much money isn’t the only issue with having an obsession with purchasing designer products. If you demote too much time to getting your hands on Fear of God tees and Off White shoes, you can miss out on important things. Obsession with purchasing designer products for whatever reason can have a negative impact because it can take away mainly one thing. Education. 

If you line up to get the new “Yeezy Boost 350 v2 ‘Black Reflective’” or the newest and hottest shoes every time a hyped pair drops, you will be sacrificing some time that you should be spending at school. And even if you have graduated, you will be using your free time or maybe even your occupational time to get these designer products. 

School is very important, and it is there for a reason. But, some people take the option of skipping school to get their hands on these hyped designer products. Declan Monaghan (interviewed by Ciaran Crowe) says: “Getting the new stuff is hard. Like, when the $36.00 graphic tees drop each season, I don’t even go to school that Thursday. I just go to the store and hop in line at around nine and try to get as many shirts as I can to resell…  …That’s the only way I can get my hands on them… …It’s the same deal with the collabs. I did the same thing for the Supreme North Face collection too.”  

Teenagers are skipping entire days of school to resell designer products. This can seem like a brush on the shoulder or a very big deal depending on what kind of person you are, but nevertheless, it is an accurate demonstration that people are sacrificing their education to purchase designer products and that is a problem.  

Is it Really a Problem?  

Sadly, there are indeed a few downsides to purchasing designer products. If you get too familiar with buying new and expensive pieces, it can easily turn into a very unhealthy habit. However, if you stay smart about your purchases, you shouldn’t find yourself in a bad place. That’s because it is easy to avoid the risks of purchasing designer clothing.  

It isn’t difficult to take a step back and realize what you are doing. Sometimes it might take a little push from a friend or loved one, but once you recognize that what you have is an obsession, you should have no trouble cleansing yourself of the unhealthy habit. The risks are evidently minimal. 

Yes, a couple days a week somebody is buying clothing. It isn’t much time away from home. The money could be an issue, but it won’t be a serious concern unless they buy the extreme items such as the Supreme x Pearl Drums Session Studio Drum Kit – $4,998.00 or the Supreme x Louis Vuitton Trunk – $68,500.00. 

Money issues are a very small portion of the problem, just like time. That leaves education. Missing school to buy designer products is a bad thing, and that is a fact. However, if  a person only misses a handful of days a year, the impact of these actions are going to be close to non-existent. 

Absences are not wanted on report cards, but missing 2-5 days of school per year should not be a big worry to anybody. There are a few slight downsides to the purchases of designer products, and that cannot be denied. But even when the downsides get the best of someone, the benefits will almost always outweigh the bad things. 

Trading quality, looks, happyness, and connections for a small piece of your paycheck and a couple hours in your day is a trade you should take any day. 

People who purchase designer products understand this. They buy these pieces because they know that the extra money and time is worth the benefits you are paying for when you buy certain items or items from certain brands. 

And that is the answer. 

People buy designer clothing for all sorts of reasons, whether it be the quality of the clothing, the way it makes them feel when they buy it, or the compliments that they will get on the street. Maybe they buy these products for all of the above. Although getting your hands on them does take some time, effort, and hard cash, it is worth what you give because of the benefits that come along with the products. 

Whether people like it or not; believe it or not; or buy it or not; it is evident that people purchase designer products because of the benefits they come with.