Know Your (Style’s) Worth

WORDS BY: ULYLISA MALDONADO
ILLUSTRATIONS BY: LAUREN GANDARA

Picture this — you’re at the mall walking around with your friends. As you walk aimlessly past store windows, your eyes suddenly fixate on the window display of one of the numerous shoe stores.

Your eyes widen, your heart starts racing — is this what love at first sight feels like? The newest shoe style by that one popular athletic wear brand sits in the window in all its glory and calls to you, “You need me,” which gets you thinking, “I need groceries, but maybe I can rearrange some funds....”

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This scenario may seem a bit extreme to some people, but for many consumers, dropping a pretty penny on brand-name apparel and footwear is an actuality. Some aficionados will go through hoops to secure merchandise, like waking up early and standing in line for hours or using applications like the Foot Locker Launch app to reserve items. What serves as the motivation behind consumer-brand loyalty and spending large dollar amounts on brand products?

For starters, there is a sense of community involved in brand following. There are numerous online websites, such as Hypebeast and Highsnobiety, which base their content on “editorially driven commerce and news covering styles and brands from streetwear to high-end”.

These websites also contain forums for fans to discuss brands and merchandise, as well as virtual marketplaces where users can sell or buy from fellow users. Subscribing to email lists and following brand social media accounts allows consumers to stay up-to-date and contributes to the idea of the community, as well.

Joanne Kim, business management major, cites this as her method of staying in-the-know and said, “Many times my favorite brands will reveal their newest items through their Instagram accounts before anywhere else.”

With the shift of fashion, music and art coming together to create its own culture of sorts, it is no surprise that communities like the aforementioned have increasingly become established. This shift has also led to brands collaborating with artists and celebrities to distinguish their companies, many becoming successfully catapulted back into the market as hot commodities.

Take Puma’s collaboration with Rihanna — Fenty Puma by Rihanna — that was released in September 2015 and rejuvenated the footwear brand with a fresh take on its classic sneaker. Even almost a year-and-a-half later, the newest releases of the Creeper silhouette continue to sell out in a matter of minutes with each new colorway that is introduced, despite the $140 price tag.

Stephanie De Anda, communications major, woke up at 7 a.m. on the day the olive green Creepers were released and was able to secure a pair for herself.  

“To me, it was worth it because I love Rihanna’s style, and the shoes are comfortable,” De Anda said, “so it was a win-win.”

For Vy Dao, finance major, her motivations stem from wanting to branch out from her usual brand-shopping habits.

“I have Nike shoes, but I wanted a pair of Adidas shoes to see if they are comparable,” Dao said. “When I went back online [after purchasing the Adidas NMD shoes], I saw that the shoe style had sold out.”

Dao said she felt a small sense of victory knowing the sought after shoe style was in her possession.

Sure, it’s nice to treat yourself once in awhile with an item you’ve eyed for months. However, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching (hey, it’s expensive for everyone. Chocolate isn’t cheap!), there is a way to measure the overall cost of what you purchase and not experience shopper’s remorse after.

The concept is “cost per wear,” and it is found by taking the price of an item and dividing it by the amount of times or days that the purchaser will wear that item.

Professor Jacquelyn Morell from CSULB’s Fashion Merchandising and Design Department provided an example of how cost per wear helps consumers make wiser choices when shopping.

“If I was going to buy a pair of shoes for $200 and knew that I would most likely wear them about 50 times, my cost per wear would be $200 [per] 50 days [equals] $4,” Morell said. That means each time she wears the shoes, it is equivalent to paying four dollars. She continued with another example.

“Let’s say I want to buy a formal dress for $200, and I’ll probably only wear it twice,” she said. “Now my cost per wear is $200 [per] two days [equals] $100. I’d be paying $100 when I walk out the door with the dress. There is not as much value in the dress as the shoes, even though they were the same price.”

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Cost per wear goes hand-in-hand with determining whether a purchase is a splurge or an investment. Brand-name clothing does not guarantee high-quality product, and sometimes what consumers think is going to be a great investment turns out to be overpriced, subpar merchandise. The growth of fast-fashion retailers has molded consumer mentality to expect new merchandise every week to every couple of weeks, contributing to spending money on short-lived trends rather than timeless classics.

At the end of the day we’re still students with student budgets. Thinking about longevity, cost and how often you’d actually use a product before purchasing could help you develop smarter shopping habits. Those shoes in the store window might be the hottest trend right now, but the hype only lasts for so long.