Breaking budgets for big brands


Struggling college students say they splurge on big brand names for their long-lasting quality.

Art Fundamentals student O’Malley Griffith, 21, sometimes purchases brand name clothing.

“I have a Dior robe ($60 to $90) and I occasionally buy Ralph Lauren Polo shirts ($165 to $400),” said Griffith. “And there are a lot of names that you don’t really hear a lot. One time I had a Louis Vuitton bag back in high school.”

Griffith says that he buys brand name items mainly for their quality and also because it can be cheaper.

“Cheaper brands I find are more expensive because you have to keep buying into them as opposed to buying, like, a Nike shoe that’ll last me longer,” he said. “I find that when you buy quality, you get what quality has to offer.”

Contract lecturer at the Ryerson School of Fashion, Beatriz Juarez, says one of the reasons people choose brand name items over something local is because they feel a personal connection.

“If you think the product is an extension or reflection of the values you cherish, you will buy it. No matter the cost,” she said.

Griffith says that when you buy brand name items you can avoid spending time and money replacing cheaper items.

“You kind of buy into the consumerism of buying cheaper brands,” he says. “If you think about it, when you buy a t-shirt from Walmart, it’s convenient, but when you put it through the wash it gets discoloured.”

However, Griffith says that it can go both ways.

“Walmart can have good quality, but I think it’s the amount you’re getting,” he said. “Cause if you aren’t getting more for your book, what’s the point? You can just get the cheaper knockoff version per se.”

You have to be careful when it comes to knockoffs, as they tend to not have the reliability of the brand name version.

“If I buy a Louis Vuitton item, it’s coming straight from the source,” said Griffith. “And if something is wrong with it I can go back to the store and say, ‘Look you have something wrong with this,’ and they’ll be like, ‘Oh sure, you know we have a policy put in place to make our customers happy.’ ”

Former Electromechanical Engineering Technologist student, Patel Jigar, 25 agrees.

“How can you know what you’re really buying without the brand tag?” Jigar said. “You don’t know if the fit is going to last long or the colour. There are so many factors that play in, so you can either decide you are going with the brand or just the local stores.”

Jigar says he began buying brand name clothing when he started working.

“When you see your colleagues in meetings with big companies, I see them with a brand name on their clothes,” he said. “So from them I got inspiration and started buying brand clothes like Ralph Lauren and Dior.”

Griffith says that if the brand tag was taken off say a Louis Vuitton bag and it was just a regular bag it would still catch his eye, because design plays a big role too.

“There was a time when Walmart used to sell this shoe called Shaq and you know people around the block are like, ‘Why are you going to buy Shaq shoes at Walmart,’ ” he said. “Even though, Shaq, the basketball player, he’s a big name right? But because it’s not sold at a certain place you might not buy it.”

Even though the popularity of buying big brand names is increasing, there are still designers who would prefer to make their own mark.

Melissa McNichols graduated from the Fashion Design program at Fanshawe College and needed work.

“I wanted to go into children’s designing, but I didn’t want to live in Toronto or Montreal,” said McNichols.

She didn’t want a big business and she had the space available to her.

She opened up Designed by Mista, a children’s clothing store in Napanee in November 2011.

“I have people telling me all the time that they don’t want their kids in the cookie cutter styles,” she said. “They don’t want their kids in something that’s years above of what they think is appropriate for their child to be wearing.”

However, McNichols says that she doesn’t have the “stock” that a big brand store has.

“I don’t have the buying ability, I’m not buying 100 yards at a time,” she says. “I’m sewing everything myself rather than paying someone overseas to sew it for a very minimal fee.”

Bigger stores have the ability to produce more styles and sizes than smaller local businesses and that’s where McNichols has trouble.

“I’ll typically do one or two of the same item in different sizes and take orders and go from there,” she says. “In a big brand store you can go in and buy pretty much any size off the shelf at any time.”

Juarez agrees. She says that the bigger brands have the opportunity to not only mass-produce products, but also market their brand globally.

“With the increase of online retailers, the opportunities for big brand expansion will become endless,” said Juarez. “Unfortunately this is something that local businesses, designers and startups can’t do based on their smaller budgets.”

People will always buy big brands.

Juarez says that this goes back to term created by social scientist Thorstein Veblen: “Conspicuous consumption.”

“(Meaning) the lavish spending on goods mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth,” said Juarez.