Developing a Designer Wardrobe

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This post was inspired by the questions asked to me by journalist Alina Dizik for an article she was writing for the BBC called Secrets to building a designer wardrobe.

A few quotes found their way into the article and here is the content I developed in answer to the questions.


Q. What’s the benefit of buying designer pieces?

It can be a chance to have an uncommon look when you buy from less accessible designers whether it be because the items are couture or rare/limited quantity or because the designer is found in smaller markets/locally in fashionable neighborhoods

Some of the brand equity can rub off on you by association. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage depending on what you are trying to achieve with your look i.e. how you want to be perceived from your visual image. Some audiences may find your designer wardrobe prestigious (audiences = your colleagues, clients, peers, the general public)

Designer labels can be statement of status in some social and professional circles

Some brands feature a consistently high level of quality in terms of fabric and construction


Q. How do you define classic pieces and why are they a good investment?

Classic pieces won’t fade out style and they have a silhouette that remains relevant. They have elegance even when casual. There is a degree of comfort and versatility with these items. A classic isn’t necessary plain although many classic pieces are solids in traditional fabrics.

A piece is a good investment if it suits your complexion, your body type, your personality style and your lifestyle. The fit should be impeccable and it should be something you are proud to wear often. The intention would be for long-term use and it’s a bonus if the item coordinates with many other items already in your wardrobe.


Q. What are some ways to get a good bargain on designer pieces (consignment, sales times, etc.)

Deep discounts and flash sales such as GILT – stay with reputable sites due to the amount of fakes in the market

Department store sale time – Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales etc.


Consignment stores

Go directly to the designers’ end of season sales

Sample sales

End of season in retail – buy classics for next year or items you know will be in fashion for a few years (consult reliable trend forecasters if you can)

Small high end boutiques often offer excellent sales at the end of the season so they can make room for new merchandise on their racks and shelves

Build relationships with sales associates who value customer service. Ask them to notify you in advance of sales and other special offers

*Have a dedicated email address for shopping so not to hesitate to sign up for e-blasts and newsletters. Give it to all of the stores and brands you like so you can be notified of sales and special shopping events. You can check it occasionally or when you have the urge to shop.


Q. What are some mistakes people make when purchasing designer pieces? (wrong items to buy, too many items, etc.)

Too many fashion forward items at once when one doesn’t have enough occasion to wear them

Impulse buys from favorite designer brands – The items sit in the closet because they don’t suit the buyer (unflattering colour or shape for the complexion and body type)  You need to know what suits your body, your personality and your image whether you shop at thrift stores or on Fifth Avenue.

The assumption that quality corresponds to the price tag or the label – For example, items can be merchandised and marketed as luxurious when materials are sub-par. Educated yourself on quality. Many designers have multiple lines ranging from couture to very accessible ready to wear clothing and accessories sold in big box stores.

The purchase of an item that doesn’t fit in with the existing wardrobe. It is good to try new styles but if you don’t have anything that can coordinate with your new piece it can end up at the back of the closet.


Q. When should you pay full price for items?

It can be well worth purchasing a piece at full price if you fall in love with it and you can see yourself wearing it over time.  Ensure that the item fits your body well and that it can in fact be altered if necessary. (Some styles and fabrics are not easily altered)

If the purchase of a piece might be a stretch for your budget, I recommend taking a look at your wardrobe and thinking it over for a night. If you wake up and you want the item as much as you did when you found it, go for it!

It is easier than ever to find designer items at a reduced price with website flash sales and third party sites such as GILT and eBay. Time and patience permitting, do a web search before you purchase.

Paying full price for an item can be a great way to support talented designers with smaller labels.

I attend trend forecasting seminars by WGSN and Peclers Paris whenever I have the opportunity. This keeps me informed of micro and macro cultural and fashion trends 2 years into the future. This information aids me in making recommendations to clients interested in buying designer pieces.


Q. How important are accessories versus clothing?

Accessories are important and effective in enhancing an outfit when worn wisely. One can wear multiple accessories at once but choose a focal point when self-styling. For example, a gorgeous artistic necklace can be best supported by subtle rings and/or bracelets.

Accessories are another way to express your personality style thereby sending a message about who you are

It’s easier to keep fashion forward with accessories and pair them with classic clothing – looks modern and sophisticated when done well

Men can get just as excited about accessories as women do. Interesting shoes, watches, cufflinks and pocket squares are a good place to start expanding your accessory collection. Streamline bracelets and necklaces are also good choices for some personality types.

If it’s love at first sight, take it and it will likely become one of your personal classics!


Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

Additional tips:

Buy interesting items from local designers while you travel or ask friends about their favorite local designers. This can help you to find pieces you won’t see on anyone else in your area.

Mix designer pieces with non-designer pieces (retail, vintage, old favorites) to further personalize looks.

Check construction quality and fabric content no matter how high end the piece may be. Ensure that you are receiving enough value for the money you spend.

Observe scale, colour, shape and style with clothing and accessories. Have beautiful pieces but stay the focus of your outfit. This is not only good for your communication but it’s good for your self-image. You should see yourself as beautiful no matter how you are dressed!