The journey from catwalk to high street. It is fashion’s oxygen, the very essence it thrives on. But just how far will you go to achieve a true fashionista look? As far as £500?
Those of you who just shook your heads and wrinkled your noses in disgust will be inevitably overjoyed at the outbreak of “cheap chic”. The eruption of ultra-bargainous retailers such as Primark and supermarket fashion found in Asda and Tesco marks a sharp veer from catwalk costs to cheap chic.
I have admittedly been seduced many times into purchasing something just because it’s cheap; get it home and wonder why. It irritates me that with the collaborated cost of my erratic purchases, I could be walking around in those ridiculously expensive shoes I’ve been longing after for months. Adding insult to injury, it’s undeniable the shoes will yield a longer lifetime than all my haphazard purchases put together. When did it become acceptable to treat clothes as disposable? I estimate it was the point at which Primark’s popularity skyrocketed.
The outbreak of supermarket fashion has also fuelled this concept, aligning shoes parallel with spinach and diminishing the gap between what we perceive as mundane grocery shopping and “retail therapy”. It blurs the line between what we need and what we want and increases the accessibility of clothes to an extent where we are faced with no rational explanation to refuse purchase. Add into this toxic cocktail of designer replicas and cheap prices the boost of celebrity endorsement (namely Colleen for George at Asda and Melanie Sykes for Matalan) and it is little wonder we are becoming weak in the face of giant budget retailers.
Who can forget the Chloe inspired dress that literally flew off the shelves from Tesco in 2005? Chloe’s flowing, pale green chiffon that would have set you back £1,400 was being imitated in Tesco for £45 but flogged on Ebay for £100 due to its must-have calibre. I think this is perfectly acceptable behaviour for high street retailers to take inspiration from the catwalk, after all, this is fashion’s perpetual conveyor belt. However, it is interesting to observe that in debates such as these, two fashion tribes emerge. First there are those who won’t settle for anything less than the real deal. They believe that the substantial price tag reflects the quality, cut and lifespan of the garment and don’t merely buy with the sole motivation of the shiny designer label. If this is the case then simply a replica of the item’s style and design won’t satisfy. On the other hand, there are those who crave the catwalk’s appearance and desire to parade themselves with a veneer of designer clothing. It is this mind set that was the focal point for Tesco and their infamous green dress. So what if the dress lasted for the number of days equivalent to the price tag, it enabled a tiny slice of catwalk fantasy to hang in the reality of an everyday wardrobe. In the battle of these two fashion tribes, ultimately, those who will surrender a considerable amount of money for an exquisite piece of clothing and those who choose not to, it appears that the cheap chic is certainly outdoing the lure of designer attire. You only have to peek round the doors of Primark to fathom this.
There is no doubt in my mind that all these budget stores have a positive effect on the fashion world today. Without them, it would simply not be possible to indulge in each season’s fickle trends as they come and go. They nurture our freedom to experiment in wild styles that we would normally never touch for fear of looking stupid and if, as predicted, we do, we unquestionably bin them. Discard the evidence because we can afford to. It makes sense for fashion led fads to stick to the cheaper shops, you know you wont be seen dead in your fluorescent leggings this time next year.
At the end of the day fashion is meant to be fun and if the giveaway prices enable us to be more experimental with style then that can’t be detrimental. It only becomes destructive when we begin to discard our style identity in a cloud of mass market, one-sold-every-minute smocks and find every other person wandering around in the same “must have” summer dress. Cheap prices should be celebrated but individuality should be celebrated more.