It seems the national media has become a fan of the term “the recession is turning around.” This may be true but the recession hasn’t touched one demographic of women: housewives to the rich and famous.
In the past year I have noticed more and more commercials for websites selling so-called “luxury brands” at affordable prices. This got me wondering if there is even such a thing. The phrase itself seems to be a bit of an oxymoron.
One website known for having luxury brands offered at affordable prices is Zappos.com. The hugely successful website promises both great customer service and bargain deals. Upon logging on I found an Ivanka Trump bag for $150 and a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag for $198. Both items were a great deal but I felt dissatisfied.
Here I was shopping for brands by celebrity designers but I didn’t feel pampered at all. This got me to thinking. Certainly Ivanka Trump sells her designs on Zappos.com but would she shop on the website? What about Kim Kardashian? I always see her on television shopping in designer stores. I never see her ordering from QVC.com, where her own K-Dash line of clothing is sold. What was going on?
At first it appeared that the rich and famous are interested in selling their own designs at mid-level prices on luxury vs. bargain websites. What was the next step? Were these women turning their bulky profits, made selling last season’s designs to almost-rich women, into a way to buy real designer goods online? I felt dirty. I was about to uncover a cycle of fashion-addicted women who tried on shoes within the confines of some sick checkbook caste system.
I spent hours on Google and tracking down celebrity publicists. Where were the celebrities really shopping online? What about the football wives? How would I really shop if I were Kim Kardashian with just a couple of hours to herself? Not only did I find a few exclusive websites catering to the richest of housewives but I discovered the art of a celebrity concierge.
It was true. Celebs were making money off of low-level items to buy high-end shoes. A good example of the contrast between being a celebrity and just paying a couple of hundred dollars to feel like one is Vera Wang’s brand. Any given Saturday a few women with executive jobs (or husbands with executive jobs) climb into their Range Rovers and hit up Kohl’s for a day of shopping. Vera Wang sells a line of purses at the popular department store. In fact, at Kohl’s Vera Wang’s line is considered a very high-end item. Think of her items at Kohls as one big glamour shot! Seriously, how many times has a celebrity been caught by TMZ shopping at Kohl’s? My search shows zero! Most women know of Wang only because they read about her designs for celebrities in magazines.
Vera Wang’s exclusive wedding dresses are what put her brand on the map. I called Kohl’s only to find out no Vera Wang wedding dresses are offered at any of the stores. Why? The truth is exclusivity. We all want to feel luxurious but only a small percentage of us can really afford the lifestyle. Kohl’s and Vera Wang aren’t selling women quality purses and shoes. They are selling an escape from reality to women with a few hundred dollars in their pockets.
I did visit VeraWang.com and found what the designer is known for, a beautiful wedding dress. I had to travel all the way from the west coast to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City just to view it. The final cost for the dress? Well, let’s just say the complementing necklace was priced at one thousand dollars. Maybe the Vera Wang purse at Kohl’s would fill my void because there was no way I was going to afford the dress.
In my research I did learn the truly rich and really famous also shop online, but they do more window shopping. Those with thousands of dollars to spend on fashion often review what is in season through trending websites and then call up their celebrity concierges to set up personalized fittings. A few of these websites are FashionTrendGuide.com, TrendLuxury.com and Polyvore.com.
TrendLuxury.com offers a compromise for a wide demographic of consumers. The site features trends in luxury clothing and luxury living but also highlights giveaways from brands like Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren. Polyvore.com caters to a diverse demographic too. Rich and middle class housewives can view an outfit on the website. Both are then provided the expensive and the look-alike details followed by a “shop now” button. Celebrities can order a Murphy’s woman’s hat at $625 while everyday women can order a version of the hat for around $25.
As I finished my research I came to the conclusion that money doesn’t buy style, taste, or even quality. Although it would be nice to blow over ten grand on a purse, I wouldn’t know if I would have the heart to, with all the suffering and despair in third world countries and right here in the United States.
There isn’t anything wrong with pampering ourselves once in a while. I found some great websites and learned a lot of new facts about Fall 2011’s trends. I just don’t know if I would buy into the brands of certain celebrities, knowing what I have learned. Vera Wang seems to have lost all exclusivity when she signed with Kohl’s, and K-Dash is sold to divorced women with around $100 to spend when they are lonely and watching TV at night. Hats for $600 don’t make sense either; even if I had an extra $600 to spend I don’t think I would walk around with it on my head as I passed people begging for change on the street. I guess true luxury is in the eye of the beholder, which is why I am grateful for the luxury of a home, a job, and my $10 sweatpants – which are ever so comfortable and purchased at my local K-mart.