photo from all over the web; not really sure where the original’s from.

The Huffington Post points out that the idea of luxury has deflated and independent designers have business that is booming among consumers tired of the ol’ branded shtick.

This is exactly why I began Chic Steals two and a half years ago: to examine the idea of “value” of clothing, brands, and labels – and to deconstruct the idea of “luxury.”  I want to teach people to try their hand at making their own fashionable items – to demonstrate that value is conceptual, and instilled in an object when one takes the time to create it oneself.  It’s amazing how much you value something, crooked seams and all, when you’ve slaved over it, day after day, or researched how to do a certain process in the making of it.  YOU become invested in your creation – and though the cost at the register may be insignificant, the emotional and skillful investment you’ve made into your piece is immeasurable.  One of my core beliefs is this:

Luxury is a concept.

It’s a fleeting idea, created in the minds of consumers chiefly for the purpose of constructing a demand for expensive items manufactured by large brands.  Your handmade item becomes a luxury item to you – something whose value is not necessarily determined by the quality of the materials or the extensive skill of the craftsperson or the social cache of the label, but made so by the hours labored upon it and your emotional investment in it.

I’ve noticed as of late, with the economy sluggish, clothing retailers closing, brands going out of business, and sample sale sites abounding – the idea of luxury is being taken apart, brick by brick.  Consumers are getting smarter.  We want to see behind the curtain of the brand – to see why something is priced the way it is, to see where our money goes when we pay at the cash register.

DIY is a movement to get you involved in the creation and/or personalization process – to have you invest a little bit of yourself so as to better grasp the concepts of value and the principles of design.  It gives you skills and makes you a smarter shopper in the long run.  Even if it doesn’t appeal to you as a long-term hobby or an experience you’d like to repeat – you now know how much it cost you to buy the tools and materials to make the item in question – and how long it took you.  This can help you calculate what’s a good deal and what isn’t when it comes to buying something similar at retail.

And, a wonderful side effect of DIY is that you appreciate the process – and can rationalize better the retail price of clothing and accessories made by indie designers and upcoming brands.  (A constant question I got from customers when I was selling my line is “Why does it cost this much?”  This is a common question independent designers receive from a consumer base used to Forever 21 and H&M prices.  People have no idea what is involved in the manufacturing of clothing and the costs that go on behind the scenes, especially when you’re dealing with small, limited runs.)  By encouraging everyone to try making their own fashion items, you educate and inform – which makes to easier to rationalize purchasing items from younger, growing brands, rather than from overpriced luxury brands.

What do you think?  What has making or DIY’ing your own pieces taught you?  Are you still swayed by a Louis Vuitton bag, a Juicy Couture tracksuit, a Gucci belt just because of the name and cost attached to them?


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