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The More Expensive, The Better?

The incomparable Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian fashion designer, who along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars, used to wisely say that people should buy little and only of the best or the cheapest. Her adage with a simple message appears to be one of the hardest rules to apply in the life of most fashionistas. Not being an exception, it took me a long way to both muster the courage to follow chic minimalism in my attire and learn to be in unshattered control of a strong urge to let loose and buy heaps of clothes, most of which used to end up with a “wardrobe-mistake” tag attached to them. I believe the reader knows what I’m writing about. 🙂

I have always had this firm conviction that it’s not a big deal to flood yourself with all the possible fashionable things once you can afford it.

The real challenge, in my opinion, is actually to be able to look the part wherever you are while having really scant means. Usually, when one can afford to go on a spending spree barely trudging their loot after an exhausting day of shopping around, the intended effect to look amazing leaves much to be desired as they tend to grab whatever meets the eye thus subduing their very useful instinct of selectiveness. Conversely, when your budget is somewhat limited, you stand a much better chance – presuming you have this innate feeling of taste and style – of finding a gem or two that will not only add to your exquisite looks but also last a lifetime of proper duty.

But now the question as to the definition of Elsa’s “best or cheapest” arises… Both categories are so broad and so ambiguous in terms of their meaning that they can be interpreted in multiple ways. I’m in no capacity to extract the true essence of Elsa’s words, but I will do my best to present my viewpoint as far as the “best and cheapest” clothes are concerned. Many companies dare to call themselves the best producers of fashionable stuff, and although – quite objectively – I do agree it may be so (take the examples of the supreme Loro Piana, the modest Colombo, the recherché Moynat, the iconic Hermès, you name it), they often fail to honorably live up to their own presumption of supremacy. To me, the definition of “the best” lies in an intricate combination of a few essential features that a product carries: the history of the brand, the brand’s attitude to the integrity of the production process, the materials used to make a final product, the fair treatment of employees, the immaculate craftsmanship and passion that their products are imbued with and the unforgettable shopping experience we may have while acquiring a coveted object.

Therefore, if you feel the whole aura of the aforementioned factors whilst holding your, say,  dream Hermès wallet, let me assure you – you did the right thing by purchasing it. 🙂

But what about “the cheapest”? The word “cheap” often carries quite a negative connotation in our minds… But is it really something to be ashamed of? By no means!

Cheap does not always mean bad, unwanted, dumped or poor quality. Cheap very often goes hand in hand with pre-loved, pre-pampered, pre-adored and pre-cherished. There’s a story of a particular object lurking behind “cheap”, and – paradoxically – what sometimes appears to be cheap, may become very expensive someday.

If you are a careful buyer like me, who loves extraordinary things, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for something that you’ve been saving up for ages. It’s enough to take the reins of your patience and find something pre-owned at a more affordable price yet with the same amount of luxury and preciousness that a brand-new thing exudes.

Therefore, Elsa, seemingly, was more than right about combining “the best and the cheapest” in one maxim of hers.

I have personally tried out her practice in my life many times and, surprisingly, I do not remember a time I was bitterly disappointed with my choices. My wardrobe – no matter how much I love buying clothes and accessories – is very small, but I can always – in contrast to many people – find everything I need in it – be it for work or an unexpected soirée.


Andris Stern