4 Feb 2014

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada - a famous movie about a strict and demanding boss in the fashion industry. It is believed that the movie is based on a real life character. We get to see a lot of big brand names and the top fashion releases in this movie. Prada, of course is a big and expensive brand name which sells clothes, bags, shoes among other things.

A question that has puzzled me often -  why do we love buying expensive branded products ?
Why do our eyes gleam at the sound of  expensive brands when it comes to clothes, watches, perfumes, shoes etc. ? We have items available in every price range possible. Then why is it that we are attracted to a big name with a big price tag ?

I asked my friends how much they were willing to spend on clothing ? The range varied from Rs.100 a dress to Rs.20,000 a dress. So, is it true that the ones willing to spend more are fashionistas whereas the others are fashion faux pas? I really don't think so. I asked them why they were willing to spend more for big brand names and got many answers - look, comfort, fit. The most popular answer was - branded clothes fit and feel better. They are probably right. Tailoring is a skill and expensive clothing lines with more capital can more likely invest in better skilled tailors.

This leads to my next question - If fit is so important then why does one buy a branded handbag or wallet. It does not have any kind of fit. It simply hangs from one's shoulder or hides inside a pant pocket.  So why are we willing to pay umpteen times more for it ? Some friends replied that the look and feel were very important. The branded bags are apparently lighter to carry so it is less weight on the shoulder.

This begets my next question - if weight and fit are the criteria then why would one buy a branded watch ? Any watch strap can be made to fit an individual's wrist. No matter how expensive the watch, the mechanism with the arms on the dial remains exactly the same. So why would someone pay a thousand times for the same old technology? Is it because the name printed on the watch will "wow" someone? Is it purely a marketing gimmick that has lured us into thinking that it will look much better and that because of it we will have a status in our social circle which is undeniable? Well, let us say that the look of the watch is superb and makes one feel good.

This is the segway to my next question - Why would someone buy a branded perfume ? It is simply water , alcohol and some fragrance. It is a commodity that one cannot see, touch or feel. However the fragrance becomes superior if we add a fancy name to it e.g. Calvin Klein Obsession, Elizabeth Arden Red Door. I overheard two of my colleagues talk about this and they were very serious about which brands they preferred. Why this charm towards something merely sensed by the olfactory? A perfume is something most of us can make at home. If we do not want to go through the trouble, then there are enough local brands and perfume makers than can provide the smell we want without making the wallet lighter. 

Have I never bought an expensive brand in my life? I wish I could hold my head high and say no. I have also indulged in my life. However, I hope I have not overindulged. I have paid more for shoes which felt more comfortable but have never bought Prada shoes which cost about $200 to $250 (Rs. 12,000 to Rs.15,000). I find it a little sad when a society thinks that expensive means better. It is not necessarily true. I also find it worrying that human beings with superior brain power can be lured so easily by marketing and advertisements. I am a big fan of good quality and am willing to pay for it. However, I am not willing to pay for mega marketing campaigns.

I guess it is all about reasoning - If you are buying something for comfort and quality and you can afford it, it is certainly justified. If you want to show the big name on your handbag or a label on your clothes it is not cool. I raise a toast to quality, but thumbs down to flamboyance. 

Next time you want to buy a big brand - ask yourself whether the same utility can be achieved by some other product which is not as famous a brand. E.g. substitute your cell phone with a cheaper brand, buy shoes that are comfortable but don't worry if it carries a big name, buy a watch which shows the correct time but does not have a fancy print on the dial. Once you buy a reasonably priced product, simply save the rest of the money or even better - invest it. When we save or invest, we have triumphed over marketing that is making us trudge the path of spending. Do it enough times and it is a sure shot to financial independence and creating wealth. 

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