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What do a leather jacket, a plain white t-shirt, a little black dress, and a basic blazer have in common? These pieces of clothing are all timeless, staple items that build the foundations of a wardrobe. These pieces are known to last through trend cycles and most brands sell their own unique versions of these classic items every season. With so many options available for these timeless items, are people who have the privilege to purchase these high-end pieces still willing to invest in them or are they choosing less-expensive options that provide the same classic appeal?

There are many reasons why brands might charge elevated prices for these staple pieces. The clothing can be made from higher quality and subsequently more expensive materials. The production, quantity, and shipping of the items is also a factor in the cost. Lastly, brand marketing strategies can often determine the number on the price tag. When brands are considered high-end and associated with higher quality products as a whole, they tend to charge higher prices even if an item is as simple as a plain white t-shirt. Vince charges $80 for their short-sleeve “Essential Crew” shirt, while H&M markets an almost identical shirt at $6.90. Similarly, an IRO leather jacket is sold for $1,205, yet a similar looking faux leather jacket can be purchased from Zara for $69.90. It’s up to the individual to decide if clothing items with similar and cheaper alternatives are worth investing in, yet the events of the past few months have made the answer more clear.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the fashion industry. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed and most Americans have had to tighten their wallets. Specifically, there has been an overall 27% decline in spending on clothing throughout the past year. While upper class Americans have more disposable income to spend on clothing, the majority of consumers have seen significant financial shifts as a result of the pandemic and will turn to more affordable versions of timeless clothing items rather than investing in them. Additionally, at least 1/3 of Americans are still working from home; as a result, people are not spending time in public and therefore, are not valuing expensive clothing items. Americans are now asking themselves if it is worth paying hundreds of dollars for a blazer to wear while working over Zoom at home. Currently, consumers are citing convenience as one of the top reasons for shopping at new retailers during the pandemic, and there has been positive growth in the percentage of people now utilizing e-commerce options. These factors indicate that individuals are now turning to widely available brands with large online platforms. While some people might look for lower prices now, others are demanding a brand with personal values including sustainability and social responsibility. 

A leather jacket, a little black dress, a basic blazer, and a plain white t-shirt are all timeless pieces that will continue to remain in the market regardless of current trends. These items have, and continue to appeal to many. As a result, consumers turn to alternative brands offering the same pieces with ranging price tags. The pandemic has completely shifted the retail industry and with an overall decline in purchasing, coupled with individuals spending most time at home, it is looking less likely that people will be willing to spend large amounts of money on clothing items that could be purchased from a different retailer for a cheaper price. In the end, there will always be some individuals willing to invest in these items and these pieces will continue to remain timeless, however, the luxury industry now needs to focus on redefining themselves. These trends in the industry are only sustainable for designers if they shift and refocus towards cultivating a brand with positive values. Timeless brands and styles will continue to retain their longevity, however the pandemic has caused individuals to seek out brands with stronger values and cheaper price points to purchase their staple pieces.


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