Ranveer Singh in a Rs 2 lakh worth Gucci outfit worn casually. (Image by Arrangement)
A cursory glance through the ‘What’s New’ and ‘Must Buy’ sections of websites and fashion magazines may come as a surprise. One will see the likes of tiny beaded bags priced at Rs 4.9 lakh, minimalist gold rings lined with minuscule diamonds at Rs 4.5 lakh, and co-ord sets consisting of plain black pants and long jackets embellished with the slightest amount of embroidery at the seams, going for over a lakh of rupees. These escalated price tags may seem at odds with the descriptions of the products in question, yet these expensive items simply fly off the shelves as the fashion cognoscenti around the country fork out large sums of money to buy them. After all, one isn’t paying for the product but for the brand name to elevate their status.
One wonders if these exorbitant prices are justified at all? Certainly not in
terms of their monetary value. Take it from Mahak Gupta, digital marketing specialist, curator and founder of Old Love Studios, a platform that promotes sustainability in fashion. She says, "There is a particular narrative that has become popular amongst people who live in metropolitan cities — if you
have money, you should spend it on luxury products." Gupta recalls a time
when these ridiculous prices at least made sense.
"In the late 2000s, Chanel bags were made of pure leather and decorated with 24k gold plated finery. So, they were actually worth the price and investment but today things have changed. The majority of luxury brands manufacture their products in China, hence their value has degraded. Yet, they continue to do well because they are marketed as status symbols."
The concept of status symbols has been around forever — think Rolls Royce vehicles or commissioned jewellery from the House of Cartier. With time however, their definition has expanded to include items of fashion that at least outwardly don’t seem worth the moolah. Interestingly, for some the minimalist appeal of buying goods that are expensive but don’t look it, is of utmost importance.
Tarini Chaudhary, a corporate professional who works in a multinational company, doesn’t enjoy buying branded goods unless they are minimalistic and don’t have logos splashed everywhere. She explains rather practically, "If people have the money to spend, I believe it’s ok for them to spend it on things they like. But I’m against the concept of excessive expenditure to address the insecurities they have.
People should attract others through their personality and aura, and by being approachable. Your attraction shouldn’t be based on something superficial like a bag or a piece of jewellery. Plus, constant expenditure on branded goods caus-
es harm to the environment too in the long run."
For her the catalyst in promoting this culture of excess has been social media. She adds, "When people stop looking up to celebrities and influencers who own these expensive things, then this culture will hopefully stop. People will no
longer see the attraction of expensive bags and shoes."
Advocate Ragini Vinaik also puts the cause of this culture of excess down to low self-esteem, when she says,
"There seems to be a desire amongst people who are showing off their
branded goods, to grab people’s attention which they may otherwise find difficult
to do. This low self-esteem can only be overcome by being confident of your own
personality and not have to rely on what you own as a means of standing apart from others. I feel people should learn to be their own brand!"
Highlighting the immense wastage caused by the constant accumulation of branded goods, Vinaik shares, "All it does is add to the clutter in one’s wardrobe.
Environmentally too it’s a huge problem, as one feels the need to discard products when new purchases are made. Often times, they are not discarded properly and add to the ever-growing landfills.
Also, in cases of high fashion, where leather and fur are still used, the cruelty to animals is really inhumane."
Social media rhetoric, which encourages people to act and look a certain way, is indeed problematic.
On the one hand, influencers use sustainability as a buzzword to gain traction on
their pages, and simultaneously, they promote excess wastage by accepting gifts from brands in order to promote sales of those items amongst their followers.
Gupta, an ardent sustainability advocate who promotes the sale of vintage, pre-loved and thrifted fashion, is hopeful that things are changing as an ecologically conscious younger generation takes over.
"Thrifting and vintage shopping have become concepts to talk about as people are becoming more aware of their advantages . Teenagers appreciate thrifting as they don’t have as much money to spend but are still inclined to own luxurious goods, and they are also committed to saving the planet. It is up to this new generation now to push everyone in the right direction," she says.