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What Makes a Clothing Brand Luxury?

January 24, 2022

Clothing is something people need. Luxury—by definition—is something that people want. Luxury products then aren't a necessity, but they are something that sparks desire. Luxury brands promise status, quality, aesthetics, and core values that justify the purchase price. 

There’s far more to luxury brands than simple cost. They have to inspire a level of desire that exceeds or meets the cost of their apparel. There are numerous essential qualities that make a brand luxury. 

Superior Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship comes first for high-end brands. No matter the modern pedigree, when each brand started, they were indistinguishable from any other on the market. A brand gets its name from many places, including notable wearers, the marketing team, and market saturation. Before any of these occur, craftsmanship is essential. 

Rolex, a luxury among luxuries, owns their own gold foundry and assembles watches by hand. This level of craftsmanship from a company that produces one million watches a year is unparalleled. It's for this high standard of production that quality watches make one of the most popular accessories in existence.  

A luxury brand doesn’t need to be that vertically integrated in order to have superior craftsmanship. The dedication to put more work in than competitors and to work smarter at well is still essential. A well-constructed piece of clothing shows a value for standards that’s desirable in any high-end apparel. For a piece to be luxury, it should hold up under the heaviest scrutiny. 

How To Identify Quality Craftsmanship

There are ways to tell if a garment is well-made without reading the manufacturer's biography. The pattern of a garment, especially where there are pockets or sewn-on appliques, should match. A clearly mismatched seam shows rushed work in the cutting and construction of material. 

When you tug at seams gently, no sunlight or dark spaces should be visible between the seam in a high-quality product. If this is the case, it is a sign that the garment may not last very long. 

A bit of extra thread on the inside of the garment or spare buttons hint to the same conclusion: That the piece is meant to be worn long enough that future repairs are accounted for by the designer. 

Craftsmanship is only half the battle when it comes to the immediate creation of a luxury garment. The other half comes from the materials.

Quality Materials 

The work ethic of the designer is crucial, but creating a great garment starts with great raw materials. Before a garment is shaped, the fabrics used affect durability and longevity, as well as many other details. The best cottons, wool, leathers, and other natural materials are themselves desired resources.

Great materials come from every corner of the globe. Cotton comes primarily from the U.S., China, and India, with the American Southwest home to some of the highest quality cotton. Australia, while being the birthplace of our founder, is also a plentiful source for wool. 

But what does a high-grade material do for a garment? Low-quality materials tend to pill and fray easily. Poor wools can irritate the skin, and cotton loses its shape if the fabric isn’t up to par. With better materials, this isn’t the case, as luxe cottons and sleek synthetic performance fabrics easily showcase. 

Excellent materials can be found just by physically touching them. Cotton and natural fibers should be soft and have a weight appropriate to the material. Performance fabrics may be warm to the touch if they are built with insulation. Unless a garment is sheer, it should be opaque when even a single layer is exposed to light.

The way a garment looks can also hint towards the quality of the material. Some special blends create unique appearances. Our Tri-Blend Standard Tee uses a unique combination of polyester, cotton, and rayon. The best of each material comes together in a comfortable, elastic piece with a subtle sheen under light.

Craftsmanship and materials both serve to make a garment stand out. These physical attributes are just the beginning of what makes a luxury fashion brand.

Brand Identity 

If you put two items beside each other and put a brand name on one of them, they become unequal. Luxury business models are based on brand experience, amongst other things.

By virtue of association, the brand-name item is worth more even if all other details remain the same. This is not to suggest that brands are inferior for cost; This is to suggest that brand names have a concrete, tangible value. 

Each brand, large or small, luxury or affordable, has a brand identity. Brand identity is composed of far more than a logo, label, and price point. The identity is the aesthetics of a brand, but it also includes the social aspects of the brand. Press coverage, marketing style, and the social concerns of a brand all inform identity and have symbolic value. 

History and heritage are also important parts of identity. Many of the most storied fashion houses have existed for the better part of a century. The greatest difference between these and new luxury brands and fashion houses is often market share and name recognition. The last of these is still an all-important quality in brands.

Luxury Sportswear

A major part of identity is the type of fashion a designer creates. At Daniel Patrick, we love luxury sportswear. Fashion meets comfort in sportswear, and the niche of luxury sportswear joins skill and style in a way few other cultures can. Athletic apparel sees heavier use than any other sort of gear, so it makes sense to invest in quality. 

Accessibility is also essential when it comes to a brand identity. The cost of a luxury brand is part of what justifies it as a luxury. This cost is patently affected by the materials and make of a line, but other factors are at play. It’s the fact that not everyone will be able to afford these items, but exclusivity is another major factor in luxury.

Exclusivity

Though a luxury item is something people want but don’t need, high-end clothing isn’t in the same category as snack food. The latter is easily accessible by anyone who suddenly craves them, while the former is an elusive, rare item. The exclusivity of luxury clothes comes from cost, style, and availability, which places the wearer in an in-group.

The essential elements that make a piece exclusive are:

  • Cost: Not everyone can afford luxury apparel. Shoppers who can, might not be willing to invest in it. The cost of clothes is a barrier to access, which speaks to the status of the wearer. It also shows a dedication to personal style to wear luxury clothes.
  •  Quality: Part of what drives the desire for high-end apparel and the cost people are willing to pay is quality. Rare fabrics, intricate designs, and attention to detail all serve to aid the overall quality of garments. 
  • Quantity: One-way exclusivity is achieved through scarcity. Where an affordable fashion giant may produce thousands of identical garments, a luxury designer may limit a launch to a few hundred.

    This scarcity allows the designer to charge a higher cost since the production price per garment is higher. The consumer knows when purchasing a limited quantity good that their style is uniquely protected by a low batch size. 

Exclusivity helps the wearer stand out regardless of the garment worn. Scarcity allows a designer to spend more time on individual garments and produce a broader line at once. The fact that only a select few can wear a special garment helps keep luxury goods desirable. 

Significance 

For luxury brands to hold a degree of significance, they have to convey something with their line. Part of this comes with marketing. Marketing includes advertising sales which raise product awareness and engagement among new prospective customers. This also includes celebrity sponsorships among the powerful and respected.

Every aspect of people at the top of society, be they artists, athletes, or world leaders, is dissected. A well-dressed and affluent individual's wardrobe may read like a who’s who of top designers. These figures become as well known for their idiosyncratic sense of style as their primary art. For designers, the right article on the right person can boost the social stock of a garment.

Fashion houses come and go. Many top brands entered crises where they faced destruction at some point in their history. Once a designer has made it into the tier of luxury brands, it doesn’t mean that their work is over. Continued relevance comes from constant work, innovation, uniqueness, and people wearing the clothes they put into the world.

Cultural significance is one of the more dubious benchmarks for a luxury brand, but immediate name recognition is one test. Most brands put out entire fashion lines of designer clothing but become known for the popularity of one signature article. When people immediately think of a brand when a garment is mentioned, or vice versa, it shows cultural permeation.

Luxury Defined 

Plenty of factors separate luxury goods from the commonplace. To be luxury, a brand has to maintain core values and a sense of individuality. A degree of exclusivity caused by batch size and other factors helps cement consumers as specially dressed. The social identity of the brand in terms of history is also integral in defining them.

From a production point of view, quality matters above all else. Luxury goods provide something which can’t be had anywhere else. This is either due to unique design mechanics or to a dedication to superior quality.

Luxury clothes just aren't about the physical sneakers or jewelry you buy from luxury retailers; it's about an elite lifestyle and an aspiration to always stay on or ahead of the trend. 

Luxury clothing brands aren’t defined by a single metric. Excellence, significance, and exclusivity combine to make them cultural indicators as much as high-performance apparel providers. Though they are designed to be something that must be reached for, luxury brands are well worth it for those who see their value.

 

Sources:

10 Things Every Rolex Owner Should Know I Business Insider

Where Do Raw Materials Come From? I Visual Capitalist 

5 Steps to Building a Strong Brand Identity When the Game Is Constantly Changing | Inc.


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