I Blame Brooke and Those Darn Jeans Of Hers!
Updated: Jan 22
While on a walk a few days ago with one of my closest girlfriends the subject of designer goods came up. That conversation ended up turning into the question "When did everyone become so designer label obsessed?" As my brain swirled around that question I began thinking about when did I first become aware of designer labels and what was the first designer purchase I ever made. When I think back to my first designer label obsession it dawned on me which designer it was I first coveted. I also began thinking it was the first for many other girls in my age range designer obsessions as well. It was the first designer label, IMO that went mainstream. The first designer label attainable for the masses. The first designer label that became a status symbol for every teen girl in school. And if you didn't have a pair??? Well you just weren't part of the "IN" crowd. Unless you had the label "Calvin Klein" on your backside you were a social disaster. I mean if you didn't own even one pair of CK jeans going to school was just mentally unbearable for a teenage girl. Yep, I think this is the moment we first became label obsessed.
Before CK jeans I didn't even think about designer brands. Admittedly I was still a school girl trying my best to just not have to wear the pair of corduroy's with strawberries on them my mom thought were cute and purchased for me. I can't tell you how many times I tried to hide those pants only to find they just kept coming back into my closet. Style back then was whatever your mom purchased and you had to use your creative skills to redesign an outfit to display your own rebellious style. My style was somewhere between prep and punk. It was all about the look and nothing about the label. White sneakers were a thing back then and many liked Keds, But we didn't care about the brand as long as they were white. We would even use shoe polish to make sure they stayed as white as possible. Everything was about the look and the style and nothing about "who made that?" We even embraced each other's individual twist on an outfit. I was known for a big bright pink fluffy coat I use to sport. There was no status tied to our looks or the desire for our clothes to tell the world how much money our parents spent on our looks. It was just us expressing ourselves with our clothing. Even if we had to do some cutting.
But then one day Brooke changed the style game with the line "Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." From that day forward teen girls everywhere begged to own and wear a pair of Calvin Kleins. I literally cried and begged my mom to the point of her exhaustion before I was able to get my hands on my first pair of Calvin Klein jeans. That was a very proud day!! My very first pair of Calvin Klein designer jeans. My very first designer item to call my own. I now owned a label, even though it was very small, and was sewn on the pocket on the backside of my jeans for the world to see. Owning a pair of CK's automatically included you into the cool girl club and every teenage girl wants to be in that club, Right? We even invented cool girl tricks to get into our CK's because they had to be tight. No not tight. Tight-tight. We all have memories of wire hangers and two to three of our closest girlfriends helping to zip up our CK's. After being cinched in and zipped up, possibly smashing in a couple internal organs, there we stood proudly in a denim symbol of status that made all of us feel like we are somebody. I think that's where we took a wrong turn.
I realize CK was not the first designer ever. We have always been aware of the big powerhouses especially during that time when design houses were coming to the forefront of fashion. Pucci, Oscar, Chanel, Valentino etc were on our lips but definitely not on our hips. But wearing those labels was not a part of mainstream society. We associated those labels with affluence and wealth. But CK changed that with a price tag, even though not considered cheap, was affordable for most people even if you had to scrimp a little to afford. So for my generation Calvin Klein was our first introduction into the world of designer wear and being able to share a little part of that world. But now looking back, and forward, I wonder if we've sort of all become a little too designer obsessed. Everything now is about labels, labels, labels, I mean even songs are singing the praises of designer brands. But I'm not going to put the total blame on Brooke. In my adult life I am well aware of how Sex and the City played apart in influencing adult women in their pursuit of designer brands.
Even before being totally obsessed with Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw's fashion sense I was well aware of my passion for shoes. It's why when people asked the question "Which SATC character are you?" I always answered Carrie because of our shared passion for designer shoes. As with CK, SATC I think became an influencer for the average woman's desire to show off her designer labels. As the show gained popularity so did the clothing and it's designer appeal. Now Jimmy's and Manolo's were on every designer loving woman's list to own. And for some absurd reason the price tag of $1000+ for a pair of shoes became palatable and even acceptable. Even myself, having been pulled into the designer shoe world, over the course of many years could have probably supported a small village somewhere on the amount of money I've spent on shoes. But I have to say to my credit I'm very good at waiting and I can wait out a shoe going on sale like nobody's business. I'm like a hunter waiting quietly for its prey, and once that price tag hits a price I can live with IT'S MINE!!!
But getting back to labels. I used to enjoy reading fashion magazines which were about clothing, fashion and style. But now magazines have all become ads for outrageously priced clothing that even if I could afford I doubt I would purchase. It doesn't make sense to me why a plain white t-shirt should have a price tag of $250. It's not even enjoyable to read because you feel like they are taking the piss. And I have to mention the hundreds of social media pages of people wearing brands and not style have become extremely boring and lack any sense of individuality or originality. It seems like everyone's sense of style has morphed into one idea and that idea is LABEL.
As far as clothing goes designers don't seem to have any originality to fetch an outrageous price tag and/or cult following. A simple t-shirt as long as it has a brand name across the front someone will buy and wear. Designers no longer tuck their labels discreetly inside anymore. It's all about labels on the outside and the bigger the better. The style scene gives no credit to the fashionista that can pull a look together with needle, thread and $30. It seems to be all about "who made what you are wearing?" Now don't get me wrong I am not against designer wear. But I am against throwing out any sense of individual style for the sake of a label. I love designer shoes, but the Manolos and Lub's I'll leave for the masses. I like the more outrageous shoe designers that most people will never wear and/or find. I don't particularly seek out labels. My eye goes more towards style. My appreciation for some designers comes from them being different to everyone else, Those designers dedicated to an expression of style and not an idea of what it should look like. All that said, most of them I can't afford but they do inspire inspiration and suit my sense of style. Individual sense of style IMO is very much lacking on the pages of mags and social media. I think we need to get back to wearing clothes, not advertising brands. Because unlike that girl that was obsessed with wanting to look like everyone else wearing my CK's I've grown to love being a bit different and standing in my shoes that stand out from everyone else's in a crowd.
So yes I dare say, or ask, as an absolute lover of style "Can we get back to originality?" I don't mean abandon designers because that would be silly. We need artists and designers because they play a big part in style culture. We need to continue to be inspired by the beautiful creations they dream up. But can we get away from looks that scream "Look at what I can afford." Can we? Or have we drifted too far into label-dom to find our way out?
Let me know