Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Designer Trademarks . . . We pay for the privilege of wearing their marks . . .

Brian, known to the readers of this blog as the "ballet flats guy", and I have discussed and debated the business of designer products. Our discussion went something like this . . .

Closet Content Analysis: Brand Names 

JoyD: There is something inherently wrong when consumers pay enormous amounts for products that are allegedly quality products but essentially provide free advertising for the designer because of the over the top way that logos are displayed.

Tory Burch espadrilles. Photo by Brian Davis.

Brian Davis: Designers like Valentino, Prada, Ferragamo, Michael Kors and of course Tory Burch have easily identifiable markings on their products to associate them with the brand. So what does it mean? For me, when I hear those names I think of a few things: quality, big $$$s, "must have items" and great designers. Even though designers make all kinds of articles of clothing and accessories, I focus on and notice designer accessories like belts, purses, watches and of course shoes. I'm not sure how much big name designers spend on actual advertising in magazines or other media or if they even need to. Or, like you say, do the identifiable marking on their products do the advertising for them? 

JoyD: The history of identifying marks on products originates with artisans who created products that needed to be distinguished from others. Essentially he or she was saying, if you see this mark, you know it is mine and you know the quality is good - you can be assured by my word, my mark. I recognize and do not object to the original intent of these "marks" as being symbols of quality because for the most part, the marks were functional and often discrete. I guess it is a personal preference - I simply do not like the style of emblazoning products in what I believe are garish ways. 

Brian Davis: In this day and age, I don't believe that the marking says anything about the quality of the product but if you've ever heard of that designer you realize, or assume, their products aren't cheap and are therefore good quality. 

JoyD: Consumers do assume that because something is expensive, it must be good quality. I recall a time when we were in Thailand at a market. There were men's sport/golf shirts - one designer mark on the pocket and another different one on the sleeve - the woman at the kiosk reassured me that the quality was still good. I wish I had bought one but was appalled and slightly annoyed with my naïveté. 

Brian Davis: So if originally, a product sold itself because the mark associated it with quality, does the product sell itself now for the same reason? Since the designer I'm most familiar with is Tory Burch I'll share a quick story. I still remember the first time I saw a woman wearing a pair of Tory Burch Reva flats. I couldn't take my eye off these amazing shoes. Right then, I wanted a pair for myself. Tory Burch got some free advertising that day. Even though it was several years later before I bought my first pair of her flats, I still remember when I saw that lady "advertising them". Of course, no one gets paid for advertising designer shoes when they wear them; instead she likely paid about $200. for the pleasure of wearing them. And of course, she didn't buy them to do free advertising for Tory Burch. 

JoyD: Without the TB mark, it would have been simply another pair of ballet flats. In that first experience with the Tory Burch flats, it appears as if it was the design of the shoe and maybe even the mark and not who or what the mark represented that you liked.

Brian Davis: I probably bought my first pair of TB ballet flats because I liked the look - generally speaking. Now I probably buy them because of the quality. Maybe the woman who I first saw wearing the Tory Burch flats bought them because she wanted to be one of the first on her block to have a pair. Or maybe she thought they were cute. Or maybe she simply likes the designer. Or maybe they were a fake pair or knock-offs that she only paid a small price for. Really what does it matter?

JoyD: So you're claiming that quality, in most cases, probably doesn't matter.

Brian Davis: A bit on quality. Go to any on-line boutique or department store website that sells designer goods and read the reviews. Some are great and some are bad. Is it really bad quality or is the quality not what you expected for the price? Is the product really falling apart or is it the way you've been wearing or treating the product? Nothing lasts forever with normal wear and tear so should this be seen as bad quality?

JoyD: If designers put their names on their products, you would hope that they are concerned with the quality. As for the "wearability", I think the consumer deserves something that will not fall apart. Another interesting story, apparently there are retail associates for certain designer shoes who will advise you to re-sole your new shoes because the original sole will not wear well. Really? I have to re-sole a pair of shoes that I am paying $600.00 for? "Normal wear and tear" needs to be defined.

Brian Davis: In defence of designers . . . why are most designers wealthy and good at business?  Hard work, "must-have" products, quality products and creative ideas for new products for their consumers.

JoyD: As far as "must-have" products go, that is a shared responsibility between consumer and designer marketing plans. But if you emblazon your name on a product, I think ego plays a big part as well. I must admit I once coveted having a Louis Vuitton purse and about 10 years ago, I bought one. In fact now I feel a tad self conscious wearing this bag that has LV stamped all over it. I normally carry a Lancel bag because of the discrete way in which the mark is placed. The price is comparable for both - and I have carried my Lancel bags way more than I have my LV bag. One of the reasons I like Lancel so much is that I know the quality is exceptional and there is no flamboyant brand markings.

Brian Davis: Speaking of the price to consumers . . . If you work for your money then you know the value of a dollar. If you can justify spending lots of those dollars for some designer item you like or makes you feel good, then it's worth it. Up front you know you won't be getting paid to wear the designers markings on the item and you could possibly be doing some "free advertising" for that designer. It's all part of the designer fashion industry.

JoyD: And so it is . . . all part of the fashion industry . . .

What brands are in your closet and why are they there?

Update: I since altered my criticism, see how here.


  1. Great conversation/debate JoyD. Great points made, the only way this could have been better is if we were sitting somewhere nice and relaxing with a glass of wine having the same conversation.

  2. Bien sûr. Anything is possible.

  3. Ever since this post I've payed even closer attention to the designer items people are wearing. Designer items are everywhere! The only thing I haven't seen is the designers advertising their products, just the consumers advertising them. I think this confirms that when we work for our money, why not buy something that makes us feel good. If it makes us feel good, it's money well spent.

    Time to go shopping!

    1. I have an idea - each designer product should have a computer chip that records the times you wear/carry your product. Based on the amount of time you accumulate, you collect points and then can cash these points in for a discount or for special products from a point collectors catalogue - suggested with tongue in cheek; but perhaps not that far-fetched.

    2. You are a modern day Robin Hood for the designer fashion conscious people. I'm all for it.


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