The term 'investment piece' is often bandied about by fashion writers, such is the allure of fashion purchases which, in an ideal world, increase in value after being purchased. But what gives a luxury item legs to become an investment piece, rather than a one-season wonder? And are investment pieces really worth the price?
Many investment pieces are easy to sniff out – those with guaranteed resale potential are generally recognisable, classic and, well, expensive. Give or take a few exceptions, like Chanel tweed jackets and two-pieces, you want to go for the accessories. Clothes wear out quickly, and are much more susceptible to trends than accessories; it's easy to carry the same black handbag for years, but don some bootcut jeans for the same amount of time and you run the risk of looking a bit passé. Items commonly dubbed as 'investment pieces', then, are handbags and shoes. If we're talking bags, the Hermès Birkin is the holy grail, followed by the likes of the Chanel 2.55, the Céline Phantom, the Dior Lady Dior and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull and Speedy styles. Shoes apparently worth the splurge include Gucci loafers and anything by Manolo Blahnik, Chanel and Louboutin.
So far so simple! For the biggest return on investment, though, anything buzzy enough to necessitate a waiting list – or anything produced in a limited run – is your best bet. This is where things get a bit more interesting, design-wise: think attention-grabbing runway highlights like Balenciaga's colour block heels, Chanel's 'Lego' bag and its sought-after espadrilles (to be fair, any slightly bonkers Chanel accessory is a winner), Prada's perspex heels, Fendi's Karl Lagerfeld keyring (Google it), those Louis Vuitton bags that look like laundry bags... I could go on. If it was a standout on the runway, popular on Instagram, or lingered in fashion critics' minds in the after-show write-ups, chances are it'll be worth a few bob five years down the line.
If you're feeling particularly masochistic, hit up fashion resale site Vestiare Collective and have a gawp at its most-expensive handbags. Hermès Birkins fetch up to £169,0000, and the most expensive Chanel bag is a rare FW14 'banknote' bag – yours for £20,680. To put things into perspective, the average UK salary is £26,500, but many people working in the fashion industry won't even come close to earning this amount of money.
For most of us, then, investment pieces are out of reach – if you're looking to make money out of them, that is. There are other types of fashion investments that are worth endorsing, even if you are a mere mortal just getting by financially. Saving up to buy good-quality pieces, in lieu of dropping 50 quid here-and-there in Topshop, makes the world of sense: if you shop well, your clothes will last longer and fit better, and buying a well-made handbag or pair of shoes is more savvy as you won't find your accessories falling to bits after a few months of wear. Anyone who has bought a pair of high street flats will attest that, eventually, that glued-on sole is going to pop off at the front, leaving your toes exposed. Not a good look.
When it comes down to it, though, unless buying a fancy bag is a major life goal for you (if you earned it, you deserve it!) the most fiscally sensible decision is to invest your money elsewhere if you have the luxury to do so – you're arguably getting more with your money by investing in property or a bunch of shares than you are with a piece of cloth. If you do want to get spendy with your wardrobe, find a comfortable middle-ground with brands like Whistles, Hobbs, The Kooples, Maje, Sandro, Finery and Acne Studios. Nine times out of ten, you get the same sort of lovely fabrics and impressive construction that the more luxe-y brands boast, but at a fraction of the price.
Shop better, sure, but don't lose your head – or your life savings – in the process.