But that’s the price you pay

A little while ago this gem was brought to my attention

Looks nice, doesn’t it? Unusual, and certainly well-crafted. And it’s Rick Owens, to boot. Not a bad belt. Care to guess the price?

$780

Yep. Check it out for yourself.

Like many of you (I presume), I was taken aback. $780? For a belt? I thought Rick gave up the hard stuff in the early 2000s.

The instant and easy reaction is to be disgusted. There is no way on earth that belt cost even $200 to produce. What does Rick take us for? A bunch of money-burdened chumps with nothing better to do than plop down our Amex for another belt we don’t even need?

But the more I thought about it, the less upset (If ‘upset’ is the right word. Who gets upset over fashion?) I became.

The incontrovertible truth is that fashion of the higher variety is not about cost; it’s about meaning.  Let H&M and Zara and Topshop worry about marginal costs and consumer price resistance. Fashion, in it’s purest sense, could care less.

Let’s dissect Rick Owens for a moment. Here you have a completely independent company expressing a singular, unique vision. That’s a rare thing. So many “innovators” (Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons) are a cog on the wheel of a corporate machine. They answer to shareholders. Rick answers to himself. His signature dark, pseudo-apocalyptic vision is his own. Those who purchase his clothes are not buying a shirt, a pair of pants, or a belt. They are buying a piece of Rick’s vision because they identify with what he is saying.

The parallel to art cannot be ignored. After all, the cost that went into a Picasso is microscopic to what it is worth. And why? Because the value of a Picasso is not the materials; it’s the vision of the artist.

Fashion may be a weak and overtly commercial comparison, but a legitimate comparison nonetheless. One buys Picasso to hang on the wall. One buys Rick to hang on their body.

Care to take a gander at the real cost of that belt? Well, there’s the leather itself—possibly not the most expensive, but probably dyed and treated on such a small scale that the price immediately goes up. Add to that the buckle, which again was produced in very low volume. (Keep in mind, H&M would manufacture this in the tens of thousands. While I’m not familiar with Rick’s distribution channels, I’m willing to guess there are maybe 150, 200 of these belts in the world, tops. Economics of scale, my friends.) Then (and here’s where it gets tricky) factor in the cost of the models, stylists, production crew, press agents, and photographers it took to put on the runway show and broadcast it across the world to make the collection exclusive and desirable in the first place. Then add the cost of owning your own stores (rent/mortgage, staff, utilities, etc.) because although you’ve successfully shown for well over a decade, you still have a relatively limited number of wholesale accounts.

Putting it in perspective, $780 doesn’t seem too much.

But, Rick, can we talk about your $250 t-shirts? Because that’s just nuts… 😉

The Cheeky Bastard

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One thought on “But that’s the price you pay

  1. You have such a strong voice in your posts and I love it! I love how you broke down why the belt would cost so much near the end of the post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blogger do that before. And yeah, $250 for that shirt?! That is nuts.

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