Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bolster your portfolio with fashion


Not many people think of fashion as an investment. In fact, since it changes so quickly (by which I mean constantly), most people view fashion as completely disposable. Wrong. Fashion is, in fact, cyclical (shocker!), and the market for vintage, especially designer vintage, is constantly growing. Furthermore, they say the art market can't crash (dunno if they're right, but. . .), and what is fashion, if not art? Fashion and art aren't real estate and stocks--even though the value of new clothing will go down immediately after its purchase, really iconographic designer vintage will pretty much only appreciate.

The secret is to find the piece that really represents a designer's aesthetic; it should be a piece that really had impact on the fashion of the time. For example, a silk Pucci dress from the 60's will be worth tons if it's in a signature Pucci print (and, of course, in good condition) but not very much if it's plainer. A vintage Chanel Ford dress (the little black shift that was such a radical change from the voluminous formal wear that preceded it--signature Chanel--I'm sure you've seen pictures) in mint condition would be worth tons. There's probably one in the museum at FIT (I said probably--please don't quote me!). And can you imagine how much some original pieces from Dior's New Look collection (pictured) would be worth? I mean, you could probably retire on it.

The difficult thing, of course, is predicting what's going to rock the fashion world and be worth a house 50 years later, so you can preserve it in an airtight container and NEVER EVER WEAR IT. It's easy to say after the fact; I mean, Marc Jacobs' 1992 grunge collection is clearly one of those things, but pieces from it are probably already worth quite a bit (although, if you're reeeeally lucky, you still might be able to find these pieces in a thrift store in a wealthy area. But I mean really lucky. I mean, like, on an average day, you trip over a crack in the sidewalk and land on a million dollars. Like, really lucky). Of course, his most recent collection recalled the grunge look, so maybe that'll be worth a lot of money someday. It's entirely possible (and it's sad that I can't afford to invest in it in the first place). I also think that Marc's sort of dishelved-sweet look in past seasons might be noteworthy enough to be worth something, but pleeeease don't invest based on that, because in truth, I have no idea. Sometimes, you can make an educated guess--I mean, Roland Mouret is going to stop designing under his own name, meaning that his pieces may be about to shoot up in value, but he's new enough that they just might not. And, of course, if they do go up, it'll only be his hour-glass dresses and pencil skirts that will be worth something; a Roland Mouret jersey tank top won't appreciate so much.

The caveat in all this is, of course, that some of us like to actually wear our clothes. If you want to sell your clothes back to the fashion world in 50 years, they better not have your sweat in them. And for those of us who like vintage fashion, owning it usually isn't enough--it doesn't make you stylish if no one sees it! Even though fashion is an exciting and original thing to invest in, I think it's still more fun when it's not a collector's piece. I have a vintage Gucci bag that has a giant ink stain on the inside lining, and that almost makes it better for me--I have no problem actually using it as a purse. I don't worry about what might happen to it on the train. I have a red cocktail dress from the 50's that's a very classically 50's shape (full skirt, fitted through the waist and ribcage, pleating over the bust, sleeveless--in other words, lovely), and even though it's not by a famous designer, it might really be worth something if it wasn't for the fact that it has a tiny bit of water damage. The upside of the water damage is that I got it for something like $30, and I can wear it to parties (and everyone freaks out over how wonderful it is). I'd love to invest in fashion, but I love to wear it too much to do so.

But for you money-minded types (the only money thing that I'm good at is spending it), fashion might just be the best possible way to diversify your investments!


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