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Branded…For Better Or Worse

Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, Dior, Gucci: You’ve heard them all before, right? Perhaps you have never even laid an eye on an item from one of these brands and you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between a Louis and Chanel bag to save your life. Maybe these words just whirl around aimlessly in your head, unsure of why they’re there. Still yet, you recognize the names. 


What Kind of feeling comes over you when a word such as Gucci echoes through your mind? 


Is it a feeling of light-heartedness, everyone is invited, ready to be carefree and fun type of emotion? Or- 


Does the name evoke a sense of exclusivity, elitism,“you can’t sit with us” type of feeling? 


If you resonate with the second option, please continue reading. Even if these brands make you feel light-hearted, I would love for you to continue on reading as well. 


In this article I am going to discuss,

A) The common connotation associated with upscale name brands and companies,

B) Why this connotation should not matter in order to be fashionable, and last

C) How and why it is so important to find your own authentic sense of style (and sense of self for that matter) among all of the illusions surrounding us in the world of “fashion.” 


Fluorescently lit department stores proudly boast rack after rack lined up and down with bags, shoes, jewelry pieces, etc. that are all priced according to – you guessed it – the label plastered on it. 


Popular mainstream artists present lyrics in their songs blatantly stating how wealthy they are and what expensive items they have accumulated. “Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”, pop star Ariana Grande references the Christian Louboutin heels in her single, “7 rings”. 


Scrolling through Instagram, the most popular influencers constantly promote their newest luxury item every week. 


Growing up, I was naturally creative at heart and found ways to express the artsy side of myself through these everyday costumes we call fashion… I shopped at sales racks and wore hand me downs a lot of times, but I always found a way to piece everything together in a way that was still trendy and most importantly, something that I was proud to wear. 


The summer I turned 17 I was lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to travel to New York City for a week to attend a pre-college fashion journalism class at the Fashion Institute of Technology, named among “Best Fashion Schools in the World” by Business of Fashion. Suddenly.  Much to my surprise, I was surrounded by other students who sported Chloé bags, Cartier rings, and so much more. I was always so confident in my sense of style – or until now! Hearing the others in my class speak about their favorite brands and who they were wearing, even our own professor taking us on field trips to places such as luxury department store Barney’s, like we should aspire to be able to shop there at some point in our lives – quickly sent me down a rabbit hole. All of the names meant so much to everyone, and most of them I had never even heard of. It was obvious to me that I had stepped into a whole new Fashion Dimension – one I had never known before. 


When I returned home from the trip, it was an understatement to say I felt discouraged. “If I love fashion so much, why do I feel so confused after spending a week in the classroom of a prestigious school dedicated to fashion?”, I asked myself. No longer was fashion a fun pastime for me.. I quickly developed a mindset of, “How can I buy these expensive items so that I can keep up with everyone else.”  I did not come from a rich family. I had no way of buying name brand items at age 17 with my minimum wage salary. With that being said, I ditched the idea of ever trying to have a career in fashion. The connotation the brands gave me pushed me away, almost like they were whispering into my ear, “You can’t get in.”   I did not feel like I belonged. It was this connotation that made me doubt myself and my (then) college and career path.  I can only imagine how many others have felt and may still feel the same exact way which is why I have decided to share the cloud these connotations put over my head and heart.


As a 20 year old young adult in 2020, a year that we have all worked together to make so many advancements regarding many critical issues such as equality for all, I’ve set a personal goal to unrobe the idea that you must own a wardrobe full of particular logos in order to be considered “fashionable” or even worthy of the title “fashionable.” 


Articles such as “30 Ways To Look Rich Without Breaking The Bank” have been published recently. Is this what fashion has become? A way to “look rich”, rather than appreciating the art of the clothing itself? In my opinion, that is an insult to any lover of the arts, the creators and designers of unique art forms themselves.  Where is the unique art form in trying to “look rich?”


French fashion house “Louis Vuitton”, was founded by none other than Louis Vuitton himself in 1814. When you wear an item from this company, whether it be a bag or a sweater, do you think about where it all started? Do you ever wonder what the designer themselves went through, to have made such an empire for themselves? 


Believe it or not, Louis Vuitton went from rags to riches while creating his brand. Vuitton was born into a middle class family who worked everyday jobs. He had a difficult home life and ended up running away at the age of 14. At 16 Vuitton ended up living in a shelter in Paris, and worked a variation of jobs to make ends meet. According to TheRichest.Com, “When Vuitton got to Paris, he was taken in as an apprentice for Monsieur Marechal, whom was a successful box maker, and that’s where it all began. 16 years after Vuitton got to Paris, Louis-Napoleon Boneparte staged a coup d’etat, and a year later assumed the title of Emperor under the name Napoleon III, and Napoleon’s wife hired Vuitton to be her personal box maker. Of course, naturally this opened many doors for Vuitton. After getting married in 1854 (to a 17 year old; well done), Vuitton opened his box-making and packing workshop in Paris, and four years after that, Vuitton revolutionized the world by introducing his now infamous rectangular shaped trunks that had flat tops on them, as all the other trunks at the time had rounded tops, so now you could stack ‘em (God bless this man)! As of 2012, the estimated revenue for Louis Vuitton was 3.2 billion Euros (which is almost 4.5 billion US).” 


Everyone has to start somewhere! Do we so easily forget that starting line? Vuitton’s story proves that the race track is paved with “rich” experiences, relationships and personal passion, not an enchanted, handed to us success.  It’s personal!  Vuitton came from humble beginnings similar to many of us. He had his own unique creative vision that eventually blossomed into a successful company.  He also experienced awesome synchronicity, meeting the right people who offered him amazing connections.  Vuitton’s success resulted from his hard work and amazing passion for his artform.


What if Vuitton never got his head start making boxes for Napoleon’s wife? If you saw the monogrammed LV logo without knowing its net worth, would you still think it was such a sophisticated look? 


Would you still want to spend $3,000.00 on a purse with these logos? 


I urge everyone to remove the labels from your mind’s eye, and look at some items with no pre-maturely attached, preconceived notion. What do you, (not what society has made you think) find yourself drawn to? Do you still want the sunglasses that cost $900? Or do you want the thrifted shoes that are $15? 


Investopedia.com states, “People buy luxury goods for a variety of reasons; nearly all of these reasons are related to the strong emotions that we attach to the purchase of expensive material goods. Whether or not a consumer is in a financial position that allows them to be able to purchase a financial item, they may decide to purchase it anyways in order to achieve a certain feeling—for example, a feeling of accomplishment from hard work—or to gain acceptance from others.” 


Do not feel shame in what you don’t have, realize that this is what makes you stronger and more creative! You do not have to prove yourself to anyone – only YOU! Your creative ideas are just as important as top designers.  Who knows?  Your personalized design notions may be the next great success story.  


Having money is not a requirement to be stylish, it’s all in your own power and creativity. Brands mean nothing unless what you choose to create means something. THAT something means a whole lot actually, more than you may realize. 


Design your own power. Wear it well. Be proud of YOUR creation.  


Kele Bullock

Coastal Carolina '22

Kele is a 20 year old junior in college. She is an English major with a minor in Digital Media and Culture. Some of her favorite hobbies are writing, reading, photography, fashion, and styling. She hopes to reach like minded people through her journey in writing, and hopefully help others stories be heard one day as well! Please feel free to reach out to her. :)