How Do People Actually Afford Luxury Fashion? 9 Millennials Get Real About Spending

We talked to women who work in the fashion industry about their biggest purchases and what they had to sacrifice for those big-ticket pieces

Tara MacInnis

Ever wondered how your fellow millennials afford the season’s It bag or the same shoes celebs walk down red carpets in? Us too. So we chatted with nine industry insiders on how they managed to snag their most coveted designer pieces, from a Saint Laurent bag to Chanel shoes to an Alexander McQueen dress. Let the saving begin.

Shivani Persad, 28, Model

Prized possession: Vintage Chanel bag

Price tag: $2,500

Why she bought it: I wanted a good-quality staple, something classic that would remind me how hard I’ve been working and that I deserve to have something nice! Since it was vintage, I knew not many people would have anything like it, and it’s big so it’s great for travelling. It’s great to be able to bring a vintage designer bag to castings—it demonstrates that I know good quality, I know designers and I appreciate vintage fashion.

The purchasing process: I debated for about two weeks. Then I asked a couple friends who have a lot of designer stuff and they told me it was 100% a good choice, so I went for it. I saved for a while and I paid it off in instalments.

On her other designer pieces: I never buy designer stuff full price. It’s always going to go on sale and I’m not too proud to buy something second hand. I have a $400 Gucci wallet that I got for $150. But I don’t believe in having 100 of the same thing—I only have two designer bags and I use them all the time.

Francesca Morfini, 24, Account coordinator at ASC PR

Prized possession: Céline Sangle bucket bag

Price tag: $1,400

Why she bought it: I had been eyeing it since it first came out, probably a year before I actually purchased it. The bag is super sleek and the design is timeless. It’s also very spacious—it fits my lunch, workout clothes and laptop.

The purchasing process: Believe it or not, I spent a year trying to convince myself that the original price tag of about $3,000 was a steal. When I found it on sale, I put it on hold in the morning and bought it before the shop closed later that day. Between my birthday, holidays and personal savings, I had some money saved up. Other than avoiding eating out for a month or so following, I didn’t make any big sacrifices.

On her other designer items: The way I see it, if you’re going to invest in a piece, it should last you a pretty long time. With that in mind, it should be something worth waiting for and, if it’s meant to be (so to speak), it will still be there in a few months, and on sale. In Canada and the US, there’s practically a sale every other month, so it’s not very hard to have a little patience. A few years ago, I made the decision to stop buying from fast fashion retailers because their practices are both ethically and environmentally problematic. Instead, I’ve been more selective with what I buy, opting for designers who prioritize quality and ethical responsibility. This isn’t always a high-end designer—often it’s local designers, second hand or vintage.

Ellie May, 30, Designer

Prized possession: Vintage AC/DC tank

Price tag: $715

Why she bought it: I bought in New York at What Goes Around Comes Around, and it ended up being what I wore out that night for my sister’s bachelorette, so it holds a lot of significance. I was in the store years before with my dad, who purchased me and my sister vintage tees (mine was Journey, hers was Rolling Stones). This was my first foray into vintage shopping, and purchasing on my own years later was more than just buying a tee—it felt like I was continuing our tradition.

The purchasing process: With vintage pieces, it’s a now-or-never game, so I purchased it that day. I’m pretty definitive with my purchases and always try to go with my gut, so I followed my intuition on this item and haven’t regretted it.

On her other designer items: I’ve learned the hard way that getting your favourite item on sale, in your size and within season is not an easy task, so I purchase at full-price when it’s an investment piece that I know I’ll have it forever. Being in the business of creating investment pieces myself, I witness the work that goes into making each one so special, and therefore appreciate the construction of a high-end garment. In terms of vintage, I also have an appreciation for a one-of-a-kind piece that has deep meaning to it, so in both scenarios, it’s not the fact that it’s high-end that makes me want it, it’s the craftsmanship that justifies my purchase.

Noura Sakkijha, 32, Co-founder of Mejuri

Prized possession: Chanel slingbacks

Price tag: $1,300

Why she bought them: They are classic, elegant and will never go out of style. When I buy something on the pricier end, I tend to think more on the classic side.

The purchasing process: It took me a couple of months, only because I was postponing until after a big project. It was a nice treat to myself at the end of it! I feel like, naturally, I was shopping less for other things after I bought them.

On her other designer items: I don’t typically wait for things to go on sale, but it’s always a plus if they do. I look for quality classics and if they’re not on sale that won’t deter me from making the purchase. The feeling of treating myself to something that I love and appreciate is what makes me OK with spending more. In my 30s, I feel a bit more comfortable to make these decisions than when I was in my 20s, and as my career evolved my purchasing power increased.

Ellen Yeung, 28, Blogger

Prized possession: Saint Laurent Lou satchel

Price tag: $1,300

Why she bought it: I really admire the brand, and was looking for a designer bag that was small and subtle enough for every day.

The purchasing process: I wanted to purchase a functional, high-end bag, but didn’t really find the right one that fit my needs and my budget. I waited a year as I wasn’t really in a hurry, and I purchased this one within four months of finding it. I have a separate fund where I put aside money or purchases that are on the more expensive side. I also try to sell clothing items and accessories that I don’t use anymore to add to the fund. Normally, if I want to work towards a bigger purchase faster, I will cut some of my other expenses for a period of time.

On her other designer items: Because they’re pricier and take more time to work up to purchasing, I find I really treasure designer items more than a cheaper purchase. I don’t regret any of my purchases, but out of all the high-end pieces I’ve bought, I’ve used my Prada over-the-knee boots the least because they don’t always go with everything.

Lesley Hampton, 23, Designer

Prized possession: Alexander McQueen knit dress

Price tag: $1,070

Why she bought it: McQueen is my favourite designer label and it’s been a dream of mine to own one of their designs.

The purchasing process: I was in Milan for a summer university program and happened to walk past their flagship store on my birthday, so I wanted to get a small present for myself. I don’t shop at all for myself, typically. Being a designer, I can make anything I need. I never go to big chain stores, so when I do find a perfect piece from one of my favourite designers, I have the money saved up to afford it.

On her other designer items: Typically I do buy expensive items only if they are on sale. If it is a luxury product and I love what I’m seeing, I don’t believe it’s less valuable if it’s from an older season. I love supporting designers, but I keep my purchases to a minimum and only buy if I know it’s a perfect piece for me.

Renée Tse, 27, Writer

Prized possession: Céline box bag

Price tag: $4,300

Why she bought it:  I got it in black, so it’s classic and timeless. I knew it would go well with a lot of my outfits.

The purchasing process: It took me a couple of years, because I wanted it in black with gold hardware, but by the time I was ready to make the purchase every store was sold out. I no longer buy any “trendy” or fast fashion pieces, and I try to avoid eating out during the week. I weigh the pros and I rarely impulse-buy any big-ticket pieces.

On her other designer items: I usually wait for things to go on sale. However, there are designer brands that are notoriously known to never go on sale, so there have been times when I’ve bought them at full price. They are an investment, in my opinion. When it comes to high-end pieces, the quality is better. Case in point: My mother still has many designer pieces she bought more than 20 years ago and they are not only still in amazing condition, but also still in style.

Wendy Rorong, 32, Makeup artist and hair stylist

Prized possession: Schott Nyc perfecto biker jacket

Price tag: $1,000

Why she bought it: I needed a new headshot, and I wanted a timeless piece that I could wear for the shoot and would never get tired of. I bought a few items as options, and when I picked up the Schott jacket I thought that maybe I’d return it if I didn’t end up using it. The moment I put it on, I knew it was special. The price tag made me really hesitant but it was the only one left in my size so it made it feel like it was meant to be.

The purchasing process: I ended up using the jacket for the shoot and loved how it fit and made me feel, but it still took about a week to decide to keep it. As I get older, I’m realizing what the priorities are in my life and I budget accordingly. I still want to make sure I have enough savings set aside for travel, a future house and a rainy day. If I spend a lot on clothing in a month, then I would spend less eating out or take fewer Uber rides.

On her other designer items: I used to buy a lot of fast fashion that I’d end up giving away or throwing out within a year. Nowadays, I prefer to spend money on high-quality pieces that I can mix and match, and that have a longer life. That said, I don’t think that price necessarily equals quality. It really comes down to the material and cut of the clothes and whether or not it’ll suit my style in a few years. Fashion trends come and go, and if I’m spending a lot of money on an item I better make sure it’s something I won’t get tired of quickly.

Nezariel Scott, 24, Digital content producer

Prized possession: Gucci Dionysus mini bag

Price tag: $2,010

Why she bought it: It’s no secret that I’m a major K-Pop fan. Rosé, my favourite member from BLACKPINK, wore this bag a lot last year and I liked the way it complimented her style, which is similar to my own.

The purchasing process: It was a gift to myself for landing my first adult job with benefits and all that jazz. I’m very fortunate to have a spending account courtesy of my family, and I work full-time as well.

On her other designer items: Even if I’m obsessed with a piece, who knows how I’ll feel about it five years from now. Sites like PurseForum are super helpful when it comes to breaking down the longevity of a handbag, both popularity and quality-wise. Sometimes you might find a really great deal, but most of the time it’s worth the extra $500 to $1,000 to get what you really want. Within a month, I can easily wear out a cheaper handbag or pair of shoes, whereas my designer pieces last me years. No matter how many times I stumble over myself or drip ice cream down my bag, my designer pieces are still good as gold.

Talia Brown, 30s, Stylist

Prized possession: Velvet Valentino dress

Price tag: $2,500

Why she bought it: I couldn’t live without it. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed about: velvet with a sparkly bow, long sleeves and the perfect length. It fit me like a glove with no alterations.

The purchasing process: I’m a strategic shopper. I overthink things for weeks. But this dress was a next-day purchase. I couldn’t sleep without it. I have seriously lived off cereal and canned soup way too many times, to be honest. Even in my younger years, I’d splurge in the name of fashion.

On her other designer items: I try my best to wait for sales, but sometimes you just can’t. I would rather live with fewer items but have things that feel great and wear better. I used to own way more clothing, but now I just own better pieces. I haven’t regretted any of my high-end purchases, because I think about my big purchases and save for them. With the mid-range items I pick up on a whim, I often later realize I really don’t need them and they are not as unique and worth what I paid.

Related:

How to Shop Vintage on Instagram From Our Resident Expert
Five Ethical, Not-Evil Ways to Feed Your Fashion Addiction
Now You Can Shop On Instagram—But Should You?

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