Why it pays to invest more in wardrobe basics

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You can tell a lot about a designer’s pedigree by what people wear to their fashion week shows.

Take Dion Lee’s opening run at Fashion Week Australia on Sunday in front of the most iconic of Australian icons – the Sydney Opera House.

The crowd of mostly media, influencers and buyers – the week is an “industry only” event unlike Melbourne’s two fashion festivals – were also diehard Dion devotees, with many decked out in his designs. But a closer look revealed they weren’t all current collection. In fact, there were some “It girls” who were wearing pieces from three, even four seasons ago, and they looked every bit as contemporary as those dressed in current season’s stock by the event’s sponsors.

Buying a piece of Dion Lee, or designers of his ilk, is an investment in dollar terms – his dresses and jackets regularly nudge $2000 – but you’re buying into a tailoring legacy, not a trend.

Even his pieces that are seemingly trend driven – the asymmetric, one-shouldered shirt comes to mind, a relative steal at $450 – will stand the test of time. 

Looking the part … Georgia Fowler at the Dion Lee show at Fashion Week Australia on Sunday. Photo: Brendon Thorne

So how does one decide which pieces are worthy of being “investments”, and how does one go about choosing a designer/style/budget?

Georgia Martin, of The Undone store, says you can’t go wrong with key elements such as a bag, blazer, boot or belt.

“Investment pieces … are normally made from material like leather that tend to get better with age and will develop over time rather than ruin over time, which is why you can feel comfortable in investing more in them,” she says.

Investment doesn't have to equal boring or plain, as proven by Janelle Monae.

Investment doesn’t have to equal boring or plain, as proven by Janelle Monae. Photo: Robert Kamau

Choose your target

When I was in my early 20s, I splashed a whole week’s pay on a pair of over-the-knee stiletto boots from then cult Sydney label Gary Castles. Had the mould in my Bondi apartment not attacked them, I would probably still have them and wear them. In 2014, three years after bidding farewell to my Gary’s, I splurged again on a pair of Stuart Weitzmann thigh-high boots, this time with a slightly sturdier heel – after all, I had clicked over 30 in the intervening years.

Last year, during a trip to Florence, I doubled down with a pair of tan suede boots, so with my boots safely in their boxes, I am free this year to choose my next investment.

Here’s a tip: one of the beauties of investment pieces is you don’t necessarily have to buy them as soon as they land in store. A public relations manager I know waits for Boxing Day and heads straight to the Dion Lee department at David Jones to pick up tailored pants at half price, regardless of the fact they are end of season. And if it’s good enough for a fashion publicist … 

But that doesn’t mean your investment pieces need to be plain, or boring. Classic contemporary should be your aim: experiment with cut rather than colour or pattern to stretch the lifespan of your purchase.

Achromic bomb ... Charlize Theron doing textbook investment pieces in black.

Achromic bomb … Charlize Theron doing textbook investment pieces in black. Photo: Alo Ceballos

Buy/hold/sell?

The very idea of investment pieces is they are made to stand the test of time but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to hold on to them forever.

Martin says there are opportunities to make money on investment pieces, even several years old, if they are in-demand designer pieces, such as out-of-stock Gucci bags and belts.

The international designer website Vestiare Collective just launched in Australia and has the advantage over other sites in that they verify the authenticity of each piece sold.

If you’re thinking you may want to part with your investment piece down the track, start by keeping good electronic copies of receipts as the ink often fades with time, plus any original dust bags or boxes. Shoes and bags should be sent for an annual “touch up” to a reputable bootmaker or bag repairer to fix any seasonal damage, and leather jackets need conditioning. Your vigilance will pay off in the long run. 

Three of the best

Habbot, $475.

Habbot, $475.

Christopher Esber at The Undone, $990.

Christopher Esber at The Undone, $990.

R.M. Williams, $1200.

R.M. Williams, $1200.

Need more inspiration?

These leather skirts will stand the test of time.

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