What You Need To Know Before Buying Your First Designer Piece

illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
If you're fortunate enough to have purchased a piece of luxury fashion, you'll know that it's far from a straightforward buy. When spending a significant amount of money on anything, whether it's a car, a house (unlikely) or a pair of shoes, careful consideration needs to be taken.
Maybe you've lusted after a classic quilted Chanel handbag for some time, or perhaps you're more interested in snapping up Balenciaga's ubiquitous stretch-knit sneakers. Is a timeless piece a better investment, or should you go with your gut on a trend-led item you've fallen for?
"I am always in favour of a fashion purchase, mainly because if you truly love it then it counts as a timeless piece in my eyes," Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-A-Porter explains. "Some of the most treasured items in my wardrobe would have been considered ‘trend-led’ when I bought them, however it was less about the trend and more about falling in love with it."
Stylist Victoria Bain, on the other hand, has collated a selection of classic, well-made staples. "My wardrobe is built around good-quality classic items which I modernise each season with accessories and pieces from the high street," she tells Refinery29. "I like to invest in items I will wear over and over again, such as a beautiful navy coat from Stella McCartney, a white shirt from Céline, a tailored suit from Pallas, an Hermès belt or a great piece of jewellery from Ana Khouri."
"My advice is to buy whatever makes your heart skip a beat," Natalie Kingham, buying director at says. Kingham's first piece? "It was a beautiful silk Katharine Hamnett dress, and was bought for me by my father for a wedding that we were attending. I cherished that dress for many years and have such fond memories of it."
With trends moving so quickly in today's fashionscape, is there anything that dates badly? "I would avoid heavily printed items or a key fabric trend of the season (such as this year's lurex or PVC) as they are immediately dateable," Bain advises. Aiken believes it's all about how often a certain style crops up on the catwalk: "Generally speaking, anything with a nostalgic reference will always return. For example, if it is a piece that has been revisited regularly since the '70s, then it is very likely to have longevity."
Whatever the longevity of the piece you choose to purchase, don't just save it for special occasions for fear you'll ruin it. "Your investment or smart-buy pieces should be worn on all occasions and adopted into your everyday wardrobe," says Kingham. "Clothes are made to be worn, so I try not to fret too much," Bain agrees.
While you shouldn't only roll out your hero pieces once in a blue moon, it is however vital that you take good care of them so they last. "No matter how much you love a piece, it is going to go in and out of your wardrobe depending on season and your mood," says Aiken, "so the single most important thing is how you store it." Her top tip? "I dry clean and then keep items in vacuum-sealed bags, which I personally think work better than tissue paper and garment bags as they’re moth-proof."
Bain keeps her handbags and shoes in their original dust bags, while her coats and dresses are stored in plastic hanging bags, and knits in plastic boxes. "My boyfriend did once comment that my wardrobe had Patrick Bateman vibes, but after the Moth Battle of 2015 I am not taking any chances. I also use spray starch on my shirts and find it keeps them looking newer for longer."
Is there anything these women wish they'd known first time around? "I would steer clear of evening shoes," Bain admits. "I bought a stunning pair of Prada heels to wear to a wedding once, but spent the day fretting about grass, dodging red wine and unwieldy dance partners. Life is too short to be the boring person at the party, so I stick to Topshop now."
Aiken highlights the importance of wearability when purchasing your first piece, too. "Accessories, such as a handbag, are definitely worth the investment as they tend to have the lowest ‘price-per-wear’ value. Other than that, enjoy the search and the shopping experience (personally I love unwrapping Net-A-Porter purchases – it always feels like a gift to myself)."

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