Luxury fashion is largely synonymous with a hefty price tag, and consumers go in knowing they will have to cough up some serious cash in exchange for the craftsmanship and uniqueness associated with high-end labels. This makes it all the more confusing that a white tank top from Prada is one of the hottest designer trends of the season. That's right, according to fashion technology company and premium shopping app The Lyst's Q3 Index, Prada's ribbed knit jersey tank top, which retails for $995, is one of the most sought-after fashion items this quarter.
So what makes this tank top so special? According to some stylists, designer clothes can offer a better fit compared to their lower-end counterparts.
"When it comes to designer items [compared to] a Zara item or Target, designer items' proportions are well-tailored, and are guaranteed to fit dramatically different than something that's much more affordable," Elly Karamoh, a celebrity stylist who works with both Lori and Steve Harvey, tells Yahoo Life.
"When it comes to designer fashion, there's gonna be a lot of comparison to what's worthwhile and what is not, and I feel like it's up to the customer to justify what makes sense for them," says Karamoh, noting that budget is a big factor when it comes to purchases of this magnitude. "$1,000 may not be a lot of bread to someone. It may be a lot of bread to someone else."
Even though there might be more attention to detail regarding the fit, Prada's ribbed tank tops are made of 100% cotton, a virtually identical fabric composition to that of much cheaper, similar designs.
"As someone who owns a range of pure cotton tank tops, I couldn't imagine that this iteration by Prada would be worth the hefty price tag, especially when there are comparable versions on the market for a fraction of the price," Shelby Hyde, a New York-based fashion editor tells Yahoo Life.
It seems safe to assume that textile integrity is not the driving force behind the popularity of this tank top. But what is?
"The appeal for most consumers is the instantly-recognizable designer plaque on the front. As history shows, logos on clothing or accessories can be an indicator of societal positioning. And nothing says high status quite like a $1,000 basic," says Hyde, noting that even in casual wear, status symbols still reign supreme. "Given the state of the world, there's this overall desire for pragmatic or practical dressing. But when you add the luxury components, you end up with designer tank tops, hoodies and other seemingly mundane items."
The allure of a laid-back wardrobe in a post-quarantine world has also contributed to a push towards a more minimalist aesthetic that has this tank top flying off the cyber-racks.
"It's just the next thing, like 'model-off-duty' and these minimalist looks. We've seen the emergence and popularity of like oversized blazers [and] plain button-downs," stylist Emily Carmeli who is also a fashion marketer and Parsons educator tells Yahoo Life.
She adds that strategic placements of "it items" to create an air of elusiveness is a major driving force in the overt online presence of the Prada tank top.
"It's a no-brainer for them to hand out these tank tops like candy to the influencers they're working with. There were tons of articles about the best street style in Milan and Paris Fashion Week, and the Prada tank was everywhere and I would be shocked if these were actually purchased by [influencers themselves]," says Carmeli. "It is dirt cheap for [Prada] to produce, create and manufacture. It's likely a very easy, low-friction, cheap gift to give out to influencers, which then increases awareness and gets the aspiring customer saying, 'Oh my God, my favorite influencer is wearing this; I'm going to save up and get this for the holidays.' So I think it's also just a really smart marketing play for social media."
The fact that many celebrities and influencers receive these things for free is important to keep in mind, says Hyde, who warns against pining over expensive items just because a celebrity or influencer has it.
"To be honest, when we see our favorite celebrities wearing these pricier pieces, it's important to remember that a lot of time, these items are gifted — whether from the brand itself or one of its stockists," she explains. "Of course, this isn't always the case, and again, I think it goes back to what I said before about pragmatic dressing and societal positioning, but wearing a $1,000 tank top shows a level of exclusivity that fashion has always thrived on."
When someone wears a Prada tank top, the assumption might be that they have an extra $995 lying around. But for some, the tank is an entryway to the larger world of luxury as it is one of the very few items they can actually afford off of the Prada website.
"For maybe a higher-end consumer who still can't afford to be spending $6,000 on a sequin top from Prada. But they're able to spend, you know, [$1,000] after they've saved up or if they want to splurge for the holidays," says Carmeli.
The top's toned-down nature can also make it seem like a wise investment for an "elevated basic" or staple in a capsule wardrobe since a classic white tank top seldom goes out of style. But many style experts agree that there are better price points available for something so simple.
"An 'elevated basic' is a piece that's simple by design but high in quality to ensure longevity in your core lineup. That said, some could say that Prada's tank top falls under that category but again, so would something of the same composition with a lower price point," says Hyde.
Carmeli also points out that the rapid rate at which trends change means that even "safe" fashion bets are liable to be ejected from the trend cycle.
"If we looked at what a capsule wardrobe would be now, versus a capsule wardrobe in the '90s versus the early 2000s versus the 2010s, the capsule wardrobe would look very different. Because what is considered a 'basic' really changes with time. So you're really not going to be able to invest in a basic that's going to transcend trends," says Carmeli.
For those looking to get into the world of luxury fashion, both Hyde and Karamoh advise against starting with something like the Prada tank top, which can depreciate in value and may not stand the test of time compared to accessories such as bags and shoes.
"Your money would be much better spent on something like a headband, or a pair of shoes — something that makes more sense when you think about cost-per-wear and can be cheaper than said tank top. This is what comes to mind when I think of 'entry-level' pieces; an item that's well-priced, will work hard in your wardrobe and still captures the [fashion] house's core DNA," says Hyde.
This is especially true for those working within the confines of a desk job salary, says Karamoh.
"When it comes to budget, I wouldn't recommend ready-to-wear to start your collection. I love accessories. I think accessories have always been something more attainable for 9-5. I just wouldn't personally recommend a ready-to-wear item for your first luxury purchase. A handbag, a suitcase, a pair sunglasses — I think that's something always fun. It's something that you can always incorporate into your day-to-day wardrobe. Because if you spend so much money on a tank that has a broad signage logo, you probably won't get as much wear for your buck," says Karamoh.
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