Labels Aren't Everything - How to Break the Brand Name Obsession

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Designer Labels


Photos by ikonic.

Yesterday's debate about designer knockoffs got me thinking about labels and what they mean to us in fashion. As someone who used to be brand-name obsessed, I've seen both sides of the label lust coin and have learned that a designer brand alone won't give you style.

Here's a confession: I used to think brands were everything. I was a label snob and only wore stuff by a few select brands. I also used to be really into "celebrity style" and thought that having the same pair of jeans as a famous person would somehow make me cooler. So lame, I know! Thankfully, those days are long gone. I know better now - instead of shopping for nothing but designers and labels, I shop for my own personal style.

These days, I see so many people wrapped up in wanting to own the latest hot fashion brand or logo-emblazoned handbag and can't help but feel for them. Brand names, labels and logos are such a huge part of our culture, and the media reinforces this every day - dress like this celebrity today, buy these designer jeans or you're nobody, and you'd better have that "it" handbag if you want to look good!

It's not so much that brand name clothes can't be nice or don't stand for quality - they can and they often do! It's just that brand names alone don't mean anything when it comes to real style. You can wear an outfit that's 100% high-end designer, but if you don't have personal style or a knowledge of what clothes work on you, all the labels in the world aren't going to make a difference!

Ending the Label Obsession

So how do you get past the label obsession and start dressing with real style? As someone who's been there, here are my tips.

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Shop vintage. One of the things that really helped me stop caring so much about brand names was shopping in vintage stores. When I shop second-hand, I pretty much never look at the labels. Instead, I look for fit, fabric quality, color, and potential for improvement via DIY projects. Who has time to check labels when there are so many other things to consider?

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Take the time to understand what's flattering on you. This is part of developing your own style. Ask yourself the following questions: when are you most happy with the way you look? Which colors make you feel best? What pieces in your wardrobe scream "you"? Everyone is different and no one thing works for everyone. For more on personal style and flattering clothes, see How to Find Your Perfect Colors, How to Develop Your Own Style, and Fashion for Your Body Shape: The Basics.

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Shop with a look in mind. One of the easiest ways to see clothes for what they are instead of their label is to always know what you're looking for when you shop. If you have a specific shopping list in mind, a cute piece with a designer label won't sway you. Either it's what you're looking for or it isn't - there's no in between.

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Let celebrities inspire you, but don't worry about exact pieces. Let's face it - most college students can't afford to wear the same clothes as Nicole Richie or Mary-Kate Olsen on a daily basis. They have designers sending them free clothes every day - they doesn't even buy half that stuff themselves, and they're loaded! That's why you shouldn't worry too much about what celebs are wearing. Sure, take inspiration from celeb looks, but don't try to copy their outfit piece for piece. No normal girl could ever keep up.

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Read street style blogs. One of my favorite things about sites like Lookbook.nu is that they showcase style, not labels and designers. I'm always inspired by street style because it shows how REAL people dress. Celebrities for example might wear nothing but high-end stuff, but models on street style blogs mix high and low with reckless abandon! With street style, there's less focus on brands and more focus on real-life fashion, which makes for a great source of inspiration.

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Be honest with yourself. This is the most important step. If you really want to stop being label-obsessed, you really need to think about it - do you buy lots of things because you really like them, or because they're made by so and so? Go through your closet and ask yourself: would I have bought this if it was a no-name brand? If the answer is no, that's a clue that you don't really buy for the right reasons. You might need to put more effort into being label-blind and style-conscious.

Ultimately, breaking the label obsession requires not only changing your habits but your mindset. Once you learn to look at clothes for what they really are instead of what branding wants them to be, you start to recognize real quality and style. Of course I'm not knocking designer clothes - I covet my fair share of couture! I just think there's more to fashion than brand names.

Your Thoughts?

Admit it... do you have a label addiction, or do you buy based on style and design? Are you a recovered label-addict like me? What would you recommend for someone wanting to stop buying simply based on brands? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.