The luxury end or... the end of high street?


Vlada Roslyakova in Marie Claire Russia August 2015 (photography: Jack Waterlot, styling: Anna Rykova) via
As good as officially obvious: the high street is suffering from a mighty attack of megalomania. This is the only way I can describe the latest changes that seem to be sweeping through the world once known as a place of affordable and solid seasonal fashions.

No longer a girl can walk in a shop with a tenner in her pocket when she needs to get a new top - by the looks of things we all may soon need to mortgage our houses in order to afford a shopping spree. Yes, the clothes will still be there and so will be the tags, only the number of those little cards may differ from what we are used to.

Gone the good old times when finding a decent piece of clothing for less than £20 or £50 was a norm. Now we should expect to spend a few hundred pounds for a pretty dress and even more - a coat, or voluntarily march to F21 and H&M that seem to be barely hanging in there while the majority of high street moves into the "world of luxury" - an illusion they seem to have created themselves to justify their actions.

It began a few years ago when some of the high street names became what is now known "a luxury end of high street". It never made sense to me as you are either a part of high street or belong to Mayfair. I partially blame Kate Middleton. She was the one who decided to go all democratic by choosing a high street dress for her engagement photos (and a few other engagements). Perhaps, she wanted to become a queen of people's hearts or seem a girl next door totally ignoring the fact that firstly, royalty does not mix with the common folk and secondly, we've already had Diana and she wore Atelier Versace and Dior, lots and lots of Versace and Dior in fact. 

Eventually, Kate turned to the designers, too, but the damage was irreversible for her casual little affair with Reiss, Zara, Whistles and LK Bennett granted the latter a golden ticket to questionably  deserved stardom enabling the companies raise prices without, unfortunately, improving on quality. 

More and more brands followed... Suddenly, many added a "premium quality" line that often came with a three-digit price tag, still modest, at first, but quickly metamorphosing into mind-blowing £300, £400, ah who am I kidding, £800-900! Came November Mango shearling jacket was offered for £899.99  while Topshop was knocking out £600 skirts, £900 dresses and £1200 coats (fuzzy as if mortified by realising their own cost). H&M added to the confusion by selling poorly-cut polyester-loaded "Balmain" that ended up on Ebay for the price of the vintage real deal.

The glimmer of hope has remained at River Island and Warehouse who seem to deliver and improve with every season, but I can't help but wonder whether or not it is going to last. After all, River Island has already worked with Edward Enninful who styled their look books while Warehouse recently hired Alasdair Willis and Emma Cook to work on the brand's relaunch. 

Yes, everyone can do whatever they like, but in my humble opinion, the fact they all seem to be ignoring is as clear as day - if you established yourself as a brand offering affordable clothing, you cannot suddenly become all exclusive and expensive. It only works if done the other way around and comes with a certain exclusivity and quality in mind.

This is why people who have this sort of the money to spend aren't going to leave it on a high street - they will buy designer or vintage, not Topshop. On the other hand, the ones loyal to high street may end up feeling alienated and betrayed because they will, indeed, need to take on a second mortgage in order to continue enjoying a bit of shopping now and then. I also have a suspicious feeling that this madness may be one of the reasons forcing the real fashion designers raise their prices - just to survive the competition and somehow set their brands apart, which leads to myriads of issues.

And while I will continue buying some of my basics and a few trendy things in H&M or Mango, I will never feel comfortable or ready to embrace the new changes because I believe that what high street is doing right now is utter megalomania, the term that can be interpreted as "an obsession with power", but also a delusion of one's grandeur, which I think is the case here.

And if somebody tries to convince me that spending my hard earned cash on an overpriced high street  coat is a wise move I will direct them to eBay or, best case scenario, Vestiaire. Why? Because these two are some of the best indicators for the real value of your wardrobe.

Get rich or die trying... Or get real? Is high street heading towards the luxury end or... the end of high street?

Do weigh in, I am very curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Photo source: Vlada Roslyakova in Marie Claire Russia August 2015 (photography: Jack Waterlot, styling: Anna Rykova)


  1. In North America, the high street shops went through the same thing in about 2009. The transformation was spearheaded by Jenna Lyons at J. Crew and retailers like Banana Republic, Gap and Club Monaco followed suit. The quality of the items sold in these stores, which were once among my favourites, has never changed but the prices increase every year. And so I find myself buying more designer pieces but shopping less often because to me it's worth it to wait for something I know won't fall apart. H&M and Zara remained, for a while, our affordable options - Topshop in North America having always been wildly, shamefully overpriced - but those, too, seem to be morphing into something I don't recognise as high street when it comes to price point, though the clothes all still look the same. Part of me wonders when it will end, but another part realizes that people continue to shop in these stores despite the constant price increases, so I doubt that it will.

    1. I think lately a lot of people were programmed to buy things often and regardless of their quality or real need - but to buy them because it's partially a habit and partially, a psychological need to shop because there's always something new to buy. And it's becoming some form of madness, like a disease. And the shops are taking an advantage of it, people's emotional state, the need for constant change and cheap excitement by making them buy more expensive stuff... which is still just stuff. :(

  2. so cute!!


    i invite to me too

  3. Brilliant! Brilliant Natalia! Over the past couple of seasons, I was thinking the same thing! I kept asking myself, WHY are the prices at these places going higher and HIGHER!?! I think it's ludicrous! I kept shaking my head at that Balmain fiasco. Why pay those prices? You could invest in the REAL THING! It's mind boggling. Super awesome post!

    1. Thank you, Kim! I think the more people ask the same question, actually stop and think about it, the more chances we have to actually reverse the process. Not that it's going to happen, but one can always hope, right? x

  4. You're right! Thank goodness for H&M lol!! Great, thought provoking post!

  5. I think designer collaborations hold a lot of blame for the end of high street fashion. At fist I was really excited when stores like h&m started working with well known designers, but that seems to have become an excuse to start raising prices on everything.

  6. It's pretty disheartening to see the prices creep up at stores that are supposed to be affordable especially when the quality isn't following suit. We can only hope that people will stop buying because that's the only way to stop the madness.

  7. Personally I haven't noticed any change but then again, I buy much much less than I used to. I'm always caught in the dilemma: invest in high quality long-lasting pieces or one season fast fashion items. It has kind of put me off buying anything lately because it triggers this inner debate. But one thing is clear; I will not spend hundreds on low quality clothes.


    1. Precisely! I don't shop much and do like to mix and match high end and high street, but this is one of the reasons why I appreciate the quality of the former and would not be tricked to pay same sort of money for the latter. There needs to be a balance and right now it seems to be disappearing. x

  8. i find this fascinating, and you certainly make a strong case for it, for something that i can't help but to notice. i hope they go back to their traditional pricing.