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Are Designer T-Shirts Worth The Outrageous Price?

Can designer t-shirts like Kanye West’s plain white hip hop tee really be worth that huge price tag? Harald Meyer-Delius explores why and how.

As I casually browsed through my friend Paula’s latest article about designer t-shirts: T-Shirt Design: Achieving a fashion look by using the right printing technique, my heart nearly came to a halt as a I noticed the Dolce & Gabbana t-shirt price tag, a whooping €395. As someone who knows about fashion (or likes to think so) and regularly follows the ups and downs of the industry (aka drooling at the expensive store’s windows), I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it is a bargain compared to the Lanvin one which goes at $1,130.

Last summer, Kanye West made headlines when he joined forces with the French brand A.P.C. to release his own fashion line. The controversy started when it was announced that a plain white t-shirt of said collection was going at $120. The so-called “Hip Hop shirt” was one of the first items to sell out – only to wind up at e-bay a few days later with an inflated value of $300.

So what is it about this designer t-shirt that makes it so bloody expensive? Especially when we can get one at £10 that looks just the same? Well, there are several reasons.

It’s not neuroscience, or is it?

It’s neither a suit nor a haute couture gown, but some t-shirts do fit better than others. Do the shoulder hems align with your bones? Does the neck hold you or choke you? If there is a cool design printed on it, how much time was it spent on research to pick that one image? Is it an illustration? Did they do it from scratch? A better fit and a bolder design usually means someone spent valuable time working on the garment. The more time then the more expensive it will be.

Is it made of gold or something?

High-end brands tend to go for the best of the best. Pima cotton garments (which is similar to Egyptian cotton) can go up to £30 because the material is so soft and absorbent. Cheap t-shirts are made with less precious cotton that’s softened with silicone and other substances. That’s why when we pick them up at the store they feel like a puppy’s fur, but after a few washes the fabric starts to feel like a cat’s tongue instead.

Some hands cost more than others

Another reason why special designer t-shirts are so expensive is because most of them are produced in the western world where the cost of manual labour is higher than in Africa and Asia where most of the more affordable brand’s factories are located.

The a-lot-of-money-spending syndrome

Now, here’s where the real shade starts. You may be realising that the manual labour of a western citizen, good quality material and the salary of a person who spent a good deal of time designing a cool t-shirt raises the prices of the garment, but sometimes it doesn’t add up. Let’s go back to Kanye West. One quick visit to the A.P.C. website will confirm that their t-shirts usually go for between €70 and €80 but Kanye’s was sold at €120 and it was plain white. The only reason I can come up with is that it had the singer’s name attached to it.

It is a known fact that luxury brands inflate the value of their products to maintain their exclusivity. Earlier this year, Burberry announced that it would be raising their prices to attract a wealthier clientele. In these times of economical turmoil companies like Burberry stay afloat because these rich folk aren’t buying t-shirts, bags or shoes, they’re buying status. Our reptile brain has been wired to believe that if something is more expensive then it must be better and if he’s one of the few who can purchase it then he’ll feel better about himself.

Sometimes a high price doesn’t equate with quality. Companies assign these rates because they know it’s going to sell. Period.

If you’re interested in the psychological effects brands and prices have over people I’d recommend you watch this interesting video:

So, is it worth the price tag? That, my friend, depends completely on you! Yes, I know, I pulled the Dumbledore-in-the-end-I-really-don’t-have-the-answers move, but it truly does completely depend on you. In my experience, there are a ton of affordable brands who make great quality designer t-shirts. The only time that I would consider investing would be if the garment had a really wicked, hard to find, one-of-a kind-design. But, then again, if you feel fabulous in a simple, white, designer t-shirt, simply because it has a celebrity’s name attached to it, then by all means be my guest.

Printsome are a T-shirt printing UK agency, delivering from Cornwall to Scotland. So, if you’re after T-shirt printing, get in touch for a cup of tea and a quote today.

Posted in Business, Features, FEBRUARY 2014 ISSUE.