Sunday, December 03, 2006

The case of the overpriced hairband

A few years ago I got to work for a magazine company renowned for publishing some of the country's best glossies. Even though I was assigned to its first-ever business mag, the instructions were the same: no scrimping on production values. Meaning, even if we were featuring entrepreneurs and ordinary people in our pages--average Joes as opposed to the high-maintenance models and celebrities found in the other magazines--they should look their best in our pictures, and the publication itself should live up to its glossy character.

The company had amassed an impressive pool of talent for this: the best makeup artists, stylists and photographers in the business, ready to work their magic on the magazine's monthly subjects. The stylists were authorized to borrow fashion paraphernalia from high-end stores and have these items used by our subjects for pictorials. Our end of the bargain was to make sure the brands were credited in the published pages. Fair enough.

One day, we had to dress up a couple of male models to build up our library of stock photos for generic articles. The editorial assistant and stylist went out to pull out clothes for the pictorial, and came back with two sets of shoes, socks, pants, polo shirts, ties--a complete wardrobe each for the models. I looked at the prices of the items, and nearly fainted. One pair of pants cost P30,000+. The ties were around P5,000 each.

I freaked out and asked why we had to use such expensive stuff for generic photos. It's common practice, I was told--it's how they did it in the fashion rags. My worry wasn't only about the ostentatiousness of the items in a magazine about hardworking, oftentimes struggling, entrepreneurs, but about the more immediate task of ensuring that the clothes got through the pictorial without so much as a crease. We'd have to pay for any damage in them, after all. P30,000+ for a pair of pants! I just had to plant myself in the studio and instruct the models to be extra-careful and, please, not to move too much (to the annoyance of the photographer). We finished without a hitch, but I went home that day with a headache.

There's a point to this very long introduction, and it is this: Even as I work in the Lifestyle section of my paper, the ways of beauty and fashion still seem quite strange to me many times. Me, who recoiled in shock at a pair of ordinary-looking pants worth more than double an ordinary employee's salary--well, imagine my consternation a few days ago when, preparing the weekly fashion issue, I came across a photo of a Kate Spade hairband worth P7,450.

Seven thousand-plus friggin' pesos for a prissy red hairband. To be fair, the gift guide spread where it appeared tried to cater to all kinds of customers. Side by side with the hairpiece were sunglasses that cost P129.75 and a belt at P695. Reasonable enough choices, I suppose.

Still, the ridiculousness of it all so disturbed me. I mean, who buys a hairband worth nearly P8,000? What makes it so different from one bought in--oh, I don't know--Marcella's? Does it emit ions or infrared waves, perhaps, that massage the wearer's brain and make her more intelligent (in which case, she'd surely end up ruing her purchase)? Does it impart an instant aura of irresistible beauty, a la Blusang Itim? And how does one wear it and make sure the others notice how expensive it is? With the price tag blinking at one end?

Mind you, the hairband isn't even one of those special commemorative pieces that the fashion and beauty houses love to create for special occasions (say, a pair of Havaianas na binudburan ng Swarovski crystals, natch), which are trotted out for the paparazzi and then sealed away for good in a vault or a museum. No, from the looks of it, the Kate Spade hairband is an off-the-shelf item, right up there with face creams and toothpastes and nail cutters (all high-end ones, of course). Now, if this invitation to conspicuous consumption is in local stores and is actually being bought, what is that saying but that the rich of this country are simply on a brazen roll at a time of great and unrelenting misery for everyone else?

It's in times like this that I wish we have our own Bastille Day. God, now I have a headache...


marinamode said...

Hi. Your blog is great ! I leave in France and I love fashion. If you enjoy shoes, take a look on my shoes
Marina (from France)

snglguy said...

WTF?? 30,000+ pesos for a pair of pants? Grabe...

I've been in the fashion industry (marketing and production) for more than 20 years and yet, I'm still amazed at the mark-up of some supposedly high-end brand.

The fact is, the after-production cost of most clothes sold in the market is much much lower. And with the stiff competition in the manufacturing sector these days, the brand owners can demand the lowest possible price from a manufacturer.

Unless of course, that overpriced pants is made out of the best wool and is hand-made by an Italian tailor.

Have a great weekend, Gibbs. :-)

jhay said...

All of that much money for a pair of pants and a hairband? The fashion industry really boggles the mind as do politics.

I just pray that no endangered species of animals were used in making those items. That would just be going over the edge.

Abaniko said...

Did you ask if the hairband glows in the dark? That could be the reason, yanno.

gibbs cadiz said...

hi MARINAMODE, sorry to ask but was your comment auto-generated? :)

ey SNGLGUY, happy weekend too! the pants were cerutti (did i spell that right?). but unless the pair had gold thread in them, i still would insist that P30k is way too much. :)

haha, furs and kelps, etc.--that's another valid question, JHAY. :)

hello ABANIKO yanno, pwede! :)

the spy in the sandwich said...

maybe it is zsazsa zaturnnah's hairband :)

gibbs cadiz said...

MR. IAN CASOCOT! welcome, pleasure to have you here. :)

ice prince said...

"Who are you wearing?"
NOT "What are you wearing?"...

this is the question why some people would buy really expensive stuff... (oh Miranda please don't react!)

a girl friend of mine just bought a P38,000 handbag from Prada and a P55,000 ring from Bvlgari, both on the same day - she's actually unhappy with it because she wanted to buy shoes pa but her size was out if stock (she's a biggie)

well, some people can afford so they indulge.

lucky bitches!

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