Yes, if you’ve got money, it’s entirely possible to dress well. But it’s no guarantee. Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell – these are rich men, but you wouldn’t know it from the clothes they wear. A big bank balance gives you access to the finer things, but it doesn’t buy you taste.
But what if it’s the other way round, and you have taste but a modest budget to accompany it? Is it possible to outdress the cards you’ve been dealt and look as though you’ve dropped a month’s wages on an outfit that actually cost less than a fancy meal?
In theory, money gives you access to superior build quality, better fabrics and intriguing designs, but as we continue to question why luxury fashion is so expensive, it’s easy to see how this isn’t always the case. Designer brands are getting away with overcharging on simple items – a £200 T-shirt for example – which is becoming increasingly difficult to justify when you can pick up virtually the same item for ten times less on the high street, with little difference in quality.
Fashion has always been dictated by trends, but as high street brands are increasingly in tune with what’s happening on the runway, it’s easier than ever to replicate a look you may have seen in London, Paris, Milan or New York. And you won’t need the spend of a music mogul either.
To prove the point we challenged FashionBeans editors – a humble bunch, we assure you – to scour the high street and find outfits that look as good as those the world’s top designers are pumping out, for no more than £200. This is what they found.
Luxury fashion Trends For Less
Arguably the trend that has turned luxury fashion on its head in recent years, it’s well documented that sportswear (once known as athleisure) has taken over. In fact, it’s not so much a trend now as the norm. It was the segue for streetwear’s dominance and is one of the reasons why casual dress is more popular nowadays. Expect tapered sweatpants, sleek trainers, backpacks and technical outerwear.
How To Get The Look
“What began life as purely functional gym gear has morphed into something unrecognisable; sportswear now has solid luxury credentials and can confidently command eye-watering price tags. But, while the major players in luxury sportswear will tempt you with their wares which are often crafted from the finest materials known to man, the high street has nailed the movement’s stealth wealth aesthetic so well that money is no barrier to copping this look.
“The key to doing luxury sportswear on a budget is going for simplicity first and foremost. Logos and branding are a no-go, these only work if they’re from bonafide hype brands. Then you’ll want to choose items from a palette of black, grey and white.
“Fit is really important too; generally speaking your bottom half (joggers) should steer slim and be cuffed at each hem, whereas whatever you’re wearing up top (a T-shirt or technical jacket) should have a loose, more directional cut. With your accessories, stick to black or white, and again avoid fussy details and branding.”
Total Price: £193.89
Chosen by: Luke Sampson, associate editor
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The New Suit
Sportswear hasn’t been kind to tailoring. fashion fell out of love with the suit for a couple of years, but now it’s back, and, like a naive recruit returning from his first tour of duty, it’s changed. Tailoring is cool again thanks to different cuts (oversized, double-breasted styles are in) and new accessory pairings (think wearable luggage). Brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior have turned to this new take on the suit recently and so can you. Albeit for less dosh.
How To Get The Look
“Designers have dramatically reimagined the suit in recent seasons. Where once a double-breasted blazer was considered bold tailoring, now jackets are appearing without lapels in asymmetric cuts, with wild wraparound panelling to replace the traditional two or three buttons. For 100 years, tailoring didn’t like change – just the odd alteration as required. This is different. It’s reconstructive surgery.
“Whether the trend will reach the high street remains to be seen. You certainly can’t buy anything so daring for under £200 yet. What you can do is get similar results – play with proportion or create a different silhouette using tailored and non-tailored pieces.
“Look for boxy, oversized fits or cropped trousers. Slip a buttoned-up cardigan under your jacket to give your look a rare structured depth. And you don’t have to sell your car to find a cross-body bag that chimes with an inexpensive suit, no matter how scandalous some HR departments will find the combo.
“One of the ways high-end labels are showing off their asymmetric cuts and new-fangled accessories is by paring everything else back. Tonal looks – where the shirt, if there is one, is a pretty close match to the colour of the suit – have been parading down the runways. The lesson: pick a colour, stick to it, and experiment with everything else.”
Total Price: £182.88
Chosen by: Ian Taylor, editor-in-chief
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All black hasn’t ever not been cool. Johnny Cash swore by it on stage, The Terminator gave it some deadly swagger, and cool Parisians (probably) wear it while chain-smoking Marlboro Reds. Most recently Hedi Slimane made use of it in his debut Celine show, although that’s no surprise since the designer has never done much else. Black is slimming, easy to wear and hides a multitude of cheap fabrics. Perfect if you want to dress high fashion on a high street budget, then.
How To Get The Look
“Have you ever heard someone describe a colour as ‘the new black’ and actually make sense? No, of course you haven’t. Black is black, the ultimate form and function outfit, and it doesn’t need messing with.
“Think about it. You could literally upend a lunchtime pint down your trousers minutes before a big meeting and no one would see it. They’d smell it, and it will be brought up at your next review, but no one will see it. No one will ever notice you’re wearing the same shirt all week either – another bonus. (Again, they will smell it.)
“Practicalities aside, all-black just looks good. Of course, there’s a fine line between stylish sleuth and looking like an angst-ridden goth. To nail the look, play with texture by mixing up different fabrics like denim, canvas and suede, and consider varying the shades slightly by working in dark, almost-black greys. To the pub!”
Total Price: £184.90
Chosen by: Luke Todd, deputy editor
Heavily branded clothing is the most difficult to replicate on small funds, since the very attraction of logos is the cool factor of the brands themselves. Want the world to know you’re an esteemed member of the Gucci Gang? You’ll have to fork out. Primark Gang doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. You can pick up logo’d pieces for less though and many brands have replicated what the luxury houses are doing with their motifs. Alternatively, you could trawl eBay for the real thing.
Ermenegildo Zegna SS19
How To Get The Look
“Logos are to a high fashion show-off what Instagram is to an influencer – the lifeblood, the nucleus, the thing that makes their high falutin’ world go round. That’s how Gucci can slap its intertwined double G on a tee and sell it to the highest bidder. But the counter-culture rises of streetwear and skatewear into well, popular culture means you can get a slice of that sweet, sweet logo pie for a whole lot less.
“On the streetwear front, revived heritage sportswear brands offer a surplus of well-priced options with Champion, Ellesse and Reebok leading the pack. Workwear and outdoor brands also bleed into streetwear here and are in their very essence affordable (look to Carhartt WIP or the North Face).
“Things can get a little out-of-hand money wise when it comes to certain brands – be careful you’re not dropping a load on a Supreme brick and look to less hyped-up brands like Stussy and Thrasher which will clock up the street cred with cool off-beat logos without extending an invitation to the debt collectors.”
Total Price: £191.00
Chosen by: Richard Jones, staff writer
How did chunky trainers become a thing? Just a few years ago Ryan Gosling was lambasting Steve Carrel’s character in Crazy Stupid Love for wearing New Balance 407s, and now similar styles are everywhere. Almost every brand under the sun has turned its hand to fugly silhouettes, spearheaded by Balenciaga’s Triple S which kickstarted the trend (or rather stomped all over it) back in 2017. It’s ironic fashion at its finest and shows no sign of waning yet. In short, the original question is unanswerable.
How To Get The Look
“Chunky trainers usually stand out due to their purposefully ugly design, so treat them as a statement item. As such, pair with simple garments and allow them to shout on their own – think dark selvedge denim and chunky knitwear, two wardrobe staples you should already have.
“For the trainers themselves, aim for a pair made from suede or leather to give them a luxurious edge. This will help them look as though you actually intended to wear them, and didn’t accidentally pick them out from your old high school’s lost property bin. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing the shoe equivalent of the ‘my other car’s a Ferrari’ sticker.
“Many of the luxury houses produce chunky trainers, and all of them are obscenely priced. If you want an equivalent style invest in New Balance or Nike who are arguably its inventors – the Nike Air Monarch was released in 2000 and is the patriarch of dad shoes. Plus, when ugly trainers inevitably fall off the mantel, you won’t have wasted £600. Win win.”
Total Price: £174.80
Chosen by: Charlie Thomas, senior editor