I remember the first time I saw an H&M. I was walking through the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. As I passed one designer shop after another, I fawned over the textured fabrics, the intricate details and the careful designs. Since moving to a small town six years prior, the closest I had come to designer clothes was when Miley Cyrus launched her new line at Walmart. I was a fashion lover trapped in a town where the majority of the population equated Wrangler to Gucci. Walking through the Forum Shops, I wanted everything I passed: a Chanel bag, a Prada dress, those Valentino pants. I was also 14-years-old with barely $100 in my savings account. Just as my fawning over clothes turned to dwelling over an empty wallet, I stumbled upon H&M. And not just any H&M: a three-story H&M with disco lights and flashy music.
I immediately wanted an H&M bag, an H&M dress, those H&M pants, but I assumed I couldn’t afford them either. After all, they bore a striking similarity to the articles of designer clothing I had passed on my way. But, while the H&M clothes resembled the designer clothes, the price tag reflected my budget. I could purchase those three items and more with the money in my bank account. So, I did. I filled two bags with wildly printed leggings, graphic tees, cardigans and jackets, and even shoes. At 14, I realized how to look fabulous on a tight budget, and every H&M trip that ensued afterward followed a similar progression.
Fast forward to college and my shopping habits barely changed. I thrifted a few designer items and expanded my shopping territory to more fast-fashion retailers, but the majority of my pieces came from H&M. I was stuck in a cycle of falling in love with a designer piece, checking my bank account and opting for the affordable fast-fashion syndication instead. It’s not like I wanted to outfit myself in cheap clothes, but it seemed my only other option on my limited budget was thrifting designer pieces from 10 seasons ago or re-wearing a plain Dior tee every day after spending hundreds on it.
What comes with cheap clothes is a closet full of them. After years of shopping fast-fashion, I had thousands of pieces, and most had already gone out of style. When I got my degree and a paying job, I decided to purge my closet, re-sell my cheap clothes and put the money toward nicer pieces.
I discovered that online thrift stories had a better selection of upscale, in-season pieces than brick and mortar stores. I also discovered that I can create hundreds of looks with dozens of pieces by simply styling them differently. I started to accumulate clothes again, but with a very different mantra. Instead of spending $200 on 30 items from H&M, I’d spend $200 on one statement piece from Nordstrom. Or, I’d spend $200 on 15 designer pieces from Depop or The Real Real, and save myself thousands of dollars compared to retail prices.
Now, I have a closet full of stylish pieces that will stand the test of time. I try to shop for statements, and if I do walk into H&M, I put my money toward one really nice item instead of many cheaper ones. As a result, I’ve taken more risks with my wardrobe; 99% of the time, they pay off. I’d rather stand out than look like everyone else who opts for predominately fast fashion. When it comes to my closet – though it took years – I now fully understand the concept of quality over quantity.