Surprising mismatches between brand name/price and quality

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    I see people regularly talking about a high end brand that has terrible quality, or looking for recommendations for high quality clothing at a low price point, and it seems like there’s always a brand that’s surprising on either point. I have gotten into thrifting lately, like many people here, and by doing this I have been able to compare a lot of lower and higher price point items in the same spot. I know “high end” “designer” “expensive” etc mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, as do “low end” “fast fashion” “cheap” etc. But I’m still interested to know everyone’s thoughts on surprising quality/price or name mismatches, mostly out of curiosity.


    The ones that have been most surprising to me in either direction are:


    Michael Kors clothing – every piece I’ve found seems to be flimsy, cheap, terribly stitched, thin synthetic materials, and an oddly boring cut in an overly bright colour. I have no idea whether I’m looking at made-for-outlet items or not, but in either case prior to thrifting and not knowing the MK brand very well, I would have assumed their clothing would at least be better quality than Ardene and F21, (i.e. the cheapest options), etc.


    Alfred Sung – again I don’t know if I’m looking at made-for-outlet pieces or not, but I thought this was a “designer” brand and I see items with the stitching coming undone and almost nothing made with high quality fabrics


    Rachel Roy – I don’t know where exactly this brand falls in terms of designer tiers, but I do know that based on hearing the name, part of me automatically thinks “should be better quality than the cheap fast fashion stores” – but it never seems to be. The cuts seem odd, the material is always synthetic, and is always a lot thinner than it should be.


    Joe Fresh clothing – I think this is a Canadian only brand, so FYI for the rest of the world, but this brand started through a popular grocery store chain that we have. Some of their locations were “superstore” locations meaning they carried household goods, clothing, etc, as well as groceries, and that’s where this brand was born. It has since expanded to have stand alone stores and online shipping, etc. but based on it’s origins and relatively low price points, I’m always surprised to discover things made from 100% silk, 100% merino wool, etc. and not just in basic cuts, but at times with interesting and unique prints and designs.


    Jacob – a french Canadian brand that was huge in Canada, then went bankrupt due to the influx of US and other chains in Canada, but re-emerged with just a few stores in Quebec. I never shopped there when it existed because it was too costly for child and high school me, but now when I find their pieces I’m sad they hardly exist anymore. Things are cut nicely, often made from thick natural materials, etc. High quality for a basic mall brand.


    Forever 21 – I know this is considered one of the lowest of the lows in terms of quality, and I have definitely owned some items from them that come apart at the seams just from hanging in my closet prior to wearing them even once. But in addition to the crap stuff, they seem to surprisingly also have some decent stuff. Thick drapey fabric in really unique and fun patterns. Rarely in natural fabrics, but items that seem pretty study and durable and still in good shape even old and used.


    Kate Spade (clothing), Tory Burch, Tommy Hilfiger, Vero Moda, Noisy May, Dex – though these aren’t in the same category price and designer wise as each other, they all were not ‘shocking’ but somewhat surprising considering their typical MSRP ranges vs. not as great quality.


    And just to also throw in a few NOT suprising ones – Elie Tahari, Eileen Fisher, and Theory seem to back up their high price points with high quality. Club Monaco seems to provide sufficient quality and cuts to justify their prices. Ardene stuff is always pulling at the seams, pilling, flimsy. Fashion Nova and Boohoo items seem exactly “worth” their lower price points.



    I’d definitely put Costco in the (may not that) surprisingly good quality list! It’s not like top shelf but the value is unbeatable sometimes.

    Rag & Bone and Equipment (I mainly have experience with their cashmere) are on the expensive-but-worth-it side for me too (though as a knitter I’m still loathe to pay high prices for cashmere, hahaha). I’ll also back you up for Theory on that list–great fabrics, great construction. I found a nearly new Theory jean jacket with [hong kong seams]( throughout the other day for $24 and am still giddy about it.

    [Doen]( is also not a cheap brand, but I’ve found their quality surprising (because there’s plenty of similarly priced brands that are nonetheless trash). Really fine details like teeny pintucks, self fabric bound buttons, and beautiful fabrics, especially their silks. I’d put it on par with Ulla Johnson.

    I swear I’m not affiliated with them in any way lol but I keep bringing up Nisolo for their leather goods, especially shoes of course. I’ve had multiple cobblers/show repair people comment unsolicited about the quality of the leather so I believe it.

    I could go on and on but I won’t, haha. 🙂



    Also from thrifting experience:

    Zara: quality is terrible, even for fast fashion. My local thrift stores still tend to mark it way up so I guess it still sells.

    H&M: can be suprisingly decent for fast fashion.

    Calvin Klein: too much cheap-feeling polyester.

    Talbot’s: nicer than I expected. I have a couple of dresses that are fully lined with pockets and bra strap keepers.



    Ted Baker is an absolute scam at full prices. I have a “leather” bag from them I got in a sale when I was still figuring out different brands and the material feels so weird and plasticy and the way it’s stitched together has caused the leather to bend and distort over time. After two years, it doesn’t even remotely look like a £90 bag, let alone the £200 that it was originally. The clothes aren’t much better, it’s a brand where everything is coated in a layer of glitz and luxurious brand image but underneath there’s crap quality mass produced cheap fashion.

    For positive surprises, I don’t really know. However there are some brands that are expensive that also back up their prices, like TOAST and Arket. Samsøe & Samøe and Uniqlo are fair for the prices as well IMO.



    I’ve found that a lot of H&M clothing I’ve bought has lasted me at least five years, if not a decade. Generally the only reason I’ve had to toss an H&M piece is my own fault – I tend to spill and forget to clean the stain until it’s too late. F21, however… most of the time the seams rip or it comes apart even at the dry cleaners.



    Great list! Coach accessories are always a double surprise for me: I’m surprised at how cheap I can get them on sale AND how long they last. I have a couple of bags from my mom from the 80s & 90s that are in great shape and the shoes I’ve bought over the years have been seriously comfy (high arches) and indestructible



    NEGATIVE MISMATCH: Came here to comment on Michael Kors, but you already covered it. FWIW, their shoes are just as low-quality (if not worse) than their clothing.

    POSITIVE MISMATCH: Guess brand. I randomly found this [beautiful boiled wool coat]( a few years ago and was stunned that it was by Guess. I had never purchased anything Guess before but for some reason had a preconceived notion that their quality wasn’t great. I was completely wrong- the construction is amazing, it dry cleans beautifully, and it is easily on par with my wool Smythe coat (which was over 4x the cost of the Guess coat).



    I’ve only just bought a skirt from Uniqlo, but I think Uniqlo is pretty good quality. My friend swears by their stuff. I might buy some more of their products because they look really nice!

    You know, I tried Everlane because I heard they were focused on ethical fashion and quality, but I haven’t been too impressed with them. Their linen t-shirt was see through in parts! And I paid like $30 for that! I still have two of their cotton crew shirts but I feel like each of them is made of a different material. I’m disappointed, considering I probably could have bought sturdier pieces from Uniqlo for cheaper.

    LL Bean has been pretty good thus far. I’m really loving the plaid flannel I bought from them. Their stuff is pricier, but feels like it’ll hold up! When I have a little more money I’d love to buy more from them.



    I know a lot of people dislike F21 but I’ve had great luck over the years. I have a yellow sweater and a blue button up skirt that still look brand new and together costed me $16.

    I recently stumbled upon the brand 50 Percent in Taiwan and for the price (similar to F21) they also had a lot of good quality materials.

    Usually I have good luck at Aritzia, but there have been some issues with buying things online and receiving them only for them to be awful quality. You bet I get my $75 back for a blouse constructed of tissue paper basically!!



    Thanks for re-opening the old wound that is Jacob :'(



    Old Navy – I consistently find really great pieces from there (on sale) for under $10 that look much more expensive.

    Madewell – matches the price. Really great quality.

    Target – sometimes they have surprisingly good clothing. Their shoes are terrible quality though.



    I only scrolled part way through the comments so maybe this will repeat what someone else has said, but almost all of the name brands listed are licensed brands. If you take something like Ralph Lauren men’s line, they have Ralph Lauren Purple, which is their top designer line, and then they have Ralph Lauren Polo I believe, but then after that there are like Polo Ralph Lauren, Ralph Lauren, Lauren, polo,… Probably more, and those are all licensed to any manufacturer who wants to pay the money to stick their tag on their clothing. License clothing is (almost) always low quality stuff. I’m right now wearing a shirt which says Calvin Klein but in my drawer I have the exact identical shirt that I bought from Joe Fresh. the Joe Fresh shirt is at the price point that the shirts deserves. The Calvin Klein is just a licensed shirt. They are literally identical except for the tags.



    I miss Joe Fresh! They pulled all their stores from the US and are online only 🙁



    One that stands out to me:

    Helmut Lang. Their sweaters retail for >$200. I bought one and it was the scratchiest most uncomfortable thing I’d ever touched.




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