Implied Luxury: How Some Labels Can Trick You

It can be tough to discern whether a label you have not seen before is really from a luxury brand.

These days, businesses have perfected the art of portraying a clothing/accessories brand as a luxury offering. This art has been perfected so much, there is solid marketing theory dedicated to how a brand can position itself as luxury. It makes buying clothing (especially when thrifting) a potentially tricky experience even for a discerning eye, but there are some key pointers that you can follow in order to discover whether an item with luxury looking tags is in fact a luxury item.

How does a brand appear luxury?

There are some textbook ways to appear luxury from a brand point of view, and these are the primary methods utilised:

Step 1: Typeface and Presentation

In marketing theory, different typefaces imply different characteristics of the brand. For example, something bold and large indicates strength and utilitarianism which is why you see it on many tool company logos.

When it comes to luxury, implying it through a typeface means using slim and ‘elegant’ looking fonts. You will notice that most high end labels out there do this.

I could post a hundred more logos, but you get the idea! Using a typeface like this is step one of implying luxury.

Step 2: Using a Human Name

Another thing many of these designer and/or luxury labels have in common is that they are named after people. Most names are either a first name and a last name of the brand’s namesake, like Ralph Lauren. They may also be an amalgamation of the last names of a partnership, like Vacheron Constantin.

An Implied Luxury Clothing Label

The unfortunate side effect of so many luxury labels following the same branding practise is that brands can imply luxury to sell a cheap product at a higher price point. All a brand has to do is come up with a human name and an elegant logo, and they can imply that they are just as good as the luxury brands. Take this label for example:

This label follows the principles of luxury branding. If a buyer knew no better and saw this in a vintage store, they may think it is a designer label.

However, it actually comes from the now defunct cheap menswear store Ed Harry.

Implied Luxury in Watches

The watch market has become absolutely rife with implied luxury brands. Many of these are small startups selling homages to popular watches like Rolex Submariners. Others sell trendy minimalist watches with cheap movements at higher prices, a couple of brands that have succeeded in the implied luxury market are Daniel Wellington and MVMT. They promise a luxury item at a fraction of the price but in the end, you get what you pay for.

Related reading: Thinking of buying a Daniel Wellington watch? Read this first!

How can you spot an implied luxury brand?

If you do a little sniffing around before making a purchase, you have a chance to differentiate whether a brand is really luxury goods or just pretending.

1: Do Some Research on the Brand

This is the most important step. Look at the brand’s backstory, check out their history and their track record.

Let’s use the Daniel Wellington backstory for an example of a story with holes. The story on the site claims that the brand’s founder ‘met a mysterious stranger on a plane flight who had a penchant for wearing vintage watches on colourful straps’, and promptly decided to name a watch brand after him. Sounds fishy, does it not? I seriously doubt Mr. Wellington exists.

Moving on to history: if a brand claims they have been around since the 1800s and features that heavily in their marketing, check to see if they have actually been trading the whole time. One way to give a brand the appearance of an illustrious history is to purchase the rights to a brand name that has been out of use for a long time, and trade under it. However, if a brand you have not heard of before says ‘since 1842’ but has only started trading again in the last few years there is a good chance that they are full of it.

#2: Check the Quality!

The quality of the item is what really shows whether it is luxury. Let’s use some clothing examples, as you can usually discern how luxury a clothing item is by the makeup of the fabric:

Suits, Trousers and Sport Jackets:

A luxury suit should be pure wool, usually at least Super 140s. There may be some elastane in modern designer suits to give some stretch to a tight fit.

If there is a high amount of polyester in the mix, it is likely not luxury if it is modern. If there is viscose used, stay away (unless it is a lining).


Good luxury shirts are usually pure cotton or linen. They may be a blend of the above too.

If there is a high polyester count, it is likely not luxury.

Related reading: ‘Suit Fabrics: Understanding Super Numbers’


Luxury jeans should either be pure cotton denim or have a small amount of elastane in the mix.

If there is polyester and/or viscose, it is likely not luxury.

With denim, sometimes the country of origin can be an indicator. For example, Japanese denim is often highly sought after.

In conclusion: do not get caught out!

It pays to do your research before buying a brand you have not heard of before. It only takes a couple of minutes, and could save you from a regretful purchase.

Thanks for reading!

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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