The luxury of disappointment: when brands aren’t built to last

When it comes to clothes, I’m a ‘buy less, but better’ kind of girl. I have a handful of brands that I love for their understated, casual-luxe aesthetic, but recently they’ve been letting me down big time in the quality department. The latest disappointment has been with Alexander Wang.

I purchased a pair of Kori ankle boots from their flagship shop in New York. Within three months, the heels wore down and I had to have them replaced. I was surprised to see white plastic underneath what I assumed was a stacked heel, but didn’t complain to the brand at the time. This was my first mistake.

I found out I was pregnant four months after purchasing the shoes. Fearful that my swelling feet would stretch the leather, I parked them on the shelf and purchased three pairs of less expensive flats that I could rotate. While on maternity leave, I wore the boots a handful of times for special occasions. But then, back at work, in September, I dusted them off and began to wear them properly. Two months in, and I had to have them re-heeled a second time. Then, three weeks ago I was caught in a heavy rainstorm while carrying my daughter home from nursery. I felt one foot start to slip. The leather of the body of the shoe had come away from the sole. Annoyed, I set them aside to take to a cobbler, already knowing that fixing them would be a serious challenge.

Alexander Wang recently opened a flagship shop in London, so I decided to take them along to see what could be done. After all, a luxury brand surely would want to stand by their products and keep their customers happy. They took the shoes, told me they would contact HQ and have a response within 48 hours. I left, and heard nothing. A week later I called back to see what the update was, only to have a salesperson take a message and promise to return my call. Five hours later after no word, I called again. Someone finally found a manager, who told me that due to the ‘surprising wear’ of the shoe, the lack of proof of purchase (which I subsequently offered to supply) and the fact that they were beyond their year warranty, there was nothing they could do. The shoes were irreparable, but they would happily ship them to me at my house.

The ‘surprising wear’ of the shoe is exactly why I took them in to the shop; after such little time on my feet I wouldn’t expect them to look the way they do, or have needed fixing so often. So now I have a lovely pair of boots that I can’t bear to throw away, but anger me every time I look in my closet. The one year warranty this brand offers reflects, for me, the longevity they expect of their products. The company doesn’t want to be responsible after 12 months because they know things will go wrong. A simple Google confirms this, with several posts of quality issues with shoes and bags. What’s more – many report being charged a repair fee to fix the faulty item. So apparently it’s a luxury to own the product – and to expect to wear it as well.

In stark contrast, a friend of mine had a Mulberry bag repaired that she purchased five years ago. The brand took it without complaint, apologised profusely, fixed the broken hardware, and also gave the leather a clean and condition. The bag was returned with the reassurance that they’d happily sort the issue again, should it arise. Likewise, a Dior wallet that my husband surprised me with malfunctioned after four months. (The snap popped out of the lambskin). They swapped it for a brand new one immediately.

It won’t come as a surprise when I say that I’ve crossed this brand off my shopping list for good. Now whenever I see the Wang logo – ironically a barcode – all I’ll see is a company intent on selling as much product as possible, with no thought whatsoever to how it will perform when it hits the real world, and no desire to build longer-term relationships with its shoppers. And that’s the real disappointment.

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