Payal Shah in Paris

Luxury vs. Designer: What Sets Them Apart and How to Choose

Fashion Vs Luxury

I hosted a private viewing of L'Dezen in May. I had a few extra days to walk around, and perhaps shop. I faced a familiar dilemma: should I buy a luxury item or something designer?

It's not just about price. There is more confusion when you add crossover strategies between the two types of brands. Luxury and fashion brand fans always find something better out there. There are times when neither of these terms makes sense. According to some studies and even some conversations with friends, the term "Luxury" or "Brand" is highly subjective.

Because I value informed purchases, especially in fashion, jewelry, and accessories, I pondered the differences and benefits of each. My experience inspired me to write this guide to help you invest smartly in fashion.

Payal Shah in Paris

Defining the Terms: Luxury vs. Premium vs. Fashion

Luxury Fashion: These are items crafted from the highest quality materials with exceptional craftsmanship, often carrying rich heritage and high price tags. Luxury brands maintain their exclusive cachet by producing limited quantities and upholding high standards of authenticity and storytelling.

Premium Fashion: These goods are expensive variants of commodities, offering superior quality, sleek design, and precision manufacturing. They are more accessible than luxury items but still maintain a high standard of quality and desirability.

Fashion: This encompasses designer labels or fashion houses known for their innovative, trend-setting designs. These pieces may be pricey but are often more ephemeral and change with seasonal trends.

Core Differences

Aspect Luxury Premium Fashion
Price Point and Value High prices due to rare materials and craftsmanship (e.g., Hermès Birkin). Expensive variants offering superior quality (e.g., L’Oréal’s premium products). Varies widely; designer labels can be expensive but are trend-focused (e.g., Balenciaga).
Craftsmanship and Quality Unparalleled craftsmanship, often handmade (e.g., Chanel suit). High-quality, precision manufacturing (e.g., premium automobiles like BMW). High-quality, often industrial methods, focusing on innovation (e.g., Alexander McQueen).
Exclusivity and Rarity Limited production, rare (e.g., Rolls-Royce Sweptail). More accessible but still high quality (e.g., premium watches like Tag Heuer). Broader production, exclusive compared to mass-market brands (e.g., Gucci x The North Face).
Brand Heritage and Story Deep histories and legacies (e.g., Chanel's little black dress). High-end brand positioning with modern appeal (e.g., Dior cosmetics). Known for innovative designs, contemporary relevance (e.g., Off-White).
Trend Influence vs. Timelessness Timeless classics (e.g., Rolex watches). Focus on performance and value (e.g., premium skincare brands). Trendsetting, avant-garde pieces (e.g., Gucci’s seasonal collections).

Practical Considerations

Resale Value

  • Luxury items often hold or increase in value over time, making them good investments. Designer pieces, while still valuable, may not appreciate as much. For instance, a vintage Hermès Birkin can sell for more than its original price at auctions, whereas a trendy designer piece might not.
  • Decision Tip: If resale value is important, luxury items are a safer bet.

Personal Style and Preference

  • Reflect on your personal style. Are you more inclined towards timeless elegance or cutting-edge fashion?
  • Decision Tip: Your style preference should guide your choice. Luxury for classic sophistication, designer for trendsetting and contemporary flair.

Occasion and Usage

  • Assess where and how often you will wear the item. Luxury items might be reserved for special occasions, while designer pieces could be more versatile for everyday wear.

Brands That Are Both Luxury and Designer

Some brands successfully straddle the line between luxury and designer, offering elements of both. Here are a few examples:

Prada :

  • Luxury Aspects: Known for its high-quality leather goods and timeless pieces. The Prada Galleria bag is celebrated for its classic design and exceptional craftsmanship.
  • Designer Aspects: Prada constantly innovates with bold, modern designs and collaborations that keep the brand at the forefront of fashion trends.
  • Example: In recent years, Prada has combined its traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge designs in collections like the Linea Rossa, appealing to both luxury buyers and fashion-forward consumers.
  • Decision Tip: Prada offers a mix of timeless luxury and contemporary fashion, making it a versatile choice.

Bulgari :

  • Luxury Aspects: Renowned for its high jewelry, featuring exceptional gemstones and intricate designs that reflect a rich heritage.
  • Designer Aspects: Bulgari’s accessory lines, including handbags and watches, incorporate modern design elements and appeal to a broader audience.
  • Example: Bulgari’s Serpenti collection, known for its luxurious craftsmanship, has expanded to include contemporary accessories that blend luxury with modern style.
  • Decision Tip: Bulgari offers both timeless elegance in its jewelry and trendy, designer appeal in its accessories.

Fendi :

  • Luxury Aspects: Famous for its high-quality fur and leather goods, which are symbols of luxury and craftsmanship.
  • Designer Aspects: Fendi is known for its innovative designs and playful elements, such as the iconic Baguette bag that became a fashion staple.
  • Example: The Fendi Peekaboo bag combines luxury materials with a modern, versatile design, appealing to both luxury and designer fashion lovers.
  • Decision Tip: Fendi provides a perfect blend of luxury heritage and modern design innovation.


  • Luxury Aspects: Known for high-quality materials, impeccable craftsmanship, and rich heritage. Signature pieces like the GG Marmont bag and classic loafers are celebrated for their timeless appeal and durability.
  • Designer Aspects: Consistently pushes the boundaries of fashion with bold, innovative designs under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele. Frequently sets trends and collaborates with other designers and artists.
  • Example: In 2024, Gucci's collaboration with Adidas created a unique blend of luxury and streetwear, showcasing the brand's versatility and appeal to both luxury buyers and trend-conscious fashion enthusiasts.
  • Decision Tip: For those seeking the best of both worlds, brands like Gucci offer timeless luxury with a modern, trendsetting twist.

My Conclusion: Diversifying Your Fashion Portfolio

I started looking at my purchases as savvy investors diversify their stock portfolios, fashion enthusiasts myself can benefit from a mix of luxury and designer pieces. This approach ensures a well-rounded wardrobe that balances timeless elegance with contemporary trends.


  • Luxury Investment: A classic Hermès Kelly bag, a Rolex watch, or Chanel sandals.
  • Designer Trendsetter: A Balenciaga City bag, a Loewe top, or a Celine dress.

By incorporating both luxury and designer items, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Luxury items provide long-term value and timeless style, while designer pieces keep your wardrobe fresh and on-trend. 

Tip: Not just in fashion, but jewelry, accessories, or hospitality, mixing luxury and designer options can enhance your overall lifestyle, offering both timeless elegance and contemporary flair.

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