Fashion novice Alex Riley investigated the world of clothing superbrands on Tuesday night for the BBC, to find out how these billion dollar global organisations have invaded our wardrobes and our minds. On the way he met some fashion acolytes, including some handbag obsessives who are willing to spend £100 a month just to rent one.
But what are we trying to say when we fork out £2,000 for a Louis Vuitton handbag? Alex asked a Neuroscientist to analyse the brain of a designer-fashion fan in an MRI scanner showing her pictures of handbags from Primark then pictures of expensive designer handbags. The cheap bags didn't register but the expensive ones lit up her "pleasure centre", an area associated with addiction.
Buying and wearing designer brands signals to others that we are genetically fit, because we've accumilated so many resources, we can afford to waste a couple of thousand pounds on a handbag.
Secrets of the Superbrands: Fashion, delves into the reasons why we are obsessed with brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and Diesel. Abercrombie & Fitch started out as a sports outfitter in 1892, but in the 1980's they were taken over and given a brand new look, only the name and date were kept the same. Their shops are like nightclubs, dark and full of assistants who could be models. Some of the male assistants even go topless. This kind of shopping experience is called retail theatre. They want to be seen as exclusive, only letting the cool kids in.
For those who cannot afford the exclusive, high quality clothes at the top of the "Pyramid Model", the masses are able to buy the perfumes, scarves, sunglasses etc at the bottom of the pyramid. While luxury brands use the exclusive products at the top of the pyramid to build the image of the brand, they exploit the branded products at the bottom of the pyramid to bring in the cash.
So, what is the secret - luxury brands offer something so universal that everyone at all layers of society want it, whether they can afford it or not.