It’s no coincidence that thrift stores thrive on the twenty-something crowd—full-priced designer garb and broke college students don’t exactly go together like khakis and a polo. This March, clutching my press pass and equipped with vintage spoils from my grandmother’s closet, I was one of the few college students with behind-the-scenes access to New York Fashion Week. I ventured into the fray to ask the impossible: can hot spring looks be achieved on a college budget without digging through bins at Goodwill? This season, thanks to retailers like Target—living up to its longstanding nickname Targé—the answer is “oui.”
At the opening ceremony of Proenza Schouler’s Target line I spotted several fashionistas sporting identical dresses—which, lo and behold, will soon be available in a modified version at Target (Boy Blue Silk Bustier Top; $49.99).
It’s amazing how a little name-brand goes a long way. First came Mossimo, followed by Isaac Mizrahi and now Proenza Schouler. All of a sudden, Target is practically the new Saks.
The concept of high/low is timeless, but the trend took off with Karl Lagerfeld’s 2004 mini-collection for H&M. Other designers soon followed suit. “Go International” is the catchphrase for Target’s designer program, offering cosmopolitan choices to economical shoppers with designs by big names Luella Bartley, Paul & Joe and Behnaz Sarafpour. Prices run from $9.99 to the mid-$100s. But Target isn’t the only powerhouse banking on the glam factor of star labels. In the Bryant Park tents, a roped-off centerpiece dubbed the “Accessories Exhibit” debuted select pieces from glittering new lines by BCBG MaxAzria, Swarovski, Rachel Zoe for Leiber and that paradigm of affordability, Payless ShoeSource. Teaming up with Abaeté and Lela Rose for 2007 Fashion Week, Payless, following in Nine West’s footsteps from last year, has started selling several designer shoes on its website, starting at $20. The retailer also worked with Oscar-nominated costume designer Patricia Field (“The Devil Wears Prada”) to create a shoe for the red carpet.
And you know a trend is hot when Madonna wants in on the action. Trading H&M’s billboards for their design room, Madonna released her exclusive H&M line, “M by Madonna,” on March 22. Of course, high fashion for low prices still requires a discriminating eye. But now bargain hunters can hold their own beside the runway’s finest and still have money for rent.
Here’s my quick list of brand-name picks:
What could be trendier than a hue named after NYC’s hipster Mecca? Proenza Schouler’s notched Collar Cotton Blazer in Williamsburg Navy has a retro-style collar, two flap pockets and a one-button front closure with elbow patches and three-button cuffs; target.com, $39.99.
Isaac Mizrahi’s Crosshatch Hinge Clutch Case in Crocodile Brown makes a perfect night-out accessory with room for credit cards, cash, a phone and lipstick; target.com, $14.99.4 Every woman can salute Laura Poretzky for her black “Xavier” Cocktail Boot, created for her Abaeté for Payless line. The heel and short-top combo makes it a sleek, versatile piece that goes well with any getup; payless.com, $35.
Mossimo caught on to the rounded toe craze with its Gemini Round-Toe Heel Boots in chocolate. Their simple, calf-high look makes them easy to pair with everything from jeans to dresses; Target stores, $29.99.
Proenza Schouler’s Button Front Skirt is available in Dark Wash denim, Showgirl Purple and Avalon Sea—a vibrant turquoise hue. The pencil fit hugs until just above the knee with two slant-front pockets and fabric-covered buttons down the front; target.com, $29.99.
And the best part? Unlike thrift garb, none of these purchases requires double-washing just to be safe.