Welcome to the first chapter of Fashion Decoded, where I peel back the layers on fashion’s intricate and often confusing language, structure, and inner-workings to give you, the reader, a more complete overview of the industry and the complicated universe of style, fashion production and manufacturing, marketing, and more.
I have been reading fashion magazines since I was a teenager and have always wondered what the phrase “Price Upon Request” meant when printed next to the product details on a high-fashion editorial. It added a layer of mystery to the garment and set it apart from all of the other items on the page that were accompanied by a price. My thinking at the time was that the price must be so astronomical that they dared not print it for fear of putting off the more modest shopper. However, after speaking to multiple industry insiders, including Savoir Flair‘s very own editors responsible for putting together editorials that featured those mysterious “Price Upon Request” products, I found my answer. “Price Upon Request” actually refers to any product that is produced only for editorials and is never actually put into production for consumer purchase. So, instead of “Price Upon Request”, the phrase should actually read “This Product Doesn’t Actually Exist for Purchase At All.”
Why do editors put the products in the editorials if they are unavailable to the general (or even the elite) consumer? Fashion houses create some clothes that represent the upper reaches of creativity their craftsman and seamstresses are capable of as a way of demonstrating the highest level of their abilities. Although these couture-level creations represent a mere fraction of what makes it onto the runway, they are often used as the “wow” factor in the show that sets the bar for the brand going into the next season. They are then used in editorials to substantiate the brand’s skills and talents in the creative field, like a tool of enticement, which is essentially psychological bait-and-switch. For instance, you see a gorgeous embroidered gown in the pages of a magazine, and visit the brand’s website in hopes of finding a version for yourself. While you’re browsing their boutique or website, you might not find the gown (because it was never intended for production or sale to begin with), but you will find versions of the gown that will satisfy your hunt, and are likely much more affordable than the gown that sent you searching in the first place. As much as it sounds like a false fantasy, it’s actually a brilliant marketing tactic that has worked for decades. One caveat to this strange process is that if designers experience enough requests and interest in the product, they will put it into production, at their discretion, of course. However, the next time you see “Price Upon Request”, you’ll know better than to call up the local branch of the brand to inquire, because now you know the truth of the phrase.