Fashion can look a lot like a date. I’ve spent years trying on different styles, silhouettes, and brands in an effort to find the best fit, the most flattering fit. Lots of crushes ended badly (still haunted by you, low rise bootcut jeans).
I mixed high and low, experimented outside of my comfort zone, and bought the “good on paper” separates I thought I needed (i.e. all the beige in my closet). I’ve even done things I’m not proud of…like impulse purchases that I couldn’t afford. Fashion has been one of my most enjoyable and exhausting pursuits.
Until recently. I streamlined my style and fell head over heels in love with one brand: Batsheva. I may pick up used pieces on occasion, but whenever I’m in the mood for something new, I feel calm knowing I only have eyes for that one label. Since I can only afford items from this brand on sale, I only get a few new clothes a year (and I wear them all the time).
I like to think of it as my first “monogamous relationship” with a fashion brand.
I am not alone in my devotion to a single brand. We can be found all over the internet, where YouTubers like Saffron Barker and Zhirelle share “challenge” videos featuring a week’s worth of outfits from a brand, like Missguided or Princess Polly (these are often sponsored, with discounts for subscribers).
Entire threads on Reddit are spent wondering if others wear “one brand”. You’ll find Uniqlo “top-down” shoppers, someone who “pretty much got rid of everything non-Adidas” as well as those who alternate between just a few brands – a polyamorous approach? – “because I know how they fit in and can predict their sale/liquidation patterns.
Of course, there are also plenty of naysayers who argue against any benefit of being excessively brand loyal, saying it’s restrictive and wasteful to give your custom to a brand that won’t do much to you back. But gravitating toward a brand is a widely understood phenomenon IRL; just ask your friends. My Cali-born sister-in-law, Dailey, swears by Reformation for her dresses that last, and Zara for all her everyday basics.
“I buy two dresses a year from Rixo and wear them to death,” says Nikki, another (mostly) one-brand follower. “I think sticking with a brand that you know will last is also important for the environment.”
As sustainability concerns grow and customers become more interested in a company’s ethics, brand monogamy might be a logical next step for some. Nagaz Batliwalla, fashion writer and author of Facial values: new beauty rituals and skincare secrets, tells me she recently noticed comments on fashion forums with users writing that they felt “overwhelmed” with their wardrobes. Perhaps this is a case of “choice overload” (when too many options are available to consumers) and it reduces our desire to buy anything?
“We’re in this moment of vast consumerism and meme culture where everyone wants to be part of every trend and try on every ugly shoe, just because they want to be part of the conversation,” she says, noting that this trend may have reached its peak. For those looking to hone in on a more individual approach, “sticking to one brand or designer may be one way to do that.”
It’s true that you can have as much fashion impact wearing one designer as you can wear hundreds (see: celebrities who act as paid brand ambassadors and lurk outside premieres and parties on the red carpet with a fabulous look in one brand from head to toe).
Restricting your fashion choices can have benefits beyond clothing, freeing up time, money, and free space. It’s a common clothing trope that techies like to adopt in order to focus their energy on more “important” things.
24/7/365 “uniform wearers” also tend to be designer monogamists, like Steve Jobs, who owned over 100 Issey Miyake turtlenecks that he could pair with Levi’s 501 and New Balance 992. Elizabeth Holmes by Theranos took inspiration from Jobs and adopted the same designer turtlenecks in its look.
Even Mark Zuckerberg, whose signature gray t-shirts look deceptively understated, cost hundreds of dollars and come from Italian label Brunello Cucinelli.
Meanwhile, avant-garde minimalist fashionistas pray at the feet of Rick and Raf, investing in well-made neutral pieces that can be worn year after year (Eileen Fisher’s The System of basics has also amassed a young Gen Z and a millennial cult of worshippers).
“What we find when we look at more high-end and luxury customers is that they are much more likely to be loyal to brands and advocate for them as well. It becomes part of who they are, of their social group,” says behavioral psychology professor Carolyn Mair PhD, author of The psychology of fashion. This refers to social identity theory: the brand you wear identifies you as part of a “group” of which you are proud, while distinguishing you from other groups.
For those who want to stand out with their style and don’t know how to go about it, simplification is an unexpected way to do it. That’s how Los Angeles-based artist Ella London of Little Yellow Doors ended up dressing exclusively in yellow, which she started doing to pay homage to her late father at his wedding in 2008.
“It’s really helped refocus my mind,” London says, explaining that it’s made her a more thoughtful client. She’s also discovered that a one-color closet can have emotional benefits, as her monochromatic outfits often attract strangers and lead to more meaningful conversations.
Zuajeiliy Romero, vice president of style at Wishi, Karla Welch’s online style service, agrees that going for a one-brand look can have benefits when it comes to figuring out how to style yourself. style yourself. “Brand monogamy is a great way to dress specifically for workwear,” she says.
Or, for bolder choices. There is no rule that a single brand’s dressing should be subtle. ONE/OF’s Patricia Vota manages to dress more or less monogamously with her own items, made from overabundance fabrics. A tweed swing coat makes the day; the brocade version is perfect for the evening.
“Customers want something special but also a consistent product. When a brand can do both, that’s the secret sauce and it’s something we’re all looking for,” she notes.
I’m as close to “sufficient marriage” as I’ve ever been with a single brand. Wearing my Batsheva dresses gives me confidence and makes me feel connected to my hometown of New York (especially since I’m across the pond in London now).
Perhaps part of the appeal is the sentiment I relate to the designer herself, Batsheva Hay, who designs pieces primarily for herself because it “makes it easy to dress up and also easy to me to know what to do next”.
I ask her if she thinks social media could help people become more monogamous consumers by educating them about brands, but she isn’t convinced.
“It seems to me that people are much more promiscuous because everything is at their fingertips,” Hay shares via email. “But I think people are discovering more small brands this way, which leads them to try more small, sustainable brands. Hopefully, they become loyal customers.
In the best relationships, you never need to think too much. Isn’t that what one must feel when dressing?