Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fast Fashion Labels (For Men) Review: Comparison among H&M, Zara and Topman

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating mindless consumption through this article.

Rather, I'm advocating extreme caution and careful consideration before you purchase. I know I did. I was never a clothes horse. In fact, I dislike shopping for clothes! There are simply too many things I calculate for consideration before even buying a piece. Yes, I'm that anal and hyper paranoid. Honestly, being an urban poor - these considerations are super vital so my purchase does not go to waste or worst, sent for the Salvation Army or orphanages later. Or be the receiving end of the aid from Salvation Army, yikes!

Due to these harsh economic times, with no job but cost of living keeps escalating - fashion seem to be the only viable option of escapism. Fashion pieces, to me, are meant to be kept. Not just wear once and throw into storage. With the rise of fast fashion powerhouses like Zara, HM and Topman - a vulnerable and unconsious shopper might get himself sucked into a spellbinding shopping vortex that would chalk up considerable debt if one is not careful or conscious. Apologies to Padini and Uniqlo - you are left out from the comparison review because your clothing range are simply too ordinary to be qualified as fashion? Hopefully, this article would guide you in your shopping spree since now it's the time to splurge for everything's on sale! And perhaps even prevent you from buying anything foolish and wasteful.

Similar shopping bag design as Philosophy
- but the free magazine is a must takeaway!
Among the fast fashion labels - Topman can be considered as the top of the price range. Hence, the brand name itself suits its price tag. Just a T-shirt alone can cost a whopping RM100 and above. What the heck? A simple T-shirt with no design or embellishment of any kind? But the T-shirts are incredibly comfortable to wear since it's made from breathable cotton. Casual wear is uniform across its range, same as its office wear. There's nothing to shout about in terms of its design. I was looking for extreme graphics on its T-shirts and jackets, but the most extreme I saw so far was the flower details behind a jacket (items on sale only) and some bamboo and leave motif which were very light and doesn't stand out that much. During shopping, one must always remember that what looks great on a model or mannequin does NOT mean it will look good on YOU! That's because the model or mannequin is tall and slim unlike us! That's why I always go for jackets or coats because it covers my limitations. Until recently, my body got some nice shoulders that I shop for tank tops. So our perception must be align with reality.

The shopping bag from Topman is made from hard cardboard material with a simple Topman name across the white background. It's shopping bag that reminded me of Philosophy's which is now nowhere to be seen. I value better shopping bag designs so I can carry them around with pride. I have to give credit to Padini for the better shopping bag design - have you seen their latest golden Hari Raya shopping bag? So eye-catching.

Great shoe range
For price range, Zara comes in second highest in the fast fashion category. It also has the widest network of franchise stores. I noticed they also have a wide selection of coats, shoes, ties and jackets. Do watch out for the upcoming winter's season of jacket for it's certainly graphic with stiched-in logos! These are simply too good and expensive for purchase. But if one has the money, why not? It's a rare gem of a jacket but not for an ordinary folk who reisdes in hot weather! Unless you work in an air-conditioned office all day long. But who wants to work in an office, anyway? Yuck!

Jackets and coats - similar with HM but
higher prices
For their sales period, the ones on sale are just plain colours like red, blue and grey without any striking graphic embellishments. Fortunately, I was in love with their footwear range - especially those fancy ones in gold and red (but I did not purchase that one). One needs to be careful of the shoe size for it's completely different size from my sneakers size! Not one size fits all, it seems. I find their T-shirts range are made from a heavier side cotton material. But the graphics on it were more beautiful than Topman. Maybe that's why the heavier material to absorb the graphic colors?

For their shopping bag, it's the dullest one I've ever seen - just a plain grey plastic bag without any handles. Also, stay away from their busiest store like the one at Pavilion for it's pure chaos there! Try their lesser traffic stores to get some peace of mind during their sales period. You also need the space to figure out your purchase and try which size fits you. Like me for example, I went to their Pavillion outlet for the first time, and tried on their shoes. The salesperson just dumped the various shoe sizes at me and went off to serve other customers. Once I tried them on and got my size, I decided not to purchase the shoes from that outlet because everything was so chaotic and disorganised! What if I bought a used shoe there?

Deals, not Sales
If you're looking for the lowest price range in the fast fashion category, this is for you. T-shirts start from RM39.90, which is lower than Topman and Zara! During their Deals season (they don't call it "Sales"), I spotted a striking neon pink tank top at only RM10 at their Quills outlet! It was the last piece on the rack and I quickly snapped it up right before the guy next to me manage to. If you have a rare taste for one-of-the-kind fashionable items (they do carry them but on rare occasions only), you have to move fast for they can be gone in an instant. But they also have the widest chain of stores - so when it comes to their Deals period, if one has the time, one simply must visit all their stores for each may promise an item unlike the other stores. Their tank tops for men have the widest range in terms of color and design (and also cheaper) compares to Zara or Topman which are very limited and more expensive. I think it has to do with the country where it was made from, which is Bangladesh that hires extremely cheap labor - compares to Spain for Zara and Turkey for Topman. For more info, watch the documentary "The True Cost".

MISS: Pasar malam basket case?
Accessories wise, they do have its ups and downs so I would try not to buy their accessories due to some taste issues. They are actually selling those pasar malam baskets made to look like handbags (yuck!) worn by my old aunties. The first batch of their weekend bags collection for men looked great with its leather material. But their second batch, it was made from black sack cloth - which is the poorest material imaginable! Also watch out for the zippers for it can derail after much use. For jackets and coats, their price range is the most competitive and actually shares many similar designs with Topman. Of course, Topman's trench coat is more expensive (RM359) even though the material and design were exactly the same as HM (RM199)!

HIT: Weekend bag at RM99!
For their shopping bag, it's the most recognisable and most seen anywhere! Right in your face brand name in blood red just screams glamor - at everyday prices? Wait, this brand seems more in line with Tesco or Carrefour. But honestly, HM knows branding well and immediately captures the shoppers lonesome addiction for something cheap and fashionable. That's arguable considering some of my Penang friends label HM as too "high class" and beyond their price range. What? Well, I know I'm poor, but I do not want to dress like one.

In conclusion, if you love shoes - go for Zara. If you care for easy and breezy material on your T-shirt, Topman is for you. But if you're someone on the budget but still wants to look "in" then HM. Since this is the sales season, one must be quick and fast to grab the one-of-a-kind garment one likes. If you leave the sales period to prolong too long before you go, you might get the leftovers. I'm talking about fashion pieces, NOT those ordinary T-shirts, pants or shorts. Those you can take your time and procrastinate in your purchase. But not many men are able to identify which are the fashionable pieces - so most would just take their sweet time. But for those with a discerning eye, be swift or this sales period would leave you empty handed.

At least an empty hand with your money unspent, that's still good.

For more articles about FASHION/ART, click below:
Summer Window Display 2016
Fashion as a Tool that Unlocks the Subconscious
Seed Bag for Men Review
Best Fall Winter Fashion Show 2016 (Women)
Jetsetter's Fashionable Guide
HM Fashion Review (Coats Special)
The Ultimate 7 Point Guide to Winning Project Runway
Messenger Bags Special
Tips for Buying Shoes (Sneakers)
Stuff Magazine 9th Anniversary Party
Myanmar Art Review
Student Art Fair

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