Fashion can feel a lot like dating. I’ve spent years trying on different styles, silhouettes and brands in an effort to find the best fit, the most flattering cut. Lots of crushes have ended badly (still feeling haunted by you, low-rise bootcut jeans).
I’ve mixed high with low, experimented outside my comfort zone and bought the “good-on-paper” separates I thought I needed (a.k.a. everything beige in my closet). I’ve even done things I’m not proud of… like impulse-buying items I couldn’t afford. Fashion has been one of my most pleasurable pursuits—and one of the most exhausting.
Until recently. I’ve streamlined my style and fallen head over heels for one brand: Batsheva. I might pick up thrifted pieces on occasion, but whenever I crave anything new, I feel calm knowing I only have eyes for this one label. Since I can only afford items from this brand on sale, I’m only getting a few new garments 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’m not alone in my single-brand devotion. We can be found in every corner of the internet, where YouTubers like Saffron Barker and Zhirelle share “challenge” videos featuring a week’s worth of outfits from one brand, like Missguided or Princess Polly (these are often sponsored, with discounts for subscribers).
Entire Reddit threads are dedicated to wondering if others wear “one brand only”. You’ll find “top to bottom” Uniqlo shoppers, someone who’s “pretty much gotten rid of anything that isn’t Adidas” as well as those rotating between just a few brands—a polyamorous approach?—“because I know how they fit and I can predict their sales/clearance patterns.”
Of course, there are also plenty of naysayers who argue against any benefit of being excessively brand loyal, claiming it’s restrictive and a waste to give your custom to a brand that won’t do much for you in return. But gravitating towards one brand is a largely understood phenomenon IRL; just ask your friends. My Cali-born sister-in-law Dailey swears by Reformation for dresses that last, and Zara for all of her everyday basics.
“I buy two dresses a year from Rixo and wear them to death,” says another (mostly) single-brand devotee, Nikki. “I think sticking with a brand you know will last is important for the environment, too.”
As sustainability concerns mount and customers become increasingly interested in a company’s ethics, brand monogamy might be a logical next step for some. Navaz Batliwalla, fashion writer and author of Face Values: The New Beauty Rituals and Skincare Secrets, tells me she’s noticed comments on fashion forums lately with users writing that they feel “overwhelmed” by their wardrobes. Maybe it’s a case of “choice overload” (when too many options are available to consumers) and it reduces our desire to buy anything at all?
“We’re in this moment of vast consumption and meme culture where everyone wants to be part of every trend and try every ugly shoe going, just because they want to be part of the conversation,” she says, noting that perhaps that tendency has reached its peak. For those looking to hone a more individual take, “sticking to one brand or one designer might be a way to do it.”
It’s true that you can make as much of a fashionable impact wearing one designer as you can wearing hundreds (see: celebrities who act as paid brand ambassadors and prowl red carpet premieres and parties looking fab in one label head-to-toe).
Restricting your fashion choices can have benefits beyond clothes, freeing up time, money and headspace. It’s a common sartorial trope techy types like to adopt in order to focus their energy on more “important” stuff.
The 24/7/365 “uniform wearers” also tend to be brand monogamists, like Steve Jobs, who owned over 100 Issey Miyake turtlenecks he could pair with Levi’s 501s and New Balance 992s. Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes modeled herself on Jobs and adopted the same designer turtlenecks in her look.
Even Mark Zuckerberg, whose signature grey tees look deceptively low-key, 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 younger Gen Z and millennial cult of worshippers).
“What we see when we look at more luxury-end, high-end customers is they’re much more likely to be loyal to brands and to advocate for them as well. It becomes part of who they are, their social group,” explains behavioral psychologist Professor Carolyn Mair PhD, author of The Psychology of Fashion. This relates back to social identity theory—the brand you wear identifies you as part of an “in group” you take pride in, while also distinguishing you from other groups.
For those wanting to stand out for their style who are unsure how to go about it, simplification is one unexpected way to do so. It’s how LA-based artist Ella London of Little Yellow Doors ended up dressing exclusively in yellow, something she first started doing to pay tribute to her late father for her wedding in 2008.
“It really helped me refocus my mind,” London says, explaining it’s made her a more thoughtful shopper. She’s also discovered that a one-color closet can have emotional benefits, since her monochromatic outfits often attract strangers and lead to more meaningful conversations.
Zuajeiliy Romero, VP of Styling at Karla Welch’s online styling service, Wishi, agrees that going for a single-brand look can have benefits when it comes to figuring out how to style yourself. “Brand monogamy is a great way to dress specifically for workwear,” she says.
Or, for bolder choices. There’s no rule that says single-brand dressing needs to be subtle. Patricia Voto of ONE/OF manages to dress more or less monogamously in her own wares, made from surfeit fabrics. A swing coat in tweed does daytime; the brocade version is perfect for evening.
“Clients want something special but also a consistent product. When a brand can do both, that’s the secret sauce and something we’re all after,” she notes.
I’m as close to “smug married” 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 NYC (especially as I’m across the pond in London now).
Maybe part of the appeal is the feeling I relate to the designer herself, Batsheva Hay, who designs pieces mostly for herself, as this “makes it easy to get dressed and also easy for me to figure out what to make next.”
I ask her if she thinks social media might help people to become more monogamous consumers by educating them about brands, but she’s not convinced.
“It seems to me that people are much more promiscuous because everything is at their fingertips,” shares Hay via email. “But I think people are discovering more small brands this way, which leads to them trying more small and sustainable brands out. Hopefully, they become loyal customers.”
In the best relationships, you never need to overthink things. Isn’t that how getting dressed should feel?