Have you ever wondered: “Why is this personalised T-shirt so bloody expensive? I mean, it’s just a T-shirt!” Many of us have been there, it is one of the most pressing questions of our generation. Along with “Why haven’t you replied to my WhatsApp?” Yes, I know. This is why I’m here, to make the questions that matter.

Even though it has taken a tumble in recent years, due mostly to economic growth in Asia slowing down (only China accounts for 25% of the entire market), the luxury goods industry still made €253 billion in revenue this past year.

So what is exactly that makes this industry tick? How do they sell stuff that’s so overpriced that even the designers themselves won’t put upon with? It’s not the dresses just so you know. High-end brands make most of their money through licensing — why do you think every Christmas season we are attacked by endless hordes of perfume ads? Even though we may never see them down the runways of Milan, New York and Paris, products like T-shirts are the ones that keep these juggernauts of overpriced fabric afloat. So let’s take a look at what they have to offer, shall we?

Note: Designers don’t make T-shirts, they make tops.

Why are some fashion brands so terribly expensive?

The answer, like so many things in life, is not that simple. Some might just say, it’s designer clothes! Of course, they’re expensive, but that would just be stating the obvious.

#1 Productions costs

One of the most obvious answers to the outrageous prices is the production costs. Luxury brands tend to work with higher quality materials than high street retailers. These companies also tend to (completely or in part) produce their products in Europe which have a significantly more expensive manufacturing labour than a country like India or Vietnam.

#2 Limited production

In order to create exclusivity, some brands produce 100 tops instead of a 1000 and what working with bulk orders will teach you is that the more garments you order then the cheaper the price per unit will be.

#3 Research and talent

Higher end lines spend more time and do more research to develop their products. In an interview with The New Yorker, former creative director of Lanvin Alber Elbaz stated that he had to create five to six dresses in order to present just one. This former employee of Calvin Klein also comments on how inspired she was by the amount of time and effort spent on each piece. In comparison, brands who do “Fast Fashion” like Zara just copy fresh looks of designer’s runways and call it a day. 

#4 Marketing

Fashion shows are very expensive to produce! Once upon a time, the purpose of these events was for buyers to look at the latest creations and order them for their respective retailers. In the age of YouTube shopping hauls and Instagram models charging six figure numbers to take a snap with a particular product, the old fashion show purpose doesn’t work anymore. Now instead the runway is used for marketing. Ever looked at one of those outfits and thought, “Who wears that?” The reality is that nobody does! The clothes that get featured on those shows don’t even make it to production most of the time. Appearing on magazines is also very expensive. If you don’t believe me, go check what Vogue charges for a spread. Basically, when you’re purchasing a product you’re also paying for the ad that told you that that product existed in the first place.

Note: Check 8 fashion ad campaigns that made history.

#5 Strategic Brand Positioning

Back in 2014, Burberry announced it would be increasing the price of their products to make the brand more exclusive. This could also translate as making themselves less affordable to lose some undesirable “less rich” customers. Not long after, Mulberry announced it would be implementing a similar strategy, but in the opposite direction. Yes, they’re two different companies, don’t get them confused. At a first glance this might seem like a bad idea, why would you want fewer customers? But that’s the game these brands play. They’re not just selling a T-shirt, their selling status and exclusivity. When you wear a Burberry coat, you’re also telling the world “I can afford this”. It also makes sense when we realise that the number of millionaires around the world has increased considerably in the past decade.

#6 Because they can

As long as there is a market for it, price tags will continue to get fatter and fatter. As simple as that.

So now that we’ve gone over the reasons why these brands are so pricey, let’s take a look at some of the most expensive.

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Some of the most expensive fashion brands in the world

We googled conducted a research on the most expensive fashion brands in the world, followed by pursuing some of their most expensive, currently for sale, t-shirts and this is what turned up:


The British brand best known for its trench coats has repositioned itself in recent years as a leader in luxury fashion thanks in part, as we already mentioned, to strategies like raising their prices. Even though the company recently announced it will cut jobs to save on some money after a shaky 15/16 season, it still has a profit of around £2,500 million.


Lace vest by Burberry
Lace vest by Burberry

Vest: £395



This Italian label is often quoted as one of the most expensive and profitable brands in the world with annual profits of up to €800 million. Led by creative director Karl Lagerfeld, the brand has had its fair share of controversy thanks to its famous fur coats and most recently opposing Rome’s 2016 Pride and then quickly changing their mind.


T-shirt by Fendi
T-shirt by Fendi

T-shirt: £420 Pounds


Philipp Plein

This German designer is relatively new in the fashion scene but still has become the favourite of many. Now his shows are one of the most expected during Milan fashion week. I couldn’t find any information on how much they make on sales every year, but according to this Forbes article, he makes more money than Roberto Cavalli, who has been in the industry for much longer. 


T-shirt by Philipp Plein
T-shirt by Philipp Plein

T-Shirt: £480



The brand that became famous thanks to its bamboo embellished purses, has gone through many identities throughout the decades. From a relatively conservative brand, it turned into a Rock & Roll glam groupie during the Tom Ford years, then into a Boho Chic girl when Frida Giannini was in charge and now has resurfaced as an androgynous, 70’s nostalgic creature thanks to the hands of new creative director Alessandro Michele. Gucci is on Forbes’s list of valuable brands at the 47th place (at the time of writing this post) with almost $4.3 billion in yearly sales.


T-shirt by Gucci
T-shirt by Gucci

T-shirt £510



The line that made headlines earlier this year thanks to its DHL top (which goes for £185), rose some eyebrows when it set up for sale a Snoop Dogg T-shirt that costs roughly £640. Aside from it being just a cotton tee, it is also probably just a copy of one of the rapper’s early merchandise.


T-shirt by Vetement
T-shirt by Vetement

T-shirt: £640



A favourite of the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Armani made itself famous for being one of the first to design with the working woman in mind back in the 80’s. The Italian company features six different clothing lines available to the consumer of which Giorgio Armani is the most expensive. The brand has an annual revenue of €1.8 billion.


T-shirt by Giorgio Armani
T-shirt by Giorgio Armani

T-shirt: £650


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This French brand is probably best known for the famous Birkin, one of the most expensive purses in the world. To give you an idea, a vintage Birkin can be yours for the mere price of £62,000. The company has a revenue of roughly $5.3 million.


T-shirt render by Hermès
T-shirt render by Hermès

High Neck T-shirt: £700



The opulence of Italian luxury and decadence has always been and always will be Versace. Even through their up and downs, most notably the death of its founder Gianni Versace, no one can deny the influence this brand has had in the industry of fashion and pop culture. Versace’s profits raised to around €480 million in recent years.


T-shirt by Versace
T-shirt by Versace

T-shirt: £750


Dolce & Gabbana

Regardless of the many controversies Domenico and Stefano have endured over the years and it is still one of the highest earning high-end fashion brands. According to fashionmag.com, the company founded by the Italian duo generated £800 million in the last fiscal year.


T-shirt by Dolce & Gabbana
T-shirt by Dolce & Gabbana

T-shirt: £875



Ralph Lauren

The American brand, named after its founder, owns around 15 lines between men and women’s clothes, being Ralph Lauren Collection the most expensive. The company makes £512 million in revenue a year. 


Beaded t-shirt by Ralph Lauren Collection
Beaded t-shirt by Ralph Lauren Collection

Beaded T-shirt £900



Valentino may not make headlines as often as its competitors, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with. This year the brand just hit for the first time $1 billion (around £700 million) in revenue.


T-shirt by Valentino
T-shirt by Valentino

T-Shirt: £ 1125



The brand that was made famous thanks to the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, has gone through a makeover in current times thanks to its creative director Riccardo Tisci. From upper east side Manhattan to underground New York scene. Givenchy earns around €917.7 million in sales each year.


T-shirt by Givenchy
T-shirt by Givenchy


T-shirt: £1,600

At the end of the day if these brands are overpriced or not, or if it is worth buying from them or not completely depends on you, the consumer. Art is valued by how much people are willing to pay for it and fashion, which is art for some, tends to follow the same route. It doesn’t matter how expensive a particular item might be, as long as you’re the one paying the bill, it is nobody else’s business.

Did we miss any ridiculously overpriced t-shirt? If so, then please let us know in the comments below or you can also join the conversation through any of our social media outlets. For more awesome content, keep reading the Printsome Blog.

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Harald is one of the founders of the Printsome-Insights blog! Previously, Senior Content Writer, with over five years experience writing about garment printing, he's now been whisked away into entertaining other audiences with his fabulous words. For over seven years he has been proofreading, blogging, copywriting newsletters/landing pages/social media + editing. Whilst also bringing Printsome brand to life with voice and soul. He is also well-versed in enforcing content styles and content strategies for B2B businesses.

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