Here in St. Andrews, where people hail from many a stylish locale, having a recognisable style is almost old hat. While wearing a Gucci belt or carrying a Goyard tote in other places would be considered distinguishing — in St. Andrews, it’s just another part of the uniform. But from this, a new problem arises: how can you make yourself stand out in a sea of thousand-dollar purses and designer jeans? How do you curate a “unique” wardrobe, absent an unlimited budget and access to the hottest collections every season?
The answer to these age-old questions may seem to come from a modern solution: fast fashion. Scrolling through ASOS, there are thousands of results in the “tops” category alone. If you buy that pair of platform sneakers you found on the sixth page of the website, maybe no one else will have them! Alas, there are a few caveats to those £30 shoes – not only will they likely fall apart after your first Sinners, but the environmental cost far outweighs any amount you might have saved. This brings us back to square one: where does one find items that combine distinctive style, good value, and guilt-free shopping? The true solution, dear readers, comes by way of boutique brands.
It’s easy to get distracted by brand names and labels — “clout” culture has overtaken the fashion world, both online and off. But constantly relying on big designer brands to lend you some sort of social position will put you in a position of keeping up with the Jones’ (or, in this case, the Kardashians). To avoid this, as well as help you find your own personal sense of style, I’ve developed the following list. Here, you will be presented with a designer item commonly found among St. Andrews students and, listed beside it, an alternative from a smaller, more interesting boutique brand. Hopefully, this will help guide you in your eternal quest for individuality, especially when this journey has a budget.
Hermès Clic H bracelet
Alternative: Adam Marc Jewels Sparkle Star Cuff bracelet
Black enamel and 18k gold flash on the wrists of nearly every girl in our small Scottish village, and owning this pricey piece of metal is no longer a status symbol — it’s just a given of everyone’s wardrobe. However, I’ve always found it quite boring — unless your name begins with an “H”, all you’re doing is serving as a free advertisement for Hermès. Why buy into such a brazen expression of the capitalist bourgeoisie? Go for something a little cooler, a little less obvious, and snag this bangle from one of my favourite boutique jewellers.
Goyard tote bag
Alternative: Polène Paris Number One handbag
Goyard, with its signature graphic pattern and variety of fun colours, is basically ubiquitous among purses, especially for students. It is the perfect carry-all, but with its £2,000 price-tag and predictability as the choice of handbags for St. Andrews students, it’s often not worth its while. An item that will give you more style bang for your buck is this choice (in similarly inventive hues) from French boutique brand Polène Paris. It’s a unique shape, has an interesting structure, and still has room to carry everything from your laptop and Art History textbooks, to your late-night Tesco purchases; so consider this the next time you feel like updating your accessories.
Alexander McQueen sneakers
Alternative: Russell & Bromley PARK UP platform sneakers
In this fashion era, one simply cannot get by without a good pair of white sneakers. Superga, Veja, Golden Goose, and Gucci are all pretty popular varieties, but there’s no denying that this particular pair of Alexander McQueen’s took the world by storm last spring. They’ve managed to maintain their grip on the streetwear world, but I, like most people, have a difficult time dropping upwards of £350 on shoes that will look more than well-broken-in after a singular trip down Market Street (ah, the plight of the white sneaker trend). Under-the-radar brand Russell & Bromley, though still pricey, have found a very cool alternative in their PARK UP sneakers. Less than half the price of the aforementioned McQueens, these comfy slip-ons are not just stylish, but practical — you can wear them with anything, and you don’t have to worry about the laces dirtying and bringing down the overall ~aesthetic~ of your favourite trainers.
Burberry trench coat
Alternative: The Frankie Shop volume trench coat
A classic trench is a staple of all stylish wardrobes, and Burberry has basically cornered the (albeit luxury) market. But a high-quality taupe trench coat isn’t unique to this British brand — plenty of other up-and-comers have more affordable, and honestly, more interesting iterations. The Frankie Shop is one of my favourite new finds, and their outerwear section is full of gems. This piece is perfect for both coffee runs and airport trips, for throwing on before running off to a tutorial or for shielding you from the cold on a walk along West Sands. The colour, cut, and silhouette of this jacket are all refreshing, unique takes on an old reliable, yet still manage to look good on just about everyone.
Prada baguette bag
Alternative: Staud Whitney bag
The revival of late-90s and early-2000s trends have taken both the runways and the sidewalks of St. Andrews by storm, and one of the biggest comeback items of the day is the iconic Prada shoulder bag. However, while the bag carries a certain cultural cache, it’s gotten a bit boring – the only thing truly unique about it is the triangular hardware. A more fun alternative can be found on the website of newcomer Staud Clothing, who I discovered on my Instagram feed (don’t knock it until you try it: see my article on the influencers you should be following). This tiny bag packs a big punch, especially in the snakeskin – though, if you’re looking for something a bit more uniform, it also comes in a lovely shade of deep red (editor’s note: Beck Söndergaard may also be worth a scroll in this particular category).
Look to these essentials (and the brands which spawned them) for some updated style inspiration, and make yourself stand out among the Canda-Goose-clad, Longchamp-carrying masses.