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Who the Hell Would Buy Prada's $185 Paperclip?

The extremely expensive paperclip is just the latest in a line of bizarrely priced household items released by beloved designers. We asked a fashion expert to explain why.

by Mitchell Sunderland
Jun 28 2017, 6:02pm

Collage by Lindsay Schrupp

Barney's men's department has begun hawking Prada's $185 paperclip. A replica of the silver paper clips you could buy for $0.0066 on Amazon, the luxury good comes in silver sterling. Average Americans have balked at the cost, but experts see a demand for overpriced household goods.

"It makes them feel more fab!" explains Danielle Greco, who has worked as everything from manager to media personality for the hip, trendsetting retailer Vfiles.

Prada's decision comes after hoards of luxury companies have designed expensive versions of everyday items. Rick Owens has designed water bottles, and his spring/summer 2015 collection featured a $1,918 worry bead that consists of a crystal on a necklace. His extravagant hippy jewelry, of course, is no match for Supreme's sneakerhead empire. The leader in pricey things nobody needs is currently sold out of a $200 red hammer that has its brand written on the bar. (Where someone would wear a hammer remains unclear.)

Greco has purchased similar accessories herself. She recalls splurging on a Louis Vuitton diamond haircube. "I rationalized it with, 'I always wear a ponytail and a tee, so I [think] this might kick an average look up a notch." As a fashion lover and sales person, she understands the psychology behind the decision; consumers believe higher price points equal superior products. The logic also extends beyond fashion to other forms of consumption; Cornell University researchers found in 2014 that people prefer food when they pay more.

Read more: How the Kardashians Keep Getting Away with Copying Designs

But fashion houses' bizarre experimentations have also caused negative publicity throughout 2017. After Balenciaga released a $2,145 version of an IKEA tote in April, the Swedish discount furniture supplier published a guide to identifying their authentic shopping bags. (Step one: "SHAKE IT If it rustles, it's the real deal.")

Chanel faced worse controversy in January, when the company created $1,325 designer boomerangs—which MySpace beauty queen Jeffree Starr touted on Instagram—resulting in many social media users accusing Chanel of appropriating aboriginal culture. "Chanel is extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and deeply regrets that some may have felt offended," the company said in a statement. "The inspiration was taken from leisure activities from other parts of the world… As such, this object was included in a sportswear range."

Chanel continues to sell $1,550 tennis rackets, and fashion magazines love recommending their readers buy luxury duplicates of Office Depot products. ("We're obsessed," Harper's Bazaar wrote of a Chanel lock in 2014.)

So the trend will likely continue as long as shoppers continue to view superiority in designer brands with steep price tags. "Spending $200 on the paperclip may make people feel like it's a status thing," Greco points out.