I Have Expensive Taste on a Tight Budget—This Is How I Shop Designers for Less

Working in fashion means you have regular close encounters with some of the most luxurious clothes and accessories out there. And while the job of a fashion editor may appear glamorous thanks to these privileges, it's most often the case that our budgets don't always stretch to actually being able to buy these designer pieces. Being exposed to the beauty of designer collections for so long—I’ve been in the industry ten years now—has given me rather expensive taste, and while I've gotten very good at knowing which pieces are genuinely worth investing in, I've also had to learn ticks and tips for how to shop designer-looking buys for less.


(Image credit: @emilyjdawes)

I’m a minimalist at heart, so my dream wish list is usually full of simple, elegant and timeless pieces that reflect a quiet kind of luxury—a The Row cashmere knit or a Max Mara camel coat would be on my fashion bucket list, for example. Yes, sometimes I will save up for the odd worthy Toteme buy or Loewe handbag to elevate the rest of my outfits. For my day-to-day wardrobe, however, I’ve gotten really good at finding equivalent, more affordable buys. You can take my weekly column on the most expensive-looking high-street buys as proof.

Over the years, I’ve started to notice some recurring trends and design details from my favourite luxury labels on the high street. And since I’m here to impart my top tips on how to shop designer pieces for less, I thought it was about time I shared my insights with you. For example, if it’s a cult Toteme knit that's out of my budget, I know to look to H&M’s premium collection for something with a similar minimalist look; if it’s a pair of wide-leg trousers from The Row, I’ll turn to COS; or for chic coats and on-trend denim, I’ll check Arket in place of Raey. Of course, my pairings are up for debate and sometimes change with the seasons, but it's a place to start when looking for affordable alternatives to those expensive designers. 

Keep scrolling to see the specific high-street brands I look to when I want to shop designer-looking items for less.

If you love: The Row


(Image credit: The Row SS23 courtesy of The Row.)

Shop at: COS

If you love: Raey


(Image credit: Raey courtesy of MATCHESFASHION.com.)

Shop at: Arket

If you love: Totême


(Image credit: Toteme)

Shop at: H&M Premium Collection

If you love: Max Mara


(Image credit: Courtesy of Max Mara)

Shop at: Mango

If you love: The Frankie Shop


(Image credit: The Frankie Shop)

If you love: Joseph


(Image credit: Joseph)

Shop at: Jigsaw

Up next: The 9 Most Expensive-Looking Pieces on the High Street This Week

Emily Dawes
Affiliate Editor

Emily Dawes is the very definition of a fashion multi hyphenate. An editor, stylist and writer with over eleven years’ worth of experience in the industry, Emily is known for her impeccable taste, elegant outfit choices and being able to spot the next big thing in fashion from a mile off. Our readers loyally trust her advice and shopping suggestions; so much so she began her own column documenting the most expensive-looking pieces on the high street, which has become a top-performing piece of content for the Who What Wear brand.

Emily has worked for Who What Wear UK since 2020 in a myriad as roles, spanning from contributing editor and branded content editor. Now, she holds the position of affiliate editor and is responsible for the brand’s overall affiliate strategy, ideation and content execution. Working closely with Who What Wear UK’s affiliate manager, Emily has been instrumental in securing and nourishing brand partnerships, surpassing her goals as standard. Leading the team in tentpole shopping moments including Black Friday and Peak Trading, with Emily’s guidance and leadership, team Who What Wear is in a stronger affiliate position than ever before.

Prior to joining the Who What Wear team, Emily served as YOU Magazine’s acting fashion editor where she managed the fashion team and oversaw all fashion content output for the fast-paced weekly title. Emily is a stylist in her own right, having worked with a slew of VIP clients including writer and television personality, Elizabeth Day, as well as styling and art directing several celebrity cover shoots for glossy print publication, Grazia. Her adept fashion knowledge means brands regularly sought out to work with her as a consultant: previously she has developed marketing and content plans for brands for Cocoon and Edge of Ember. Before entering the industry, Emily obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English and American Studies with International Study from Nottingham University. Fun fact: Emily spent a year studying in America which saw her join a sorority during her time there.

When she’s not working or tracking down the chicest, new-in items to share with our audience, you’ll find Emily bestowing her East London home with her stylish flair, reading everything from the classics to cowboy romance novels and escaping to the country with husband, baby boy and dog, Roo, whenever she can.

Emily is currently on maternity leave.