For those of you out there who think brand and fashion have broken up and don't even go to the same parties anymore, think again.

Brand continues to pull at the heartstrings of consumers after the economic free-fall of 2008, when only 8% of consumers said they cared all that much about brands.

Well, according to 7,500 men and women, 21-65 years of age, this couple is back on after their break, with nearly a third of consumers saying brands are an important factor in their purchase decision – more than tripling in importance in the last four years.

This fashion trend has been confirmed by recently reported retail sales where high-end retailers, i.e., those selling brands, have done significantly better than retailers selling predominantly on price.

So, what was it exactly that put the spark back in this union? A little something called meaning, which is a big factor in how people decide what something is worth to them. In fact, the change in the economy was what drove up the importance of true brands – brands that actually stand for something in the minds and hearts of consumers.

For the back-story on what brands made the all right moves in this successful consumer romance, click here for more on the Fashion Loyalty Index study and the complete fashion brand rankings.

By the way, it's not only consumers who feel this way. Professionals too. Legendary designer Giorgio Armani once noted, "The difference between fashion and apparel is brand."