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Quiet Luxury, Are You Buying Into It?

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Ever since major top tier luxury fashion brands started toning down the maximalist vibe last fall, something called ‘quiet luxury’ has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Apparently, if you’re a gazillionaire all the money you have speaks for itself. At the bank and when you dress up. “If you know, you know,” as the saying goes. Plus, churning out loud, multicoloured pattern mixes unto a cacophony of layering is seen as a risky proposition in this shaky economy. Or at least that’s the current belief…

The titans of style who used to rule the runways and all the subsequent trends massively trickling down to high street and fast fashion outlets have now been replaced.

Gone is Alessandro Michele from Gucci, who singlehandedly taught us all to joyously combine interlocking G patterns, flower prints, ruffles and different types of fabrics (Lamé! Velvet! Chiffon!) into one single ‘fit. Same with American designer Jeremy Scot, who was the Creative Director of Italian fashion house Moschino from 2013 to March 2023. Since fall 2022, both these creatives have left their positions in the pinnacles of fashion. Much to the chagrin of hardcore fashion enthusiasts who thrive on true creativity and inventiveness when it comes to clothing.

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Minimalism Redux

This toning down of loud clothing into a more minimal vibe follows the economic downturn we’ve been experiencing. Climbing interest rates, talks of a recession, and a gloomy post-pandemic world has instilled fear in the most stoic of consumers.

Some fashion critics see a parallel between the rise of quiet luxury and the onset of minimalism in early 90s fashion, at the helm of which presided Donna Karan and her compact wardrobe system of bodysuits and sarongs in rich, quiet fabrics. A style which made somewhat of a comeback right after the financial debacle of 2008, and which we tentatively called ‘normcore’.

Or was that a fancy, quasi-intellectual, name to call clothes we just could afford and wore to go everywhere? Not everyone can indulge in different types of wardrobes, depending on the time of day and activity. Right? Although it’s nice to imagine some people consciously choose a neutral palette and just naturally curate a selection of pieces that they can rotate with everything in their closet, without any clashes. Sometimes it’s just being thrifty because that’s all one can afford.

So despite there being a similarity, some quiet luxury looks are light years away from those that play in the realms favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow and her closet fully stocked, no doubt, with Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli, premium Italian brands which have been offering ultra-classic and ultra-expensive garments for decades. Like your everyday $4,400 cashmere joggers, for example. And clothing from American-based The Row (owned, surprisingly, by the Olsen twins who became famous as child actors dressed in bubble gum looks).

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The End of Bling?

It will be hard, over time, for luxe brands to completely give up on their logos. Because if minimalism does come back, en masse, unless someone has an extremely well-trained eye, it will be difficult to distinguish a four-figure super high-end cashmere sweater from a normcore acrylic version. But then again, who really cares unless you’re the wearer? And all your coterie of mega-rich friends…

Fashion and culture journalist Eugene Rabkin argues in an op-ed in Business of Fashion, that “In recent decades, shopping for luxury fashion has become a more aspirational pursuit. The average luxury customer no longer consumes to enjoy well-crafted products nor to discreetly signal status to peers, but to broadcast clout to the world, in the street and on social media.”
Will Quiet Luxury be that much of a deal once summer 2023 settles in and the movie Barbie launches, with its megadose of high-watt neons and naked skin showing off in the hot summer sun? Hmmm… At last count on TikTok, Barbiecore is still straining super strong. Quiet luxury? Not so much.

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