A Fashion Subculture That’s Gone Popular – WWD

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A Fashion Subculture That’s Gone Popular – WWD

When Season Four of “Succession” premiered on HBO Max, fans prepared for the return of the eccentric and super-wealthy Roy family. And they got it — plus a season of television that’s become one of the biggest conversations in fashion this year.

The show premiered with a fashion bang. The “ludicrously capacious” Burberry handbag scene, where character Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) critiques Bridget (Francesca Root-Dodson) for carrying a Burberry Title crossbody bag with a $2,890 price tag, went viral.

“What’s even in there? Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? I mean, Greg, it’s monstrous,” Tom said in a scene. “It’s gargantuan. You can take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job.”

Nicholas Braun (Greg Hirsch) and Matthew Macfadyen (Tom Wambsgans) in “Succession.”

Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Fashion trends on the show — minimalist shapes, neutral colors, tailored suiting and invisible branding — have propelled interest in how the ultra-wealthy dress, and in “quiet luxury,” which has seen an increase in searches.

“Quiet luxury” refers to understated clothing made with very high-quality materials.

Google searches for “quiet luxury,” “stealth wealth” and “old money style” skyrocketed by 684, 990 and 874 percent, respectively, after the first “Succession” episode aired.

Quiet luxury may not be a trend — but it is certainly trending.

Karolina Zmarlak, creative director of KZ_K Studio, founded her brand on the principles of luxury, minimalism and slow fashion. Rather than selling seasonal collections, she does curated drops of core offerings. She offers a trenchcoat for $1,945 and a black pant for $1,250.

KZ_K Studio Warm Cycle collection.

courtesy photo

For Zmarlak, “quiet luxury” refers to “a woman who has developed a personal style that she believes in and comes from her own confidence. She doesn’t look to trends. This means she wants pieces that aren’t good for just one season or thrown away after a few times wearing it. She wants investment pieces that are timeless and of high-quality crafted materials.”

Zmarlak doesn’t see quiet luxury as a seasonal trend.

“There’s an evolution within the American clients who want more of the minimalist ‘French girl’ style. They want that look that seems it took very little for them to pull together. I’ve been having that conversation regularly with many of my clients. They want to buy less and have more things of higher value,” she said.

For Zmarlak, quiet luxury is a subculture that now has a broader appeal. While she acknowledged many companies build their profit margins off of fast trends, others have been built off of clientele models and minimalist pieces. As an advocate for sustainability in fashion, Zmarlak said she also feels the quiet luxury movement is tied to the broader conversation about sustainability in fashion.

“When designing for trends comes into play, after two seasons, companies are left asking what they do with that excess inventory from trend-based designs, and then you have more waste,” she said. “With quiet luxury and minimalist style, you’re designing for seasonless luxury, meaning customers can keep their pieces longer and reduce fashion’s effect on the ecosystem,” she explained.

Others in the fashion industry agree that while the term quiet luxury is trending, being a minimalist isn’t something new. Venk Modur, a Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist who works with “Succession” star Brian Cox, said, “Minimalism has been around for decades. Just look at brands like Jil Sander, Loro Piana and Hermès. I recently styled Brian Cox in Loro Piana to reflect the ‘quiet luxury’ style.”

Loro Piana, known among a certain set for cashmere and white sole shoes, recently took out ads that pictures its shoes and said: “If you know, you know.”

For pieces to fall into the quiet luxury movement, they must be timeless, made of “the finest quality fabrics,” and not have visible logos, Modur said. Then, they will be “forever wearable,” Modur said.

However, the idea that the ultra-wealthy wear beige (and other neutrals) is rooted in American culture, Modur noted.

“I am a first-generation American and Indian by heritage. In my culture, wealth is associated with bright colors that are loud, bold, beautiful and bright. That’s just part of our culture and rich heritage. There are also many African countries that are culturally similar to India in that way, where wealth and opulence is associated with bright, beautiful colors when it comes to fashion. The idea of minimalism being associated with wealth is a very American perspective.”

Today, when people are talking about quiet luxury, they simply mean designer pieces that don’t have logos, Modur said.

Those pieces have long been bestsellers, luxury buyers say.

Former buyer and current content creator Ivanka DeKoning worked in the luxury fashion industry for 10 years, primarily as a buyer for high-end department stores including Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue, focusing on brands including Michael Kors Collection, Marc Jacobs and Jason Wu.

“The American luxury houses with minimal to no branding and logos on their merchandise were some of the biggest power players and profit generators during my years as a buyer,” DeKoning said. “Multimillionaire customers with that level of affluence aren’t coming in and buying trendy luxury brands off the rack. While those brands still have trendy products that sell, high-net-worth customers are looking for…tried-and-true pieces that are timeless and won’t be over after two seasons. Customers spending large sums of money on investment pieces aren’t going after logo items. They want things they can still wear in 10 years.”

DeKoning also rebukes the idea of quiet luxury as a trend, and rather sees it as an aesthetic choice that has been around for ages.

“The more we are thinking and talking about it now, the more it seems like a trend,” she said. “However, when you dress classic in a trenchcoat and cashmere sweater, that’s a timeless look reflective of personal style. To a quiet luxury consumer, their aesthetic is an entire lifestyle.”

Retailers are seeing an uptick in demand from shoppers asking for quiet luxury pieces.

Laure Dubreuil, founder and creative director of The Webster, said the business has shifted toward more minimalist pieces, and away from lots of bold colors and prints.

“Over the past several months, we have noticed customers requesting more minimalist and ‘quiet luxury’ pieces. With our fall and winter 2023 buys, we went after quiet luxury pieces in a big way. The offering from our brands selling quiet luxury pieces was robust, too, which gave us a lot of variety to choose from.”

Dubreuil said The Webster’s most in-demand and bestselling brands are Khaite, The Row, Wardrobe NYC, Celine and Bottega Veneta.

Khaite RTW Fall 2023

Courtesy of Khaite

Dubreuil sees quiet luxury as a response to several seasons of logomania, with a sustainability tie-in.

“I find myself often, when purchasing pieces, thinking about what I want to save and pass down to my daughter, which also shows the longevity that investing in quiet luxury has,” she said. “That thoughtfulness that comes with the quiet luxury brands expands into a more sustainable mindset, investing in pieces of quality that will last more than a season or two.”

The aesthetic is also part of the post-COVID-19 fashion cycle, Dubreuil said.

“During the pandemic, we all witnessed our clients living vicariously through their purchases, leaning into the maximalist approach and buying for a time when they could eventually be out and about wearing their party dresses and heels,” she said. “The mindset has shifted as things have become more open, and now it’s almost as if we do not feel that everything needs to be bold to be a moment. So while quiet luxury is not a total rebellion against those maximalist styles, it’s more of an awakening for clients to challenge their own styles to have range.”

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