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Quiet Luxury Explained

This year’s biggest trend is also its most ephemeral.

By: Jeremy FreedDate: 2023-05-05

There are two kinds of luxury: the kind that announces itself for all to see, and the kind that hides in plain sight. “Quiet luxury,” also referred to as “stealth wealth,” is very much the latter. Quiet luxury is broadly defined as a trend towards timeless, high-quality objects that require a certain degree of inside knowledge to appreciate (think: Brunello Cucinelli knits, Tom Ford shirts, and anything else worn by the Roy family on Succession). Anyone can see a piece covered in logos from a global luxury brand and understand what it represents in terms of cost and currency, but quiet luxury – which is recognizable by its lack of visible branding – places its value in materials, workmanship, and design, all things that require a degree of cultivation to appreciate.

Luxury is by definition exclusive. Whether we’re talking about our homes, our vacations, our clothes, or anything else that we spend our discretionary incomes on, luxury’s distinction from the everyday necessities of life is an essential piece of its appeal. The other defining element of luxury is harder to pin down, but equally potent: the way it feels. It’s the difference between flying in first class and flying in economy, wearing a perfectly tailored suit versus one off-the-rack, or commuting in a luxury car instead of an econobox. As anyone who’s made the transition knows, it’s hard to go back once you’ve been on the other side of the curtain.

In fashion, the last few decades have seen luxury brands transform themselves from family-owned enterprises selling somewhat conservative clothes and accessories to the global 1 per cent into global fashion juggernauts. Thanks to an unprecedented era of consolidation, the rise of social media, and a lot of very sophisticated marketing, luxury brands that were once the domain of aristocrats and millionaires have become middle-class status symbols with a presence at every high-end mall on the planet. The clothes they sell are still expensive, and often of high quality, but they’re much less exclusive than they used to be. Quiet luxury – a trend that’s more about good taste than showiness – is where luxury goes from here.

Perhaps the most unique – and potentially flummoxing – thing about quiet luxury is its ephemeral nature. There are certain brands and pieces you can buy (Loro Piana’s Merino wool t-shirts, for example, are as sumptuous as they are subtle) but quiet luxury is as much about the state of your mind as it is the state of your closet. Quiet luxury requires taking a step back from the noise and hype of our current moment in fashion and choosing pieces for qualities like how they are made or how the fabric feels against your skin. It’s a philosophy that requires you to look beyond marketing and focus on what gives an object its true value – as subjective as that may be. This might require some additional research on your part, but the time spent learning about how cashmere is spun, or the internal architecture that makes a collar roll just so will pay dividends. Not only will it leave you with a better appreciation for what makes the clothes you wear special, but it will also result in a wardrobe built to stand the test of time.