HTSI editor’s letter: the big noise about quiet luxury
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This year, quiet luxury has been one of the biggest buzzwords: so commonly used in the language about discreetly tasteful high spending that the whole concept has been loudly satirised on social media and its advocates turned into TikTok memes. In short, quiet luxury describes those labels that offer products in sublime cuts and fabrications, and which eschew big flashy corporate logos and headline-grabbing fashion statements to encourage a sense of discovery instead. It’s a catch-all phrase that suggests a certain classicism in design and longevity of product, as well as, critically, a price sensitivity that seems to have no bar.
Demand for brands at the very top end of the market seems to be more resistant to recent market fluctuations. Both Brunello Cucinelli and Hermès have reported healthy growth this year. And last month saw the return of Phoebe Philo, the former Celine designer and OG of quiet luxury, who released a namesake collection following a career hiatus of six years. The line was launched on 30 October, and featured a limited offering of trench coats, leather bomber jackets and tailoring – many of which cost several thousand pounds. Such was the frenzy at the return of the designer that the site crashed within a few minutes of its arrival, and half of the collection (albeit a small one) sold out within the hour. Philo, of course, said absolutely nothing. The first rule of quiet luxury? Let the product do the work.
The Row is another archetype of the genre. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen founded their label in 2006 when they were only 20 and have since cultivated a cult-like community: fans adore the slouchy silhouettes, the sludgy tonal palette and the focus on clothing that works hard within one’s wardrobe, along with the conversation pieces such as transparent mesh-knit shoes.
Persuading Mary-Kate and Ashley to be interviewed requires a long conversation: the designers’ reluctance to do publicity has arguably become a key part of their allure. The public has been fascinated by the sisters as cultural seers and style icons since the late 1990s, when they were teenage actors, and they have spent their adult lives rebuilding the wall of privacy they were denied throughout their youth. In a rare interview for HTSI, they talk about their near-20 years in business, their growth, their ambitions and how they have determined a career pathway that preserves their integrity as creatives while also protecting the anonymity they crave.
In another exploration of quiet luxury, Baya Simons meets the religious orders who are combining their devotions with a beauty hustle on the side. That monks and nuns have historically been excellent distillers, brewers and chocolatiers is pretty common knowledge. Increasingly, however, the young novice is reviving cosmetology as well. Some orders, such as the monks at Abbazia di Praglia, have been making balms for centuries; others are newer communities: the Sisters of the Valley, for example, are simply women who “live, work and pray together” while producing an apothecary of unguents infused with CBD. Baya finds out what, if anything, unites them, and discovers a common language of good works, contemplation and lots of apiary.
Formula One, meanwhile, is the polar opposite of quiet – an environment in which the screech of tyres is accompanied by the roar of excitable men in headphones and the noisy fog of car exhausts. Since 2021, Aston Martin has been bidding to take on the giants of motor racing, having spent hundreds of millions trying to get a foothold in the sport. Has it been worth it? At the time of writing, the car marque was challenging for fourth place in both the drivers’ and constructors’ standings, but for its backers the work has just begun. As the brand’s owner Lawrence Stroll tells the FT’s head of digital platforms Matt Garrahan, he is confident the investment will see Aston Martin once more reinvigorated as a contemporary luxury brand.
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