Earlier this year, I started to see the term ‘quiet luxury’ pop up repeatedly. I was surprised that so many people were treating this phenomenon like a new concept (clearly, I keep forgetting how old I am and how many fashion cycles I’ve already been through); I was also confused by which items people started to describe as quiet luxury. In my head, a cashmere camel coat from Max Mara was ‘quiet luxury’, not a taupe, nylon polo neck from off the high street.
For the benefit of those who spend less time on the internet than I do, quiet luxury is the practice of investing in high-quality pieces that favour longevity and craftsmanship over logos, flash and a quick turnaround. In a nutshell, quiet luxury is usually associated with old money, whereas people with new money who still need to prove to everyone that they have more than three euros in their bank account advertise the fact they are rich by being walking designer label billboards. Traditionally, the latter group of people were considered vulgar for being so in-your-face and showy.
Apart from the obvious classist, divisive issues quiet luxury undoubtedly raises, there is a further, greater problem in the fashion world that no one is talking about and that is sustainability. The thing is that, while in the past luxury did mean durability, that isn’t necessarily the case today. As all fashion houses have sought to cut down more and more on costs and moved almost all their operations to machined factories in China, designer items are not lasting quite as much as they used to. This means that more than a couple of the pillars that used to hold up the concept of luxury, quiet or otherwise, have ceased to exist. Like most other things, what we seem to have been left with in 2023, is a superficial, hollowed-out meaning of what elegance entails. It’s the aforementioned taupe, nylon polo neck: it has the right colour and look as long as you don’t get close enough to touch it.
I think the trick here is the usual: quiet, or loud, wear whatever makes sense to you and expresses you the best. Every single thing you put on your body sends a message to the world, so it’s really up to you whether you want to blend in or stand out. What we certainly shouldn’t be silent about is being exploited by fashion houses that are no longer even making the effort to offer quality and imperishability. True luxury doesn’t come from following what you think you should wear and buy to fit in; it comes from having the freedom to make the fashion decisions that make sense to you.