Quiet luxury is taking the fun out of fashion

Quiet luxury is the most toxic thing that’s happened since Covid, they’re all trying to tap into Khaite and The Row due to their growth rate,” said a TikToker in response to the recent New York and London Fashion Weeks shows. 

This is not a singular view, this sentiment is currently being echoed across social media platforms. Why? Quite simply, all the collections seem a little…boring.

There is definitely pressure for designers and CEO’s to adhere to cautious shoppers. They need to encourage them to buy into luxury amid times of economic uncertainty. Buyers say they’re more interested in wardrobe classics over brash logo-fuelled showpieces, prompting trends such as “quiet luxury” or “ladylike” (which is currently the second most searched for term on fashion data search engine Tagwalk). The problem is that when everyone designs with the same logic, it results in monotony. 

The evidence of this repetitive design has been written across each city’s fashion weeks. In New York there was a plethora of tailored coats, blazers and knitwear – groundbreaking? Not really. Michael Kors used ‘timelessness’ as his central theme, cashmere pullovers and tailored coats inspired by figures such as Katharine Hepburn and Whitney Houston. Similar offerings were shown at Tommy Hilifiger and Gabriela Hearst.

A special mention must go to Willy Chavarria, however, who won the 2023 CFDA menswear designer award. Chavarria showed a collection inspired by his Mexican heritage. Blazers with gigantic exaggerated shoulders, ruffled blouses and fabulous wide-leg trousers… It felt cheeky and risky – in all the right ways. Vanessa Friedman, fashion director of the New York Times, wrote “Mr. Chavarria is one of the founding fathers of a new wave of New York designers reinventing American style.” Let’s all have more of that please. 

At London Fashion Week, eyes turned to Daniel Lee’s second collection for Burberry, the bastion of the British show schedule. Dark, sludgy shades of greens and trench coats dominated the runway, but there was never a crescendo – never a hook. Brands that hold your attention almost always use a hook – most commonly a distinct silhouette, the best examples being Prada, Balenciaga and the new (and much coveted) Philo. In the past few years, Prada has made a statement out of leather bombers, for example. Without question, Burberry has its famous trench coat and its iconic check, but so far there has not been a shape that Lee has claimed, and repeated, for the brand.

In Milan, the top trends that appeared to emerge were ‘brown’ and ‘midi’. Ferragamo under Maximilian Davis has this in spades – and lacked its new bite we have become accustomed to. There were heavy military wool coats worn over transparent dresses or head-to-toe leather looks in block colours of tan, khaki and grey. That’s not to say there weren’t a few moments of design joy, this is Maximillian after all. There were beautiful dresses embroidered with hand-sewn layers of leather that looked like fish scales. However, it felt a little flat, lost within a season where many other designers presented similar pieces in a minimalist vein. As one TikTok meme put it “where’s the drama?. 

This is ultimately an issue across the board, at Ferragamo, sales have declined — a 7.6 per cent year-on-year drop to €1.16bn in 2023 — which suggests difficulty in convincing the nearly 100-yr-old company’s older consumer to buy into ‘new’. And the Kering group, whose brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta reported a 6% decrease in revenue in 2023.  

So, with Paris looming what’s next? Will we simply have more minimalist cookie-cut collections? Or will someone dare to bring something new to the table…