Even as the luxury goods industry has been commandeered by Louis Vuitton (which continues to be the most valuable luxury brand on a global scale) and the likes of Gucci, Hermes and Prada, there is a significant segment of the wealthy who do not want to be branded. They instead prefer to be understated and are willing to pay a premium for ‘quiet luxury’ – social distinction without a brand mark, that which only their fellow patricians can recognise.
Think of Gwyneth Paltrow and her understated elegance, the low-key cool displayed by French designer Myriam Schaefer, or Monaco royal Charlotte Casiraghi who has been working the stealth luxury look for years. These ladies choose understated chic over conformity, preferring under-the-radar fashion that doesn’t need bells and whistles.
Low on frills, this serene and subtle take on luxury is fast becoming the standard bearer for a new kind of elite. Not carrying your style credentials on your sleeve has become such an accepted code of fashion literacy that signifiers of similarly understated classicism are causing a sensation with the quiet approach. While understatement is their message, their penchant for elegance is stated quite loudly and clearly.
Based on minimalist, classic elegance and anonymous label luxury, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row delivers polished perfection season after season. The unapologetically high-priced brand’s updated take on bespoke tailoring and modern basics adds a modern, studied twist to the sophisticated urban woman’s wardrobe. Named in reverence of London’s Savile Row, it speaks fashion’s language.
It explores the strength of simplistic shapes and muted luxury, both of which speak to discretion. Silk jacquards and cashmere with impeccable details and tiny flashes of mink on finely-crafted silhouettes look deceptively simple, but they emulate and reflect the fashion house’s standards of exclusivity. While the prices are high – a basic T-shirt sells for $1,100 and a camel wool coat for $3,500, while an alligator backpack goes for $37,000 – the brand has become a force to be reckoned with, especially for the upper echelons of the fashion industry.
With its discreetly luxurious leather bags, heritage luggage brand Moynat is quietly building its business by refusing to be ubiquitous. Established in 1849, it predates Louis Vuitton by five years and was one of the very first luxury bag brands, but remained determinedly niche as the 20th century progressed and marketing became the buzzword of the day. Now acquired by LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Moynat boutiques can be found in places like Paris, London and Hong Kong.
Moynat represents a ‘less is more’ quality to the eye, though its bags and leather goods for men and women are far-removed from the ‘it’ bag. Products such as the Rejane, the Ballerine and the Quattro are minimal yet classic-contemporary. They’re made from lustrous, thick, unblemished and perfectly-grained leather. All this discreet perfection does not come without a price. Moynat’s two most popular bags, the Pauline and the Rejane, sell for about $4,000 each. Other handbags range from $3,340 to $6,680, and exotic skin rings in at over $30,000.
Goyard bags are known to fly under the fashion radar, but are constantly sought after by cognoscenti who prize their classic style and craftsmanship. The French trunk and leather goods maker embodies understated elegance, and at its core values perfect quality while maintaining a mysterious, impressive reputation based on quality and prestige. One even has to examine a piece at close inspection before they are presented with the brand name.
With zero advertising, no e-commerce and very few stockists, Goyard keeps an unprecedentedly low profile throughout the world. While it has become one of fashion’s best-kept secrets, the exclusivity won’t cost an arm and a leg. A classic bag will cost you less than $1,300. The understated elegance comes from attention to detail, which the venerable brand gives to each of its products. Every single unit is handmade, hand-painted, and personalised by French artists.