Quiet Luxury: What Most People get Wrong about the Latest Fashion Trend

We don’t know about you, but it is getting increasingly difficult to keep our eyes still as they have gotten accustomed to rolling each time they come across some new content on the ultimate quiet luxury or stealth wealth style.

Maybe because everyone suddenly seems to be watching Succession, or maybe because Gwyneth Paltrow’s trial happened at about the same time the trend started to get really ubiquitous: but, whatever it is, ‘quiet luxury’ or ‘stealth wealth’ currently has the fashion world in a chokehold. All of a sudden, branded items are tacky, down to your almost $53,000 Patek Philippe or your lesser-priced $2,700+ LV Air Force 1s.

Gwyneth Paltrow walks into court in what is known as quiet luxury fashion
Although Gwyneth Paltrow was on trial, it was her dressing everyone was focused on and talking about. From the beginning, her fashion choices epitomised quiet luxury and stealth wealth minimalism. Image courtesy of Vogue France

If quiet luxury has always been your thing, it may be unsettling to see everyone and their pet claim to be connoisseurs of the ‘latest fashion trend.’ On the other hand, if it has never been your thing, you may be in a state of FOMO right now, wondering if perhaps it is not time to rethink your fashion choices. Fear not: whatever extreme you’re on, come with us to explore the core of quiet luxury – or, if you prefer, stealth wealth – and see why the hype around this lifestyle is simply that: hype.

A scant history of stealth wealth

With the noise about quiet luxury and everyone offering advice on go-to brands for anyone wanting to jump on the trend, it appears that the concept of understated luxury just started yesterday. But, dig a little further, and you would see that stealth wealth has been around for as long as luxury as a lifestyle exists.

Model in a suit from the Tom Ford 2023 Fall collection
Black suits have always been the ultimate symbol of stealth wealth and power. And they have been around forever. Image courtesy of Tom Ford

Speaking to the Associated Press, Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Museum at FIT, explains that uber-rich people choosing not to flash their wealth through what they wear has been in existence since at least the 18th century.

“You really have to go back to the end of the 18th century. You have the fall of the French monarchy, and then you have this sort of dual rise of industrialization and the rise of urbanization. And so men step into what is called the Great Renunciation,” she said.

“All of this court life goes away, and now you have the real power base being the industrialists. They come in, they build wealth and power, and they’re doing it in a uniform, the dark suit,” Mears stated further. “A lot of scholars have said that this really becomes the respectable uniform if you want to be both powerful and understated.”

Usually, stealth wealth or quiet luxury is a phase that is associated with economic changes. There was the minimalist aesthetic of the 1990s when Donna Karan and Miuccia Prada made practical dressing fashionable, and a show of stealth wealth amid the recession of 2008-09. But unlike most fashion trends, it is one that never really goes away because it has always been more of a lifestyle than it is a fad.

Julia Garner in inventing Anna portraying what quiet luxury looks like
Inventing Anna offers so many lessons. An often overlooked one is how quiet luxury is a lifestyle, especially amongst a subset of the wealthy. Image courtesy of Netflix

A thousand and one examples abound, but perhaps a really obvious one can be found in yet another popular TV series, Netflix’s Inventing Anna. The protagonist, Anna Delvey (Anna Sorokin), learnt a quick lesson in stealth wealth after she and her metallic ruffled mini dress were dismissed from Alan Reed’s office during her first meeting in his firm. Returning unannounced in a black suit from The Row, grey Chanel tote and thick-framed Celine glasses,  she got his attention and convinced him to vouch for her before possible lenders. Hate or like her, you have to hand it to her: Anna understood the lifestyle of the super-rich, and realised quickly that for this group, fashion is less about trends than it is about how people consciously (or unconsciously) express their views and understanding of wealth.

For other real-life examples, look no further than the fashion choices and lifestyle of multi-billionaires like Jack Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and even Bill Gates.

Quiet luxury – to be or not to be?

For a great number of people who are already stealth wealth practitioners, this is not even the question.

Brian Cox and Sarah Snook embody the quiet luxury or stealth wealth lifestyle
For the ultra-rich, stealth wealth is the name of the game. Image courtesy of Vogue

But, for the rest of us, this is one that we have to absolutely consider, especially if we are keen on fashion and the way we express ourselves through it. Is this fashion fad one to follow? Or is it at least one to explore?

Whatever your decision is at the end of the day, just remember that quiet, timeless luxury is a lifestyle that transcends time and seasons. It would never go out of fashion because if there’s anything the Roys in Succession or Anna Sorokin in Inventing Anna have taught us, it is that there would always be a time, place and season where it is imperative to display your wealth without necessarily putting it on display.

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