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Why ‘steal wealth’ and ‘quiet luxury’ are having a moment in fashion

When Gwyneth Paltrow showed up at a nondescript courtroom in the US’s landlocked mountain state of Utah to contest a lawsuit against her, she masterfully played into her image as wellness guru, entrepreneur, and super-wealthy celebrity. Her secret weapon? A wardrobe filled with “quiet luxury” – unbranded yet undeniably one-percenter pieces. Notoriously pricey yet unfussy brands like The Row, Celine, and Paltrow’s own G Label by Goop were represented in muted, earthy tones of camel, olive green, and gray. The star announced her arrival on the first day in a plush, ivory colored polo neck that can only be kept pristine thanks to zero manual labor and pricy dry-cleaning. It was a sartorial masterstroke; at once signaling that yes, she is obviously wealthy but she is also respectful of the proceedings, and not here to show off or intimidate.

Paltrow’s frantically followed court appearance further elevated a style that’s been gaining traction in the public consciousness. While obviously recognizable luxury brands – Chanel, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton – are seeing a resurgence in sales and still drive ends and growth, a counterpoint to their aesthetic is also growing in visibility. Quiet luxury is a trend that emphasizes subtle elegance, refinement, and quality craftsmanship over overt logos or conspicuous consumption. It is characterized by a minimalist aesthetic, attention to detail, and the use of high-quality materials. “Quite luxury is a subtle yet impactful way of dressing that conveys one’s style, but mostly status, through timeless designs and superb cuts and craftsmanship,” says Saudi designer Sadeem Alshehail. “Its allure is in its understated elegance and effortless sophistication. It may be quiet, but it speaks volumes to those who know.” Dubai-based designer Faiza Bouguessa agrees, saying that for her namesake label, the focus is on “the beau of the garment itself rather than excessive ornamentation.” She continues, “It allows individuals to make a statement through their s le without being overly showy, emphasizing a sense of refined taste and discernment.” Quiet luxury – the so-called “stealth wealth” look – has become a status symbol for many consumers who value understated panache over ostentatious displays of wealth.

It is espoused by brands with a history and a point of view that reach further than just what’s next, and look deeper than the color of the season. Heritage, family, sustainability, and craftsmanship are often at the center of their ethos. At her namesake label Sadeem, Alshehail creates high-end pieces without fleeting ends in mind. Instead, she focuses on ethical fabrics and timeless design. “The decision to go seasonless goes back to my sustainable values in meeting the triple bottom line of people, plant, and profit,” Alshehail shares. Sustainability is one of the pillars of quiet luxury. “At Bouguessa, we use high-quality, sustainable materials and work with suppliers who adhere to ethical labor standards,” Bouguessa says. “For us, quiet luxury is about creating timeless pieces that are both beautiful and functional, with a focus on quality, sustainability, and understated elegance.”

This focus on functionality, investment dressing, and fostering connections lies at the heart of quiet luxury, and sets it apart from other neutrally hued ends such as normcore or minimalism. It is not about choosing the correct shade of cream; it’s about expressing an attitude. It’s about mindfulness and discernment. You don’t need every new It bag because your mother gave you her Birkin, which she in turn got from her mother. It’s the vintage Cartier Tank, the lush cashmere, the unassuming leather. Quiet luxury is about investing instead of spending. “I simply don’t believe that the world needs new clothes every season,” Alshehail continues. “The collections by Sadeem aspire to be collectible wardrobe pieces, as they are timeless in design, and are produced with careful attention to detail. Most materials used are eco-friendly, and the patterns can easily upcyled or recycled or customized.”

Historically, quiet luxury is a recurring style that generally becomes more visible when the world is in economic or societal turmoil. The financially blessed don’t want to show off their money in ostentatious ways – goodbye, Versailles because hello, guillotine. When millions of people are visibly struggling to make ends meet, it seems tacky to show off your heavily branded, expensive designer gear – and astute to lean into pieces that could read as basic, yet for those in the know, are anything but. Thank Max Mara, Loro Piana (a favorite of the billionaire Roy family in Succession), Brunello Cucinelli, Jil Sander, and Brochu Walker – not brands that necessarily crowd the fashion week runways, but ones that have built loyal followings on their stealth wealth sartorialism. The Row, Khaite, and Tibi have cornered the market in the US, with cerebral narratives and rabidly loyal followings. In the region, Jeddah-based Nora Al Shaikh and Dubai-based Saudi designer Daneh Buahmad have also espoused this outlook with their seasonless designs that showcase a thoughtfulness lacking in mass-produced ends. “There is a power to effortless dressing that transcends time,” Buahmad notes. The look can also be seen as a shift away from the constant attention-grabbing and content churning of social media. In the batte between the nouveau riche and old money, there has only ever been one winner, she concludes. “Quiet luxury is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle.”

This article was originally published on Vogue Arabia.

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