This week, a look at the rise of quiet luxury products and services. Plus, insight into Thread Styling’s expansion and Tapestry’s latest earnings.
Phoebe Philo said in July 2021 that more details about her upcoming clothing and accessories label, Phoebe Philo Studio, would be revealed in January 2022. But the month has come and gone without a word from her camp. When contacted for comment, a press rep for the company’s minority owner, LVMH, said they were unable to provide an update on the brand’s launch.
As creative director at LVMH-owned Céline from 2008-2018, Philo launched a quiet luxury movement defined by timeless, quality pieces void of branding. In doing so, she earned a cult following of “Philophiles,” who drove a flurry of excitement last summer when news broke about the new brand that will place Philo directly in the driver’s seat; she and her husband are reportedly listed as the sole directors in its filing.
It’s a safe bet that, rather than wait around for Philo’s next move while strictly wearing Old Céline, fans of Philo’s quiet approach to luxury have found solace in other brands of a similar mindset. The Row, Loro Piana, Lemaire, Deveaux, Brunello Cucinelli, Jil Sander and Lafayette 148 all trade on the notion that not every luxury shopper wants to wear an obvious status symbol or trendy logo.
On TikTok, it’s a concept that’s been popularized by Charles Gross (940,000 followers), who regularly posts about “coded” and “quiet” luxury. In August, he called out Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jeff Bezos’ fondness for unassuming, yet costly Brunello Cucinelli basics. “A discrete and quiet display of wealth makes far more of an impact,” he said.
Days prior, he posted about a striped sweater by Loro Piana. “Would you know that it’s Loro Piana and costs $3,500?” he asks. “The people who do know are in this person’s circle, privy to the secret. It’s a strange price for a wool top, but that’s the point.”
The “quiet luxury” category is well-suited to current, pandemic-fueled consumer preferences. Luxury shoppers have continued to spend, but have focused their investments on styles that will most likely stand the test of time. Think: watches and fine jewelry.
For its part, 20-year-old fine jewelry brand Ippolita has seen an increase in online sales from 2% of total sales in 2019 to 10% in 2021. Co-founder and CEO Ippolita Rostagno said she’s always believed in “fewer, better things.” As such, she’s prioritized iterating on the brand’s signature styles, versus introducing all-new ones.
“[My customer wants] lasting, timeless and beautiful objects made from the most precious materials,” she said.
Meanwhile, a heightened focus on thoughtfulness, when it comes to caring for both oneself and the planet, has motivated more people to consider sustainability when buying fashion. Along with investigating the internal practices of the brands they support, they’re rethinking their own buying habits and leaning into styles they’ll wear for years, versus a season.
The 2008 recession cued a return to minimalism – and Céline’s heyday.
“After the initial shock of the pandemic, inflation and supply chain disruptions, there is a general feeling of uncertainty in the market,” said Kate Davidson Hudson, editor-in-chief of luxury e-tailer LuisaViaRoma and founder of Editorialist. “It feels like a safer play to invest in season-less staples from proven heritage brands, versus more of-the-moment, heavily branded options that may go out of fashion next season.”
Now, a new wave of luxury brands is betting that history will repeat itself.
“Exceptional without excess” is the tagline of direct-to-consumer brand Serino, launched in July by Nike veteran Joseph Serino and former consultant Lexi Sacchi. After surveying the luxury fashion landscape and seeing a white space for non-commoditized apparel essentials, they set out to create “more premium, elevated, sophisticated” essentials, Serino said. The result was a 14-piece collection – seven styles for him, seven for her – available in five colors each and all made from one yarn. The company sources its materials and manufactures in Italy, the latter at a 65-year-old knitwear factory outside of Milan that ensures no waste in the process.
From a consumer standpoint, the strict focus on knit fabric intrinsically answers the increasing demand for comfortable clothing, while the cherry-picked, classic silhouettes are rare safe bets in a time of great change. Among included styles are a blazer, a button-down and a pair of flat-front trousers, as well as a jacket modeled off a vintage denim style by Levi’s. Rather than roll out new styles seasonally, Serino introduces new editions of existing styles via a fresh “platform” of yarn when practical. Cotton styles launched the brand, while warmer merino wool options were introduced in September.
“We’re not trying to do fashion, and we’re not trying to be trendy,” said Serino. “We’re trying to give people what they can use every day.”
Serino pointed to the common stat among brands that 80% of business comes from 20% of SKUs. It’s the brand’s consistent, streamlined assortment that will make it a go-to, said Sacchi.
“In all my years in retail, I’ve never had a woman come to me and say, ‘There’s just not enough in this department store,’” she said. “It’s always, ‘Who makes a great black pant?’ And it’s not an easy question to answer, with brands overhauling their assortments six times a year.”
In November, Serino opened a pop-up in NYC’s West Village neighborhood that drove as many sales in its two months in operation as the brand’s website in the four months prior. Seeing the value of allowing shoppers to experience the brand’s quality and fit, Serino and Sacchi opted to open a permanent store on the same block, signing paperwork in January. Next, they plan to open a pop-up in L.A.
“For many brands, a logo is what creates the value,” said Serino. “We’d rather express our brand’s value through how it’s made and what it’s made of. And value is what’s important to us, which is why we prefer ‘premium’; too often, ‘luxury’ is attached to a price point.” It’s worth noting that Serino’s prices range from $195-$725.
Two-year-old Another Tomorrow is largely on the same page. And, coincidentally, it also opened its first store in the West Village, in July. Certified B Corp, the brand centers on “perfect” versions of the foundation pieces of a woman’s wardrobe, said founder and CEO Vanessa Barboni Hallik. For example, it makes a crisp white “men’s shirt,” which retails for $390.
“We’re really careful about what we bring to market; we lean into areas where we can add value for women,” she said. “[As a result,] our business breaks the 80-20 rule; we see strength across all categories.”
According to Barboni Hallik, a contributing factor to the rise of quiet, versus showy, luxury is the recent disruption to fashion seasonality, partially caused by supply chain issues. “There’s now this idea that you can wear whatever you want,” she said. “Fashion has become more personal.”
The rise of resale has also played a role, she said, noting that Another Tomorrow is launching resale in March.
“Shoppers are increasingly gravitating toward craftsmanship and quality, because they’re considering whether what they’re buying will retain value,” she said. “They know that it’s either an asset or it’s disposable.”
And, she added, “An asset doesn’t need to scream from the rooftops.”
Speaking of quiet luxury…
Last week, a documentary of the “Sex and the City” spinoff “And Just Like That” was released, with an unexpected focus on vintage fashion. The opening scene centers on Sarah Jessica Parker’s archived wardrobe from “Sex and the City” and is set in its home of nearly 20 years, New York-based Garde Robe.
If you haven’t heard of the 20-year-old luxury wardrobe storage and valet service, which also has a location in L.A., there’s a reason: “We’re very discreet, in general,” said Claire Gilvar, manager of marketing and business development. “We don’t even publicize our address.”
Its client base is largely made up of celebrities, though the company has never discussed them. Other than Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow has publicly discussed taking advantage of Garde Robe’s services. And many fashion houses, including Carolina Herrera, have acknowledged storing their archives with the company.
“It’s amazing when a client comes forward and speaks about us,” said Claire, who noted that, otherwise, the company’s growth has been by more direct word of mouth.
And it’s seen exceptional growth since the start of the pandemic, she said: “The fact that people have had more time at home, to go through their pieces and their closets, has been great for us.”
4 questions with Threads Styling founder Sophie Hill
This week, chat-based luxury shopping platform Threads Styling announced that it’s launching additional shopping channels, including an e-commerce site and regular livestreams. Founder and CEO Sophie Hill broke down the company’s evolution.
The e-commerce site is launching with a focus on jewelry. Why start there?
“Jewelry became one of our best-performing categories during the pandemic. We saw a positive uplift in clients looking for investment pieces, such as fine jewelry and watches; our fine jewelry sales grew 150%, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Clients are really looking for special investment pieces that they can cherish.”
What’s the potential you see in livestreaming?
“We saw the popularity of live shopping starting to [extend] from Asia to Europe and the U.S. Not many luxury players were exploring this channel outside of Asia, but we saw the opportunity to offer our young clients another way to engage with Threads and the brands they love. We piloted live shopping events on Instagram in 2021, and this proved to be a great success with our clients, exceeding our expectations across engagement and sales.”
Is your personal shopping team transforming, whether in scope or responsibilities?
“Our personal shopping service is key to Threads’ unique business model. We’ll continue to invest in the team and expand our shopper network through our recently launched Threads Connect service, which allows independent personal shoppers to tap into our platform.”
What did these new launches require, in terms of added resources or hires?
“We brought in experts from across all of our e-commerce verticals to work on the launch of the new website, and we are building a dedicated team to drive the live shopping strategy. We increased our headcount by 24% last year, and we plan to increase it by another 55% in 2022.”
Earnings update: Tapestry
This morning, Tapestry, Inc. reported its fiscal 2022 second-quarter earnings, which exceeded analysts’ expectations. Immediately following, Brian Yarbrough, consumer discretionary analyst for Edward Jones, weighed in on the results for Glossy:
“Overall, the numbers were strong, with strength across all three brands. And earnings would have been even stronger, if not for the massive headwind from air-freighting goods to avoid supply chain issues. The company is seeing accelerated growth, is raising prices, has 3 million new customers and has strong growth in digital sales, which should all be positive for long-term growth.
The company did experience a slowdown in growth in Mainland China, due to Covid restrictions, but it reported positive growth in the region, when many brands are reporting declines. The strong improvement at Kate Spade is a positive, as the brand had been a chronic underperformer since its acquisition. The anagement team put a renewed focus on the brand in the past 18 months, and the results are really starting to show.
We expect the headwinds from higher airfreight and slower growth in China will abate over the coming quarters, which should help drive the business into 2023. We continue to believe shares are attractive at current levels, with accelerating growth and solid double-digit earnings growth over the next few years.”
Inside our coverage
Luxury brands are rapidly expanding their retail footprint.
Fashion stylists are outfitting Roblox avatars.
The pandemic has forever changed fashion month.
What we’re reading
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Two-hundred pairs of Virgil Abloh-designed sneakers sold for $25 million.
Instagrammer Albert Ayal is providing a launchpad for young designers.
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