By Angèle Simon
Reading time: 4 minutes

Quiet luxury, Elevated Essentials, or Slow Fashion: this year, fashion is returning to the basics and focusing more on materials, cuts, and minimalist designs. As consumer eco-anxiety becomes increasingly widespread, people are becoming more aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion on the planet and are now choosing high-quality, sustainable, and timeless pieces

This subtle style, however, is not new; it has always been present but resurfaces in response to the evolving society and the realities we face today. Historically, during times of uncertainty and recession, consumers tend to choose more neutral clothing and become more thoughtful in their purchases. Similar iterations of this style have also been observed in the past and often emerge after periods when exaggerated styles are trending. For exemple, the Normcore trend of the 1990s emerged in response to the maximalism of the 1980s.

This trend is also noticeable on fashion runways, where several brands have taken a more conservative turn and are offering more wearable clothing that is easy to sell. In their recent collections, Gucci has simplified its baroque style to offer a few minimalist and timeless pieces. Another pioneering brand in this aesthetic is, of course, the popular Bottega Veneta, which has gained popularity for its sleek and modern silhouettes. We also have the queens of Quiet Luxury, the Olsen twins, who recently took TikTok by storm with their brand The Row, generating over 125 million views so far.

OK, but... what is Quiet Luxury?

Quiet Luxury, words invented by internet users, identifies a fashion aesthetic that is devoid of logos and extravagance, instead focusing on high-quality materials, as well as elegant and subtle cuts in luxury collections. For example, a simple black sweater that looks very classic might actually be an eco-friendly cashmere pullover priced at $5,000. Yes, the exorbitant price is a defining characteristic of Quiet Luxury, and many brands take delight in exaggerating it even further. Recently, designer Phoebe Philo has made a comeback with her eponymous brand, drawing much attention for its impressive prices. As the former creative director of Celine from 2008 to 2018, the British designer is a pioneer of Quiet Luxury and has created a massive buzz with her return and her new collection, which is already sold out.

Quiet luxury also stems from other popular aesthetics on TikTok, such as Old Money, Rich Mom Energy, Coastal Grandma, Billionaire Chic, European Summer, and many others. However, contrary to what some may think, quiet luxury is not new. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, and Zegna are literally founded on this concept and have existed for decades. Nonetheless, this style has become very popular and trendy, in part due to celebrities. It's especially since the unveiling of Sofia Richie's wedding attire and Gwyneth Paltrow's trial outfits that Quiet Luxury became a big thing, even on the websites of fast fashion brands.

Elevated Essentials

While luxury remains accessible to only a tiny portion of the population, the rest of consumers are gravitating towards the subtle and calm side of Quiet Luxury, essentially referring to minimalist and understated clothing. However, we can easily be bored with essential clothing items like the white t-shirt, the little black dress, the trench coat, or the straight-leg jeans. This is where Elevated Essentials come into play: classic pieces that are reimagined to not be boring. Timeless items like the shirt are still here, but this time, they are made from unusual materials or feature extra-long sleeves, as seen in Prada's Spring-Summer 2024 collection.

On the side of Loewe, J.W. Anderson, the brand's creative director and master of trompe-l'oeil, takes the concept to the extreme. Unconventional materials are used, such as felt on a coat or a sweater made of clay.

Building a Wardrobe

Over the past two years, experts have observed that consumers are more inclined to build a daily wardrobe consisting of timeless essentials rather than accumulating a multitude of trendy clothing items. However, a wardrobe of essentials doesn't have to be dull. On the contrary, you can add modern pieces and get creative with combinations of neutral or colorful tones. It's especially during the process of coordinating these pieces that a simple wardrobe can become interesting and stylish.

For the winter season, it's also important to focus on warm and durable fabrics, as seen with the Quebec-based brand Milo and Dexter, which offers several woolen pieces sourced exclusively from Canadian sheep. Cashmere will also be your best ally for the cold seasons. Ecova beanies and scarves are made from high-quality cashmere found in Tuscany. Stay warm and cozy!

Sustainability Above All

All these trends and aesthetics promoting minimalism also raise questions about the sustainability of the clothes we purchase. Brands are beginning to inform customers more about the sources of raw materials, where the clothing is manufactured, and even the cost associated with each step of design and production. Many Montreal-based brands have started to embrace the concept commonly known as traceability.

As consumers become more informed, they are also more interested in the materials from which their clothing is made. An essential piece crafted from a durable and high-quality fabric can be worn significantly more times than an item made of polyester, for example. The money invested in such a clothing item becomes much more cost-effective. Additionally, a high-quality piece has a greater resale value in the second-hand market, a question that many people consider before even buying a new garment !