How the understated “stealth wealth” look became summer’s hottest trend
Words by ALESSANDRA CODINHA
Illustration by ADOLFO CORREA
When Danielle Sherman talks about founding her L.A.-based jewelry line, Sherman Field, there’s a story she likes to tell. Sure, she drew on the decade she spent at the helm of The Row (which she cofounded with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), Alexander Wang, and Ali Hewson and Bono’s line Edun, but one of her most indelible influences was much closer to hand. “My dad was never a flashy person,” she says. “On his first date with my mom, they were out to dinner in London and he had this gold lighter. The waiter said, ‘Oh, is that Cartier?’ He said he didn’t know, and the waiter flipped it over and said, ‘Oh yes, there’s Cartier.’” Sherman’s father knew, of course, but he didn’t feel the need to discuss it.
This kind of understatement took root in Sherman’s designs, which are known for their heirloom-like elegance—and run from $1,820 for a pair of small gold huggie earrings to more than $20,000 for an intricate 18-inch gold chain and locket. Pieces are largely made by hand in Los Angeles after a personal appointment, and Sherman operates on her own season-less schedule. She doesn’t buy ads or pay influencers, and some of the brand’s devotees begged me not to write about it for fear of overexposure. “It’s a real ‘if you know, you know,’” says Sherman. “That’s the ultimate luxury—when you don’t have to shout about it.”
The thing about quiet luxury is that you don’t really talk about quiet luxury. You let everyone else do it for you. The anti-trend trend has seen brands that prize the highest-quality fabrics, assiduous craftsmanship, and a level of design as exquisite as it is restrained become the look du jour. But at $4,000 for a coat from The Row, $1,690 for a Gabriela Hearst crew neck, and $1,295 for a Brunello Cucinelli bucket hat, it’s a high price to pay for a very subtle level of recognition.
Nowhere has quiet luxury been more in evidence than at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Brentwood does Park City trial (her wardrobe a triumph of her own G. Label by Goop Brand, Prada, Ralph Lauren, and Celine lug sole boots) and in the fictional Shiv Roy’s costumes on the California sets of season 4 of Succession—all Max Mara camel and Altuzarra dove gray, worn at real-life tech titan Austin Russell’s $83 million Pacific Palisades pad and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s $30 million Montecito estate. Starlets and socialites have followed suit, applauded for turning out to events in head-to-toe, hard-to-place serves like Bottega Veneta’s leather “flannel” and “blue jeans,” Zegna cashmere suiting, and draped Loewe column dresses. Rarely have the hottest fashions been so coolly muted. Yes, it has long been the case in Europe and in certain enclaves of the East Coast, but in Hollywood? A town that thrives on glamour? What gives?
The thing about quiet luxury is that you don’t really talk about quiet luxury
Timing certainly has something to do with it. There are the widespread layoffs in tech and entertainment, and interest rates and inflation continue to soar, leading to talk of a global recession. Right now conspicuous consumption comes with a lingering aftertaste of “let them eat cake,” and anyone unaffected is thinking twice about branding themselves as such in a manner that might be too obvious to just anyone. “With our current economy, it makes sense that people are picking up on ‘less is more.’ Showing less is always much better anyway,” Calabasas-based model and influencer TyLynn Nguyen says. Her devoted 179,000 Instagram followers come to her for understated beauty tips, equestrian concerns, and insights into easy, elegant essentials from white-hot and largely logo-less brands like Khaite, Toteme, and Hermès. But there’s something to be said for the appeal of the items themselves: subtle, timeless pieces often designed—ironically, in the case of this (trend) story—without trends in mind. “This is style more so than a trend,” says Nguyen, whose sartorial rule is “never be too loud.” In other words, it’s not your clothes that should be commanding attention. It’s you. (With a little help from your $9,500 vicuña coat.)
“It’s funny because we have been designing ‘stealth wealth’ way before I ever knew it was a term,” Melissa Morris tells me. Her London-based largely logo-less leather goods line, Métier, has been carried by the likes of Nicole Kidman and Kate(s) Moss and Middleton. “I have never been impressed by large logos,” she says. “I much prefer when your head turns because the piece itself is so beautiful and refined that you are desperate to know where it’s from.” The look—expertly designed travel bags and accessories in warm-toned canvas, leather, and suede that gets better with age—has caught on with well-heeled Californian customers via Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion. “Métier,” says Morris, “is for those with plenty to say and nothing to prove.”
“It kind of goes back to that whole idea of money talks, but wealth whispers,” says Dustin Zuber, a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant whose clients trend toward the 0.1 percent. “We were in such a logomania craze. If you look at last year or the year before, it was just logo, logo, logo, and it was so in your face. Fashion is cyclical—sometimes the pendulum has to swing the other way for things to feel fresh again.” And spurred on by social media, namely the deluge of memes that was Gwyneth’s trial style, or a megahit show like Succession about the lives of the ultra-rich, plus a post-post-pandemic comedown, and you’ve got a perfect storm for these brands hitting peak desirability.
Zuber has always encouraged his clients to invest in key pieces from the big ticket brands of quiet luxury. “To me,” he says, “luxury is not about dressing a certain way. It’s about having access to anything you want.” He advises to “think timeless” by ignoring the trend cycle and paying particular attention to the finest materials and advanced manufacturing.
“You don’t compromise on the materials, you don’t compromise on the time it takes to make it perfectly. You don’t compromise on craft,” Sherman agrees. “That is the ultimate luxury.”
And that is what gets those in the know to notice you.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of C Magazine.
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