Credit: Popsugar/Vogue/The Glam
Loudly monogrammed high-fashion has reigned catwalks, red carpets, and city streets since the mid-2010s. Now, a new era of dressing in expensive garments without it being entirely obvious to the average person is emerging. How did this come about?
If you’re an active participant in the fashion corner of social media, you may have spotted the words ‘quiet luxury’ weaved into viral tweets, TikToks, or Instagram tiles in recent weeks.
The phrase implies the rejection of fashion’s logomania trend, which has dominated the industry in a big way over the last decade or so. This era was defined by the mass production and consumption of fashion items branded obnoxiously with designer emblems.
If your brain has conjured up imagery of hypebeast and popular music videos – you’ve got a general idea of what logomania is.
Now, the concept of ‘quiet luxury’ is starting to grip the digital community. Rather than directly wearing clothing with an outright print of the brand name or symbol, it favours purchasing elegantly designed, logo-less luxury fashion.
Young people everywhere might be referring to ‘quiet luxury’ as a trend, but donning unbranded high-fashion clothing isn’t a new phenomenon whatsoever.
To understand why this consumer behaviour appears relatively new to members of Gen Z, we’ll have to go back to the origins of logomania and why it became popular in the first place.
The rise and fall of logomania
Although it’s unlikely that blatantly obvious logos will ever entirely disappear from fashion items, dressing head-to-toe in them might be starting to make a slow exit.
In fact, Gen Z’s first encounter with logomania would’ve been when it started running rampant in the mid-2010s. Around the same time Instagram earned its crown as social media king.
From this point, the widespread culture of presenting ourselves in online spaces grew and influencers normalised turning the ‘self’ into a ‘brand’. Sporting logo-embellished clothing became the easiest way to tell the world, ‘I know high fashion brands and I’m wealthy enough to afford them,’ without saying it out loud.
Off the back of this, brands started becoming more than just companies. Brands were transforming into what they are now: an extension of the individual wearing them and a tool that signals a person’s identity, values, and status to the world.
In fact, there’s a whole section on fashion psychology uncovering how spotting the logo of a brand we know and like on another person triggers the same part of the brain responsible for processing human relationships.
But just because someone elevates their perceived status by wearing logo’d up luxury items, it doesn’t always mean they have the wealth required to do so. Multi-high-fashion brand logo designer Daniel Day spoke to The Cut on the power of visible logos:
‘[A visible monogram] signifies status, and money, which go hand in hand. The thing is, you can have the status but nobody will know you don’t have the money. So that’s what gives it such an impact on your look.’
A perfect example of this is the OFF-WHITE tape belt phenomenon. You might remember its hard-to-miss, mustard-yellow hue tightly cinched around virtually any piece of clothing from jeans to jackets, trench coats, dresses, and miniskirts.
The item itself was priced at around £120, which made it an easily accessible item for those wanting to show that they were on-trend by consuming a brand-of-the-moment, founded by the late Virgil Abloh in 2013.
Essentially anyone could appear as if they had a certain level of knowledge of fashion and be grouped into the ‘hypebeast’ category by buying this too-loud-to-overlook item, which was in fact, relatively affordable.
This is the antithesis of ‘quiet luxury’ fashion.
More on quiet luxury
Contrary to what TikTok will have you believe, dressing in luxury items lacking in logos that immediately catch the eye is not a trend.
It’s a lifestyle that people have been subscribed to for generations. Actually, it was the status quo up until 1925, when Coco Chanel started placing the iconic double C’s onto her collections, starting a revolutionary wave.
While branded luxury items help us gain context on a person very quickly – studies show it takes .4 seconds for our brain to register a familiar logo – the ability to recognise high-fashion when it lacks a name or symbol will depend on whether or not you’re truly ‘in the know’ about luxury brands.
A great example of people who have embraced this way of dressing their entire lives is the Olsen twins.
Sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley have sported plain white designer T-shirts worth hundreds of dollars, but you won’t see a logo in sight no matter how hard you Google. Even their designer bags lack obvious indications of the fashion houses they came from.
Their clothing brand, The Row, completely encapsulates this way of dressing. All collections are made with high-quality fabrics carefully sewn together to create a long-lasting, perfect-fitting garment that exudes effortless mystery. No logos at all.
This might lead someone who doesn’t follow fashion to mistake a coat from The Row for a copycat from Zara.
Quiet luxury is something that has been practised by the world’s elite since the dawn of experimental fashion. Dressing in high-fashion and staying quiet about it is perhaps the biggest flex of all.
Think of your rich friend’s mom who always looks and smells good, but you can never figure out HOW unless you take a peek at the label in her jacket as she drapes it over the back of her chair.
It’s not about making an obvious display of opulence, but signals to others who are clued up – or in the same tax bracket, perhaps – that you’re part of their group. Because let’s be honest, fashion has been and will always be a marker of class.
Why is ‘quiet luxury’ getting popular now?
Before the start of 2023, there was a general buzz surrounding an incoming ‘cultural shift’. It seems we could be witnessing this happening.
As global inflation pushes millions of people into financial struggle, outright displays of wealth are starting to seem out of touch and distasteful. Hence why the Kardashians – whose wealth has been forced on us for over a decade– are losing social media followers left and right.
This should be unsurprising to anyone with close ties to the fashion industry, as a similar dip in logomania also occurred during the 2008 recession.
At the same time, the counterfeit luxury industry is generating more dupes than ever.
Printing ‘BALENCIAGA’ or ‘Prada’ onto a decent quality T-shirt and making it look convincing isn’t exactly hard, which is perhaps another reason why logos are starting to take a back burner.
Could we be witnessing the page turn? Well, I have no doubt that logos will inevitably stick around, at least partly. They’re an essential marketing tool, after all.
But perhaps we’ll look back on logomania in a few years’ time and think ‘omg, tacky!’ – until the economy is sorted out and the cycle begins once again.