A shift from excess to subtlety may be coming to in the form of stealth wealth fashion

As we enter uncharted territory, globally and as individuals, one question that comes to mind is: how will high-end and luxury fashion change as a result of a global public health crisis? Once the dust settles and the majority of people are allowed to return to their routines, will they feel the same about what they want to wear?

The last few years have been dominated by maximalism in luxury—more is more, when it comes to logos, patterns, and motifs. It was a bonanza for 1970s and 1980s-inspired lines like Gucci, Versace, Fendi, Dior, and Balmain, which have been some of our top-selling brands for women, men, and kids, month after month.

brunello cucinelli jil sander stealth wealth fashion
Brunello Cucinelli and Jil Sander

But what could replace this sense of exuberance? Something more subtle, grounded in material quality and beauty, perhaps. One concept that has been around since the last global financial crisis (circa 2008) is “stealth wealth,” a sort of downplaying of excess while still focusing on what makes high-end clothing worthwhile: timelessness, superior details, and covetability that goes far beyond passing trends. Another word for it is old money fashion.

This mimics a broader, pre-COVID-19 return to a cleaner, more 1990s aesthetic—led by new names like BY FAR, a renewed excitement around Prada’s classic nylon accessories, and reinvigorated familiar names like Jil Sander. But what other designers and brands fall into the stealth wealth category?

Bottega Veneta

We’ve already covered the New Bottega Veneta, with Daniel Lee as creative director, and the many new icons of the brand in previous articles. But it’s worth noting that since its founding in the mid-1960s and reemergence at the end of the 1990s, the line has consistently beat its own drum in fashion, creating artful, elegant pieces that build on its heritage as a fine leather goods company and its signature intrecciato woven lambskin motif.

new bottega veneta daniel lee

New Bottega Veneta is simply a reinterpretation of old Bottega, in a tighter palette of colors, in cleaner, more minimal executions, and in more varieties of what fans of the brand already liked.

Brunello Cucinelli

Originally launched as a niche purveyor of cashmere in 1978, Brunello Cucinelli is now a global household name (assuming the houses in question are owned by the top 10% of wage earners). Thanks to its commitment to material quality, the line’s ready to wear, shoes, and accessories for both women and men command some of the highest pricing in luxury. But, its designs fly high above trends and are easy to miss if you’re not sure what to look for.

brunello cucinelli womenswear spring summer 2020 stealth wealth
brunello cucinelli womenswear monili made in italy silk leather cashmere

One hallmark of the label and an easy way to spot it: the micro-bead detailing called “Monili” which appear as tiny gunmetal-tone beads (a bit like gray caviar) adorning mostly Cucinelli womenswear. They’re individually applied, similar to the Swarovski crystals on a minaudière, and thus make the pieces they decorate that much more special.

For a very similar aesthetic, see Fabiani Filippi, which also hails from the Umbria region of Italy, near the city of Perugia.

The pleasure in wearing a label like Brunello Cucinelli or Loro Piana, another cashmere-centric line, is the self-satisfaction of indulging in some of the best spun fibers (be they cashmere, cotton, silk, or something more technical), embellishments, and techniques available in the world—without attracting too much attention.

Classic Stealth Wealth

Since italist carries over 1,000 brands from all over the world, we carry many that could be considered classical stealth wealth. But, since our retail partners are all based in Italy and the country has long been the source of some of the finest clothing in the world, we also have pieces from labels, niche producers, and artisans you’ve probably never heard of.

Some classic womenswear stealth wealth labels to check out:

classic stealth wealth womenswear agnona giorgio armani fontana milano max mara

Some classic menswear stealth wealth labels to check out:

classic mens stealth wealth brioni zegna zanone loro piana

Contemporary Stealth Wealth

In contrast, there are many contemporary labels with more recent origins creating high-end, low-key apparel and accessories. These blend well with the labels listed above, but have a slightly more youthful approach and current perspective on fashion.

Some contemporary womenswear stealth wealth labels to check out:

contemporary stealth wealth womenswear malone souliers the row proenza schouler

Some contemporary menswear stealth wealth labels to check out:

contemporary stealth wealth menswear giorgio brato salvatore santoro jil sander

Only time will tell how the fashion industry and global style zeitgeist will change as a result of the massive economic challenges coming out of this crisis. We’ve already seen an uptick in the popularity of brands that are bringing the 90s back into fashion, and the reboot of Bottega Veneta, arguably the leader in ‘new stealth wealth,’ has been hugely successful without loud logos, flashy branding, or exuberant designs.

What do you think? Is stealth wealth the next big trend?


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