The luxury industry is undergoing an era of transformation. New generations of buyers with new values affect the retail market in a never-seen-before way. Research confirms: young niche brands of the middle segment are pushing away luxury brands with history. Not yielding to the quality or marketing performance, they are devoid of conservatism and deliberateness. The whole concept of ‘status’ has changed: now the item does not have to be made of valuable material like python skin or alpaca wool; let there be the author’s print or some iconic design and it will instantly lead to boom in sales. Let’s try to dive deeper and understand the signs of the ‘new luxury’.
One of the most recognizable attributes of items of the ‘luxury’ category is a carefully thought-out design. But niche brands also create thematic collections, experiment with patterns, materials, textures, silhouettes. For example, this Autumn/Winter 2017 collection by HIGH is designed around the emancipation of women in the XX century. In particular, the collection is inspired by the style of the four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn. You can instantly recognise her influence in it: it’s the wide pants and jackets in a sharp straight cut. The daughter of the suffragettes from Hartford, she was famous for her ability to wear trouser suits as freely as feminine dresses. Another iconic subject of the actress’s wardrobe were breeches with a jodhpur vibe; a variation of them is present in the line. This stylistic borrowing from the wardrobe of other famous women among the fighters for equality does not end. Loose-fit high waist trousers with a belt in a form of a man’s tie – a homage to the costumes of Marlene Dietrich, and a long double-breasted military coat with velvet and braid decoration reminding me slightly of George Sand.
Unlike traditional luxury brands, niche brands are betting on practicality and minimalism. This entails not just the simplicity inherent in things from the mass market, but the convenience and ‘weariness’. By the skill of execution, the items do not inferior the luxury brand ones at all. The intricacy of the cut and the elaboration of the details make it possible to create complex but at the same time wearable items for daily wear. In this collection by HIGH, the key extraordinary features are the details of handwork, such as a headset or stitches, which allowed the designer to create more defined silhouettes, whether it is a satin blouse with a frill organza and a silk toad, a pleated skirt in a creche in the style of a Scottish kilt or a shirt in military style with an abstract floral print.
High-quality materials from which luxury brand items are usually made are now not so uncommon in collections of niche brands either.
‘I want to use high quality materials to create clothing for life’
– Claire Campbell, Founder of HIGH.
Although her collections are meant to be ‘casual’, cashmere, velvet, silk, natural leather and other high-end materials are present. She also creates thematic collections with a focus on specific materials. For example, in her HIGH TECH collection she used technological fabrics, and in HIGH KNIT – jersey and high-quality jersey.
With this speed of development, the middle market segment is predicted to grow rapidly in the next 2-3 years overshadowing luxury. And no, we are not here to say that luxury is dead, but I guess as anything else in life, a new form of it developed and we are excited to see what this evolution would bring tomorrow.
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: HIGH press office