What was once defined as decadent and exclusive (think a $50,000 monogrammed Kelly bag), is now being re-imagined by a vibrant influx of designers and labels creating fashion that possesses the same stylish impact as a pricier luxe of yore. Thanks to designers and brands like Alexander Wang, Raoul, Acne, Sandro, and Maje, luxury is no longer simply about rarity, workmanship, and exorbitant cost. In the modern world, it is about individuality, quality standards, a powerful eye for progressive design, and yes, functionality, too. Moreso, the New Luxury is made for real women — women with strong opinions about their personal style and the pieces they purchase, not to mention how those pieces make them feel: confident, beautiful, and unique. And back to that functionality mention, real women want to wear their clothes, not just moon over them hanging in their closets.
Yes, the thing of luxury will always mean the fancy floor at Bergdorf Goodman or the latest It bag bejeweled with canary diamonds (we’re sure it’s on the way). But the fundamental idea of Luxury in 2013 is so much more than that. And, now, add to that another trend emerging: Contemporary designers being tapped to lead historically luxe labels — including Wang’s new post at Balenciaga and Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s glorious revival of Kenzo. These brands are not just becoming an integral part of the luxury fashion world at large, but they’re setting new standards for what true sartorial satisfaction can be. And we say, amen to that!
10 Crosby — When Derek Lam decided to extend his talents to a diffusion line with a lower price point, it was pursued with the same creativity and attention to feminine detail as his namesake collection. Named after the address of the Derek Lam NYC offices (guess who’s not moving any time soon), 10 Crosby has continued to delight us season after season with its grown-up tailoring, yet bold-and-quirky use of colors and prints. Plus, its utterly breathtaking lookbooks (this one featuring our old friend Emily Weiss, founder of Into The Gloss) always summon our sartorial courage — and confidence: When it comes to the modern closet classics, there are no restrictions, and the possibilities are endless.
Photo: Courtesy of 10 Crosby
Sandro — It’s quite true that some of the best fashion comes from the ateliers of France, but in this case, we’re not quite talking interlocking Cs or couture embroidered biker jackets for $8K. Our connection with Sandro was nothing short of an instant love affair — one that flourished when it opened its first U.S. flagship in NYC in 2011. Inherently French in its effortless, infinitely cool appeal, the Parisian label is among our favorites for its sleek tailoring, infectious charm, and, dare we say, extreme value (hello, embroidered tigers we’ll wear forever?) — now, how luxurious is that?
Photo: Courtesy of Sandro
rag & bone — It’s no surprise that the line that initially launched with a menswear collection would move on to execute modern menswear for women so pitch-perfectly. It’s part of the appeal of Marcus Wainwright and David Neville’s inspired boy-meets-girl line of clothing and accessories. Inspired by British heritage style, the street clothing is sophisticated and sexy but still down to earth. Fits are generally relaxed and bold details are used thoughtfully in this fine-tuned collection of everyday pieces. Best of all, a pair of statement boots you’ll wear forever won’t set you back a decade. Amen to that.
Photo: Courtesy of rag & bone
Tibi — Amy Smilovic may not have Karl status but she’s a legend around these parts. And while we’ve been longtime fans of this seasoned New York-based designer’s career-meets-cool-girl classics, her ever-evolving empire (yes, we’re going there!), is another shining example of what real style-conscious women want from their wardrobe essentials — progressive design, quality, and great price points. Because when you see more Tibi signature pieces, like the coral print series, popping up during Fashion Week than any other pricier label, you know this designer is doing something right.
Photo: Courtesy of Tibi
Kate Spade — What’s better than an easy-to-wear collection? One that’s got a sense of humor and good vibes. The Kate Spade that we’ve all been familiar with for years and years has never been a line that takes itself too seriously. The styles are preppy, youthful, and most importantly, joyful. Under the creative direction of Brooklynite-by-way-of-Britain Deborah Lloyd, the line presents sharp, timeless silhouettes in bold, unexpected varieties. Plus, its beautiful, often witty collection of handbags are good enough to last a lifetime…and that’s definitely luxurious to us.
Photo: Courtesy of Kate Spade
Maje — Chalk it up to good taste or good genes, but it’s no surprise that along with fellow Paris-based line Sandro, Maje also makes our list of the modern girl’s investment labels to watch. While the companies are separate entities, the lines’ designers — Judith Milgrom of Maje and Evelyne Chétrite of Sandro — happen to be sisters who plopped their U.S. flagship stores right next door to one another on Bleecker Street. However, Maje certainly sets itself apart with a slightly grittier, rock-‘n’-roll appeal that never, ever feels like it’s trying too hard…and wearing it, neither will you.
Photo: Courtesy of Maje
J.Crew Collection — Even if you are of the mind that true luxury labels don’t typically come from a mall, J.Crew can completely change all such preconceived notions. The J.Crew Collection took the company’s famously preppy-polished styles from catalogs to Fashion Week when it launched its decidedly more luxe line. With the new luxury’s unofficial brainchild, Jenna Lyons, at the helm, these gem-worthy designs made with supreme-quality silks, cashmere, and hand details personify this new guard’s ethos: These pieces aren’t just to be admired…they’re to be loved and lived in.
Photo: Courtesy of J.Crew
Alexander Wang — While luxury used to exclusively bring to mind visions of extravagance and glitzy It bags, Alexander Wang has been instrumental in altering that sensibility. T-shirts, street sweats, and grungy, glamorous statement pieces — these newly coveted items were given a resurgence when Wang debuted his line in 2007 and soon became the must-wear designer of the “downtown” set (though, keep in mind “downtown” no longer denotes a neighborhood but a state of mind…you can thank Mr. Wang for that shift, too). Today, the line still delivers the coolest modern-day luxury on every level — from sexy, studded handbags to sharp-shouldered statement coats, all worth every penny.
Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Wang
Opening Ceremony — While the brainchild of Humberto Leon and Carol Lim is best known for its multibrand retail stores, which are home to the most forward-thinking and unique designs we’ve ever seen, its in-house label captures that very same bravado that made the OC name so iconic. Designed by Leon and Lim — who now oversee the French label Kenzo — the collections are adventurous, colorful, and filled with fun pieces that remind us what personal style is all about…connecting with quality pieces that combine impact and value in equal measure.
Photo: Courtesy of Opening Ceremony
Acne — Though often confused in a Google search for teenage skin problems, Acne is indeed an acronym for Ambition to Create Novel Expression. Lead by founder and sartorial rebel Jonny Johansson, the Swedish label originally earned fame for its line of unisex denim in 1997 and would move on to become the minimalist, albeit sometimes slightly avant-garde, line we know and lust for today. With its global expansion still continuing to reach far and wide, the Scandinavian luxury brand has a strong design aesthetic that’s not just novel, it’s accessible. And these days, what could be more precious than that?
Photo: Courtesy of Acne
Zara — Zara, the fast-fashion chain? Luxurious? Yep, hear us out on this one. While some may see the popular store as a wonderful way to find runway trends at a more friendly price point, we’ll go so far as to say that labels like Zara are truly changing the face of luxury. The store offers truly timeless wardrobe pieces each season, as well as the most of-the-moment trends that are well-made, figure-flattering, and have allowed more people to be included in the current conversation. Exceptional fashion is not just for those who are thin enough to fit a sample size or can afford to purchase off the runway; it’s for everyone. And in this fast-paced world, Zara has not only changed the face of what a chain store can deliver, they’ve also brought a bit of everyday luxury to the masses. Case in point: its gleaming 1,500-square-meter concept store, designed by Elsa Urquijo Architects, which just opened in London this December.
Photo: Courtesy of Zara
Raoul — The Singaporean label’s name has only been floating around the U.S. market for a few years, but in that short time, it’s managed to grab our attention on multiple occasions for its sweet frocks, edgy separates, and streamlined basics. Created by husband-and-wife duo Douglas and Odile Benjamin, the line is intended for the real girl, the multitasker, the one who wants to look good, feel good, and never spend another minute having to worry about it. Thankfully, Raoul delivers on all accounts. And we’re hooked.
Photo: Courtesy of Raoul
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