Fashion and Style

Enter the New Era of Stealth Wealth


MILAN — Not long after the last guest had trooped off the avocado-color carpet lining the Gucci show space and out of the brand’s headquarters in the far reaches of the city on Friday, #Gucci began trending on Twitter. Was it because of the fabulous clothes just shown on the runway? Was it because, once again, what we wore had been upended for a new era?

Nah. It was because of the front row.

ASAP Rocky! Maneskin! Dakota Johnson! And especially Xiao Zhan, the Chinese actor and singer, who sat next to the Gucci chief executive Marco Bizzarri and who practically caused a riot on his way in and out of the show.

Indeed, the frenzy attached to such celebrities is, presumably, why Gucci even had a show, since the brand is in between designers and in between ideas, judging by what appeared on the runway.

Alessandro Michele, the most recent creative director and the guy who transformed Gucci from gilded jet set avatar to big tent eccentric, left in November and Sabato De Sarno, who was hired to effect something of a reset, won’t arrive until this spring (his first show is scheduled in September).

The current offering was designed by the studio team, and it was a tide-‘em-over time-lapse, like a bridge boyfriend between the Michele and De Sarno eras: a little of this, a little of that, some GGs on top.

You could spot the early ’90s Tom Ford in the logo belts and velvet jeans, and some late Ford in the visible G-strings under hipster sheer pencil skirts. See the legacy Michele kookiness in the towering majorette feather hats and a silver Harry Styles-esque tinsel coat. Though the Frida Giannini interregnum, which took place from 2006 to 2014, seems to have been pretty much wiped from the books.

It was all so glancingly familiar that when a simple tailored gray overcoat appeared on ’90s model Liisa Winkler, it struck a notable, palate-cleansing chord. There’s been a lot of talk about how Gucci wants to move away from the in-and-out of fashion, and become more timeless. Ironically, if that is true and the coat was a harbinger of things to come, Gucci will be, once again, on trend.

Aside from the ever-present K-pop stars and other Asian influencers (every brand has at least one: DK from Seventeen at Bally, to see Rhuigi Villaseñor’s new version of Ford’s Gucci luxe; Joy from Red Velvet at Tod’s), the biggest shift in Milan is toward what was once dubbed stealth wealth. Or “the classics.” Or, as MaxMara said in its show notes, “the Camelocracy.” That wins the award for neologism of the week.

Its definition: the kind of clothes that don’t advertise their value in obvious ways (decoration, logos, jangling paillettes, bright colors) but instead rely on plushness of fabric and rigor of line — on insider information rather than influencer information — to suggest value. That don’t shout, but whisper.

Italy has always had a way with such sotto voce style, thanks to its history with fabric mills and leather goods. For anyone harboring a Katharine Hepburn fantasy, this is the time to shop. Brands like Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli built their names on the deep-pile luxury of their materials, and they are leaning into their expertise.

At Jil Sander, the brand that once defined the internal possibilities of power dressing, Luke and Lucie Meier dropped hemlines, upsized jackets and overcoats, and added an hourglass structure to tunics before taking an unexpected, and somewhat unfortunate, detour into motorcycle leathers and techno. At Ferragamo (K-pop star: Jeno of NCT), Maximilian Davis added little slices to the sleeves and jackets of slick black suiting to reveal a flash of white or red underneath: a reminder there was more going on under all that tailoring than you might immediately assume.

It makes sense: In an inflationary fog, when the economy is unpredictable, wearing your disposable income on your back can be an uncomfortable thing. There is a reason that the last time stealth wealth was in fashion was 2008, which itself recalled the 1990s — again (as with Ms. Winkler at Gucci, as well as her peer Amy Wesson) the decade of reference.

No one has raised the bar on the whole idea like Matthieu Blazy at Bottega Veneta. This season he sent a leather watch strap with no watch on it as an invitation — get it? timelessness — and finagled the loan of three equally timeless bronzes for his show: “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” by the Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni, usually displayed at the Museo del Novecento in Milan, and “The Runners,” two first-century B.C. sculptures from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

The sculptures stood on a rug woven to mimic stracciatella, Mr. Blazy’s favorite ice cream flavor (or so he said before the show), which like the art (his favorite pieces), was there to reflect the point of the clothes he makes; it’s not the obvious price of something that matters, or the hierarchy of aesthetics. It’s personal taste.

Hence his signature fashion party trick: leather made to mimic other fabrics, so what looks like jeans, say, or a white striped Oxford shirt and boxer shorts, or gray flannel, or even, this time around, knitted red sock slippers, turns out to be, in fact, the supplest skins. Curling-up-in-the-couch-with-gelato leather! It’s an insanely decadent proposal. Fabulousness can be its own fabulous secret.

The effect is mind-boggling but the bigger impulse has to do with an individualized, generous approach to dressing where the details matter: the trapeze-shape sunshine yellow tunic and skirt woven with hundreds of tiny leather petals, so it sways and jounces around with every step; the black wool cocktail dress twisted around the body and caught up on one hip by a crafty ceramic loop; the squiggles, like lace, on airy tiers that turn out to be rubber. The two-layer overcoat, and Wac-A-Mole-size intrecciato handbag.

They speak to different characters (pick your poison) but they murmur the same thing. As Mr. Blazy said, “when you wear them, you are the only one that knows” how special they actually are. Even in the shrieking crescendo from the crowd outside when RM from BTS made his entrance, the potency of that suggestion came through.



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