DISCREET CHIC

The Timeless Appeal of Quiet Style

The girl to your left has on a floor-length printed skirt paired with a tie-neck blouse that’s layered under a bomber jacket—each so colorful and unique that together they don’t just ooze personality, they seem to shout it. There are more where she came from, women dressed in coats covered in leopard and trimmed in fur, sweaters embellished with pearls and earrings that could have been saved for evening but have been pulled out for day.

 

You could easily call this return to maximalist, eccentric fashion, one that has walked off the runway and into the streets, The Gucci Effect. The women who dress this way are those who naturally earn your attention. You can’t help but notice them. However, what feels like a novelty will not always. Those fur-lined slippers (you know the ones) are as ubiquitous as the Birkenstocks that came before them. Beyond the quirky glasses, the sweater vests worn over bow-necked blouses, and the pleated python skirts, what has always endured is the type of distinctive style that registers chic without shouting it. As those familiar with it understand, it is one marked by the quiet confidence of the women for whom dressing this way is innate.

“I love the idea that someone is wearing the brand because they value the quality and the uniqueness of the fabrication,” says Los Angeles-based designer Rosetta Getty, name-checking the two things her label has become synonymous with since she launched it in 2014. She’s also become known for offering pieces so luxuriously unassuming that you may not even know they were hers. “I wasn’t overly concerned with making it recognizable in a conventional way,” explains Getty. “That’s the nature of working with luxury basics and designing timeless clothing that adapt easily into women’s lives. I feel most connected to quality and design rather than branding.” And it’s distinguishing between those things that typically separates a woman with great style from someone who simply wears clothes—or is worn by them.

“When I shop, fabrication and fit are important,” Mislin says. “I’m also a big advocate for tailoring.” Those in the know (and women who nail ‘the understatement’ typically are) understand that these three elements are key. But let’s be clear. It’s not that the label isn’t important—certain designers are known for fantastic tailoring (Brandon Maxwell) or have earned a reputation for great fit (Stella McCartney). However, the minimalist style that Phoebe Philo spawned when she took the reigns at Céline in 2009 infused understated luxury with such desirability that it became cooler to fly under the radar than to flaunt one’s designer choice. Those in the know will likely know (as well-designed and impeccably made fashion tends to read as expensive), but that’s not entirely the point. It’s because she’s well dressed that she wins—regardless of her brand roster.

Now it’s easy to label this “stealthy” style as boring—among its hallmarks is a tendency to stick to a neutral color palette and to consistently gravitate toward timeless shapes (sometimes returning to the same pieces over and over again). Mislin admits she’s “a creature of habit,” something reflected in a fashion week wardrobe that tends to consist of a mix of black, white, and denim in sharp silhouettes. But like that of Poiblanc (who similarly favors greys, navys, nudes and black), it’s uniform-like in the best sense of the word. “Even with a monochromatic palette, you can create captivating garments through texture,” explains Getty. (She’s celebrated for sourcing uncommon fabrics and using unexpected materials—among those in her Pre-Fall ’16 collection are an exclusive Damask georgette and a Japanese wool tartan.) “There’s a lot that can be expressed in clothing design with simple lines and silhouettes.”

 

It’s a statement with which the designers behind the breakout accessories brand Mansur Gavriel would likely agree. When co-founders Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel launched their label in June of 2013 with two handbag silhouettes—a drawstring bucket bag and an East-West tote—they found immediate success. Both styles sold out within a matter of hours and shortly thereafter held the same waitlist appeal as a Birkin. How could something simple and unassuming (originally the only color was that of the matte patent lining and there was no print) be so desirable that customers would wait up all night for a reorder to arrive? Because they were, as the designers describe them, “classic, easy, elegant.”

Mansur and Gavriel’s handbag range (which now includes colors and new silhouettes in addition to shoes) has since evolved to be less insidery and more easily recognizable to those outside the fashion sphere. Yet, those tenets of the brand vocabulary still ring true in fashion today, especially as they relate to this notion of discreet chic. Classic, easy and elegant: what woman—whether it be her handbag or her personal style—doesn’t want that?

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