You don’t have to be an insider to know that disruption is the word du jour in fashion circles. From Burberry, Tom Ford and other labels moving to a “see now, buy now” format to brands forgoing separate shows for women and men, such as Gucci and again Burberry, it’s a free for all out there, a time of adjustment. Amid the onslaught of information provided by digital media and the competition from fast-fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M, luxury houses are trying to find new ways to appeal to consumers.
While talking about this often-exaggerated turmoil, however, it’s easy to forget that some labels have always done things their own way, ignoring short-lived trends to deliver beautiful clothes that are less confined to the seasonal changes imposed by luxury groups and their marketing teams.
While it’s unlikely that brands in New York, London, Milan and Paris will find solutions that answer all issues, the current situation, with new collections shipped every other month to please novelty-hungry consumers and shown months in advance, does seem antiquated. Here, we take a look at three labels that have been leading the way by doing their own thing, yet offering genuine keepers worth investing in.
Few designers can command a front row of A-listers at a show outside the fashion-week calendar, but Azzedine Alaïa – a designer’s designer if there ever was one – is an exception. The highly esteemed Tunisian-born fashion figure has a zealous following of powerful women such as models Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour, who collect his signature body-con knitted dresses, corset belts and laser-cut heels. Alaïa has ignored the regular fashion schedule for years, firmly believing that making beautiful clothes takes time – especially if you’re a real dressmaker and not just a hired gun churning out countless collections at the behest of another brand – and only shows his wares when he’s ready to do so.
Better known as the creative director of Bottega Veneta, the Italian leather-goods house owned by luxury conglomerate Kering, Maier has also been making chic separates for women – and more recently men – under his name for almost two decades. His eponymous label, which shuns fashion shows and focuses on closet staples and the perfect travel wardrobe, is known for its desirable swimwear (a speciality of Maier, who opened the brand’s first boutique in Palm Beach, Florida, where he lives), high-quality knits and sleek eyewear. Although the label is now part of the Kering stable, it’s still a niche player offering understated luxury that true connoisseurs will appreciate.
Although this London-based brand is only a little over five years old, its artisanal approach has attracted considerable attention. Founded by Walid al Damirji, who previously worked as a buyer and producer of high-end clothing for other houses, the label is based upon the principle of repurposing vintage textiles such as kimono silks, Victorian linen and 19th-century French damasks. Shunning the limelight and focusing instead on creating one-of-a-kind garments, By Walid caters to those who want unique pieces that stand the test of time. For a recent collaboration with Lane Crawford, the designer reworked antique Chinese fabrics cut in chic and easy-to-wear silhouettes.