When Did Basic Become The New Luxury?

Why we’re spending all our money on the new labels that are redefining classic clothing.

By: Emily Ramshaw

Last week, the couture collections showed in Paris—and Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana flexed their muscles and put on sartorial treats in Italy. It was beautiful, as always. And, also as always, a reminder of the financial might and imagination of the industry’s biggest houses. You better believe those who set out to dazzle set off a glitter bomb of fashion fantasy.

But most major fashion companies are flying editors and influencers around the world to see one extravaganza after the next—all of which have us clamoring for a spot on the waitlist of their next bag or shoe, or making room on our credit cards for *that* coat—here’s what I see: the new labels—the ones I’m excited about and my peers are excited about, the ones we’re actually buying into in substantial quantities—aren’t flashy or even particularly fantastic. They’re basic.

And this time, in this context (for this season), basic is something I actually want to be.

Just ask Sarah Rutson, Net-A-Porter’s Vice President of Global Buying, herself one of the most fashion-forward women in the industry. I attended a small presentation a couple months ago, where she talked about all the trends and labels the luxury e-commerce behemoth—which, mind you, sells out of Gucci and Saint Laurent before the pieces are even officially on the site—and one of the labels she was most excited about was La Ligne, a line completely based around the idea of the classic stripe, all clean silhouettes in navy and white. La Ligne was launched by three New Yorkers, former Vogue editors Meredith Melling and Valerie Boster, and Molly Howard, previously of Rag & Bone, and Rutson was wearing the label head-to-toe. She looked amazing—and I think I can say with total confidence that every editor left that meeting wanting to dress in exactly that way.

A few weeks ago, I was told from someone who worked at the company that Net-A-Porter sold out of their first shipment of La Ligne like *that*. Granted, the launch had significant support and press from people who matter (like us—hey!), but still…you wouldn’t necessarily expect a new brand making simple, stylish striped t-shirts and cotton dresses to sell out on the same place that makes its mark with Gucci capsule collections of sequined flower dresses.

“Women are always wanting design classics with fashion relevancy and longevity. [Pieces] that hold the ability to be current and a constant in your wardrobe without feeling that you are lacking style,” said Rutson when asked about the popularity about classic-looking labels like La Ligne. “It's not about screaming to be noticed, yet, in a way, you still want to be noticeable at the same time as one of those women with effortless style.”

With that in mind—the effortless thing; taking notice of the ease—we can probably blame it all on Phoebe Philo and Céline—like just about every other major trend of the past five years. "I think that women are looking for fashion that showcases who they are—clothing that they wear and doesn't wear them,” says La Ligne’s Molly Howard. “What I have learned is that she wants comfort and timelessness—I think women are less interested in pieces that will tire after one season. Even more, the idea that a customer has to wait six months from the time they first see something come down the runway to when they can buy it doesn't equate to the way the modern woman lives. Eliminating that by offering ‘buy now, wear now’ products has proven to be very desirable to our customer."

But La Ligne isn’t the only new label to figure out that women want to buy a t-shirt and jeans and wear them immediately. There are new companies like Brianna Lance’s Basic Rights (unisex t-shirts—very cool) and MDS Stripes (more stripes) offer classic, basic pieces we want to wear every day. Even innovative new high fashion brands like Brandon Maxwell and Monse—while conceptual and ambitious—return again and again to classic shapes (the shirt dress, the suit) and designs (stripes—again).

Blame Philo. Blame the resurgence of Stan Smiths and Vans. Blame the continuation of the non-peacocking street style look that more and more industry insiders are supporting. Blame Sarah Rutson. The truth is, the clothes we’re investing in besides the major brands (which, let’s be honest, will always have our hearts), are small, new labels that make anonymous, yet very sophisticated clothes. I can wear them season after season and no one will notice or care.

Just look at Vanessa Traina’s The Line, which, along with Protagonist, has come out with Khaite (high-waisted denim, streamlined sweaters and dresses with stylish details) and Tenfold Los Angeles (wardrobe staple t-shirts), has practically made its name with the M.O. that women want to dress in a sophisticated, but minimal, very classic, way. And, I mean, I do.

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