It all started with a $625 cashmere baseball cap. Crowning the head of Kendall Roy, the fictional billionaire, and will-he-won’t-he heir to his father’s media empire in HBO’s Succession, it was, on the face of it, a totally unremarkable accessory—a plain, black hat, admittedly in cashmere. And yet, this hat from Italian luxury brand Loro Piana launched a thousand articles—and countless more social media explainers—about the concept of “stealth wealth” and how it inspires the fashion choices of the uber-wealthy.
Stealth wealth, or “quiet luxury,” refers to a style aesthetic favored by those from so-called smart money. It’s an exercise in subtlety and a statement of soft power by people who know they have nothing to prove. These high net-worth individuals choose to forgo clothes emblazoned with garish logos or brand names in favor of a minimalist, understated style that whispers, rather than shouts, about their affluence. Think clothes in neutral color palettes and classic silhouettes, but only fashioned from the finest fabrics.
The term stealth wealth might not have been known to Succession’s costume designer Michelle Matland when she first dreamed up the wardrobe for Kendall Roy’s character, but the same ideas were behind her choice for the billionaire scion’s favorite fashion label. Kendall sports dozens of looks from the Loro Piana catalog, from casual crewnecks starting at $995 to the $8,895 to the cashmere and alpaca wool-blend overcoat worn to his father’s funeral. In a recent appearance at Milan Fashion Week, the actor who plays Kendall, Jeremy Strong, explained how “Loro Piana represented a supreme, rarefied level of luxury and comfort and the sort of if-you-know-you-know thing.”
Take Kendall’s $5,875 long-sleeved polo as an example. It’s made from vicuña, the rarest animal fiber in the world, shorn from an endangered camelid species native to South America’s Andes. This fabric was once exclusively reserved for the Incan Emperor; now it’s reserved for the 0.1%. Dressing in a fabric unknown (and unaffordable) to the majority is a whisper of wealth that only people like Kendall can hear because, in the words of Matland, Kendall, I was “bred to know the difference” between expensive and what isn’t worth wearing.
But to credit Succession with the rise of the stealth wealth trend is to miss the point. There’s nothing new or revolutionary about dressing expensively in well-made clothes devoid of any visible branding. Rather, it’s the narrative around stealth wealth as a conscious fashion decision made by some of the ultra-wealthy that has been catapulted into the mainstream. Consider the media attention and forensic Tik Tok analysis that was dedicated to dissecting the viral outfits worn by Gwyneth Paltrow as she appeared in court over a collision at a ski resort. “How to Curate an ‘I’m Innocent’ Courtroom Wardrobe, According to Gwyneth” was the headline run by British Vogue, which suggested Paltrow made a calculated display of stealth wealth to win favor in the trial. One of the steal wealth items Vogue put on trial? A $1,600 Loro Piana turtleneck in baby cashmere.
But while the conversation around quiet luxury is getting louder, it’s important to remind ourselves what makes these expensive handcrafted fabrics so desirable in the first place; the coveting of that “soft touch of cloud-like fibers,” as Loro Piana promises with the release of its 2023 Summer Resort Collection. Known as “the master of the finest fibers,” Loro Piana’s collection continues in the brand’s rich tradition of high-quality craftsmanship and exquisite textures, with pieces fashioned in breezy linen fabrics that capture the essence of Mediterranean luxury living. It’s a timely reminder from Loro Piana that it’s the quality, not the brand, that their consumers are paying the premium for.