During this recent Paris Fashion Week, it was clear to anyone watching that luxury fashion brands are vying to stand out in a crowded market. From political statements to space travel, the most talked-about shows were the ones that screamed rather than whispered. And with the current over-abundance of trends, recent runway looks ran the gamut from minimalist to over-the-top. Compound that with game-changing street fashion, and its clear that we're locked in a race to find the next big thing.
Fashion relevancy can be elusive, but there are a few approaches that have led brands to success: building on heritage, complete re-vamping, and pushing the proverbial envelope. The following five luxury fashion brands have used these approaches in varying combinations to cultivate staying power. They continually prove that finding the next big thing requires equal parts ingenuity and careful strategy.
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With a customer base that spans generations, Vuitton has built on its heritage to cultivate a younger following. The brand's recent collaboration with Supreme is a perfect case in point.
Supreme is the ultimate NYC skater brand with roots in the 1990s, and its clean graphic logo is the perfect counter-balance to Vuitton's deeply rooted and instantly recognizable LVs. The contrast of old and new has created a collection that resonates, which has helped the heritage brand achieve multi-generational relevance.
With instant recognizability and a massive following, Alessandro Michele has re-made Gucci into an it-brand of massive proportions. But Michele isn't the first creative director to take the company to new levels, and Gucci has a history of re-birth. Tom Ford is widely credited with helping to wake the sleepy luxury house up in the late '90s.
Indeed, there is a certain cache to being reborn... the journey from irrelevance to it-brand is ripe journalistic fodder. Couple that with a huge social media presence, and Michele has proven that his mix-master approach to design pays major dividends.
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Comme des Garcons Creative Director, Rei Kawabuko, will be only the second designer (the other was YSL in 1983) to get a solo exhibit for the upcoming Met Costume Institute Gala. Kawabuko's work alludes to the age-old debate of whether fashion can be considered art.
Rei Kawabuko is the master of unexpected silhouettes and has a devout following of fashion insiders. From cocoons to lumps and bumps, her most outrageous pieces transform wearers into otherworldly creatures. As one of the founders of legendary retailer Dover Street Market, she is a huge supporter of other designers. Her store has brought like-minded brands under one roof, creating a one-stop destination for avant garde fashion lovers.
Known for experimentation and unorthodox looks, this Maison Margiela might be considered one of the biggest cult brands out there. A recent Paris pop-up shop drew some attention from hard core vintage Margiela fans. With pieces that spanned three decades, it was perhaps this season's must sought-after sample sale.
Founder Martin Margiela retired in 2008, and John Galliano was hired as creative director in 2014. Galliano has picked up the chalice but is also leading the house in his vision. His deconstructed jackets were some of the high points of Paris Fashion Week. Margiela's influence continues to be relevant and has been huge for brands like Vetements and Celine.
Redefining the Unexpected at Vetements and Balenciaga
Really, this is as much about Demna Gvasalia as it is Vetements and Balenciaga. The designer's trademark jackets, with their grossly exaggerated silhouettes, looked nonsensical on the runways six months ago. But now, seeing them on the streets and with current political climates in mind, these oversized jackets seem more relevant. They almost function as protective urban armor and are humorously campy in their fashion risk-taking.
A huge pioneer of in the realm of brand collaborations, Gvasalia has led Vetements to pair with some surprising influences. A recent collaboration with athletic brand Champion has yielded high fashion renditions of casual sweats.
From heritage to avant garde, these five luxury fashion brands have proven that relevancy can take on many forms. However the one thing that they have in common is that they are continually redefining what makes them special in the first place. And as it is in most industries, strategic change is the key to long-term success.