You might already be familiar with fashion-forward contemporary brands like Ganni, Staud, and Nanushka-but a new class of minimal, neutral palette–loving labels has emerged. From LVIR to Loulou Studio to Totême, a mix of up-and-coming and well-established labels are finding success within the more approachable and price-conscious space they occupy in the contemporary category of the womenswear market. Their devotees are style-conscious individuals who don’t want to compromise on taste, prefer slow to fast fashion, and gravitate toward minimalism.
It’s good timing, too; luxury wardrobe foundations can cost well over $1,000 apiece and there’s a major demand for elevated essentials (shirting, knits, trousers, blazers, dresses) at less jaw-dropping prices. At the end of 2020, Vogue asked luxury retailers for insight into those best-selling categories and designers and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it included denim, leggings, and outerwear.
“Customers [are] prioritizing pieces with longevity that they can wear forever,” said Libby Page, senior fashion market editor at Net-a-Porter. Over at MatchesFashion.com, buying director Natalie Kingham predicted that fashion is headed for a reset: “I’m calling it a start-over with wardrobe foundations-a simplicity.”
According to Sasha Skoda, head of women’s at The RealReal, customers are building a capsule wardrobe of foundational pieces and have responded well to women’s coats and knits priced around $500. And there’s a handful of brands doing just that at a refreshing advanced or contemporary price point. Best of all, most of these companies are baking conscious and sustainable practices into their operations.
We’ve highlighted 14 labels that fall into this category-makers of clothes that are simple but never plain; wearable but never tiresome. Most of the collections share a common vision: to create a modern uniform to be worn and reworn for seasons to come. And that’s not to say they lack a fashion perspective either. These are labels with a point of view.
With price points mostly under $1,000, these labels have been brought on by a handful of luxury retailers that can barely keep them in stock. According to Tracy Margolies, chief merchant at Saks Fifth Avenue, Loulou Studio took off, while Totême has been a major success at both MatchesFashion.com and Net-a-Porter. The latter saw double-digit growth from the brand.
Shop Loulou Studio, Totême, and more of the designers filling our modern wardrobes, below.
Girl-about-town (Paris, to be exact) Chloé Harrouche founded her fashion label because she couldn’t find those wardrobe staples she was looking for. Enter LouLou Studio, which uses the city as inspiration and offers chic sophistication with its loose-fitting selection of perfect basics-relaxed trousers, suiting, sweater-vests, and tees with a twist.
Founded by Elin Kling and Karl Lindman in New York in 2014, the now Stockholm-based label was created to offer luxurious wardrobe staples that transcend trends. Each season the brand’s edit focuses on its own signatures-like quilted jackets and sleek denim pieces. To shop Totême is to acquire foundations for the ultimate minimal, modern uniform.
With 25 years of design experience between them, South Korea–based design duo Jiyoung Ahn and WonSub Lee began LVIR. Three years later the brand debuted in Paris and was picked up by retailers like Browns, Net-a-Porter, Ssense, and Saks Fifth Avenue, which gravitated to LVIR’s masculine utility–meets–modern femininity approach. You can expect workwear-inspired dresses, structured trousers, and faux leather outerwear.
Manhattan locals and Parisians might already be familiar with the Frankie Shop’s brick-and-mortar locations, which sells a mix of labels like Rachel Comey and Simon Miller, but its own line of minimal yet stylish wallet-conscious staples is just as noteworthy. Founded by Gaelle Drevet, standouts of the brand include pleated trousers and hourglass-shaped blazers.
In 2016 BITE Studios was founded by a group of friends based across London and Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden. The brand (an acronym for By Independent Thinkers for Environmental Progress) creates thoughtfully designed pieces with longevity in mind-95 percent of the materials and textiles used in its collections are either organic, recycled, or low impact. You might have seen one of its oversized cuff silk blouses or earthy-colored separates on Net-a-Porter’s consciously focused edit, Net Sustain.
Anna Quan is an Australian label launched in 2015 and designed by Anna Huong. Following a less-is-more philosophy, the line is known for its elevated tailoring and shirting options and has put a focus on luxe comfort-it now offers a range of knit dresses and relaxed trousers in clean, super-wearable
New Zealand–based duo Paris Mitchell Temple and Georgia Cherrie are the cool-girl best friends behind this label. Their womenswear is an ode to the female form, and they’re known for combining subtle design details with a modern appeal. You might recognize Paris Georgia’s signature contrast trim tank or slip dress-both can be spotted on a bevy of It girls on Instagram.
Founded in Copenhagen in 1999, Baum und Pferdgarten is helmed by Helle Hestehave and Rikke Baumgarten. The label is beloved for its mix of playful silhouettes and colors, and it offers a sweet Danish spin on wardrobe essentials—think sleeve dresses, outerwear, and knits.
Ranging from $69 to just over $1,000, Tove refers to its own retail strategy as “respectful pricing.” The range reflects the unique materials and the level of craft and workmanship that goes into each piece. Founded by Camille Perry and Holly Wright in 2019, the label offers elegantly gathered dresses and pleated tops that wonderfully fuse a minimal and feminine aesthetic.
Seventy percent of Anna October’s spring 2021 collection was made from deadstock fabrics. The Ukraine-based label, named after its designer, brings a contemporary twist to vintage-inspired pieces like open-back knit dresses, breezy midiskirts, and smocked bustier tops. October’s easy pale hues would attract even the most minimally minded person to color
Founded by Eunhye Shin, Le17 Septembre offers an upgrade to modern basics. Responsibly made in Seoul, the label boasts clean and unfussy silhouettes in neutral tones-elevated loungewear sets, day dresses, and easygoing trousers-which are given a bit of personality with the addition of a knot or unexpected seam. The line is also influenced by Korean architecture and design, and retails at an approachable price without overproduction.
Esse Studios brings familiar yet covetable basics-black tailored Bermuda shorts and button-up shirting-to the forefront of conscious-minded style. Founded and designed by Charlotte Hicks, the Australian label reimagines classic pieces in slow-released capsule collections made from sustainably sourced fabrics. The brand’s mission is to produce less but offer well-fitted, everyday staples that work for you.
Based in Seoul, Low Classic is designed by founder Myoungsin Lee, who approaches fashion with a back-to-basics philosophy. She offers everyday pieces like blazers, knits, belted trousers, and shirting with a utilitarian aesthetic-no embellishments or fussy fabrics. Each season brings an elegant and modern take on contemporary minimalism, as Lee marries straightforward suiting traditions with innovative design.
Swedish contemporary brand House of Dagmar, part of the Stockholm Fashion Week calendar, applies a thoughtful approach in designing its essential wardrobe staples. In fact, the spring 2021 collection is made of 100 percent sustainable materials and certified fabrics. You might shop the label for its mindful practices and contemporary price points, but also for the Scandi spin it puts on everyday wardrobe essentials-they’re just as cool as you would expect.
It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.