REDEFINING LUXURY

Byline: Daniela Gilbert

NEW YORK — Many textile mills have traditionally associated luxury with rich fabrics that are hand embellished or specially constructed, but the definition of luxury fabric is changing, and today top mills are structuring their collections to meet the changes.
“Luxury is not so exclusive anymore,” said Francois Damide, president of Solstiss/Groupe Perrin & Fils USA. “Designers across the board are spending more on fabrics, so it really changes the aspect of luxury.”
“Luxury today is more about quality and craftsmanship than it is about a name or a price point,” he added.
With a strong U.S. economy, noted Damide, bridge designers are now spending up to $18 a yard for fabric instead of the $15 cap that once existed.
“Even lace, which was once viewed as too precious by some, is being used in a variety of collections,” he stated.
Damide is cautious, however, when speaking about the difference between true luxury and luxury looks.
“There have been improvements across the board as far as quality, but luxury ultimately still means the kind of fabrics being used at houses such as Hermes and Chanel,” Damide said.
Shkendie Kaziu, vice president of Jakob Schlaepfer, agreed that the “definition of luxury, for us, has never changed.
“The market we sell to is truly a luxury market,” she said, adding that luxury was not necessarily about price, but more about quality. “The luxury consumer today is more educated,” she added. “She knows much more than she did before what she’s getting in terms of fabric.”
Tony Conetta, president of Abraham New York, remembered a time when luxury fabrics were much more structured and serious than they are today.
“More and more of our customers are looking for luxury fabrics that are more casual than in years past,” he said. “They’re looking through our archives and finding a cotton matelasse that they want redone in one way or another — whether it’s a softer hand, a lighter weight or a more relaxed feel, with the use of more natural fibers than in the original.”
For many mills, luxury is not only getting more casual, it’s getting more comfortable. At Luigi Botto, account executive Michael Marchese said luxury was more about finish than anything else.
“Any finish that produces a fabric that is soft and possesses a natural feeling is what luxury means to our customers,” he said. “It’s about comfort and a timeless yet modern feel. We have a fabric made of wool, polyamide and polyurethane, for example, that features a finish that makes it both soft and drapable.”
Reggiani is embracing comfort in a technical way.
“Techy looks can be luxurious, too,” said Anthony Vecchione, vice president of sales at J.P. Doumak, the U.S. agent for the Italian mill. “Higher-end sport apparel manufacturers, such as Prada Sport, need luxury fabrics just as much as ready-to-wear and couture. These fabrics are not only multifunctional, but they allow the wearer to move with ease, and that’s luxurious.
“Luxury means rich fabrics that can move from day to evening, cold weather to warm weather, perform in a variety of conditions and be comfortable. We feature a Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex jersey in the collection that dries in seconds when wet and is also windproof and offers the mill’s exclusive Happy Sun UV protection.”
Performance, however, doesn’t always mean synthetic. At the latest Premiere Vision show, cashmere specialist Loro Piana featured a cashmere that was wind resistant, waterproof and breathable.
Jean Yves Alombert, creative director of Premiere Vision, agreed that the more comfortable a fabric was, the more luxurious it was.
“The ultimate luxury is comfort,” he said. “The smarter the textile, the more it makes sense for today’s consumer.”

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