From Yaku Stapleton to La Maskarade and Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp, there are plenty of designers willing to liberate people from the boredom of ‘billionaire chic’
The problem with the phrase “stealth wealth” is that it assumes people are wearing expensive cardigans to make some kind of statement about themselves. The same goes for “quiet luxury” and “old money”, which ascribe too much agency to a demographic that gets dressed only because they’d otherwise be naked. The rich don’t need to level an interesting sense of taste to boost their social position, which explains the soulless interiors of high-end property developments and Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to dressing like a small child. There are, of course, Isabella Blows and Jocelyn Wieldensteins within the elite, but they’re not exactly what people on Twitter are calling “billionaire chic”.
Nobody is immune to fashion – and there is something to be said about an ascetic, anonymous wardrobe – but some people are less bothered about it than others. People who are legitimately “old money” tend to wear red chinos and waxed jackets, not AliExpress hoodies with the word “Monaco” emblazoned across the front, because when surnames and land ownership offer a person social status, they become less likely to search for it elsewhere. They are distanced from subcultures built by people with distinct and visible aesthetic codes and so fashion, to them, is often seen as a poor man’s game. But the main issue with the stealth wealth term is that it’s just a catch-all way of describing lots of things at once: elegant clothes, casual clothes, boring clothes, hooked to Succession or Gwyneth Paltrow’s courtroom looks.
The fetishisation of rich people’s clothing hinges on the idea that the one per cent are somehow morally superior to everyone else: hard-working, whizz kid geniuses who don’t have time to invest in something as frivolous as fashion. That kind of thinking treads too closely to people who post 👔 Like 💻This ⏰ On 💳LinkedIn, which is a miserable existence lived out in a rotation of navy t-shirts. With that in mind, here are five anti-stealth wealth designers who understand that the most luxurious thing of all is to dress without bland, pompous dictates. And if someone does want to telegraph their inner rich bitch, then perhaps Tom Ford’s Gucci or Michael Kors’ Céline are the most appropriate lodestones.
Following an undergraduate degree at the University of Westminster, Sarah McCormack left her MA at Central Saint Martins with the prestigious L’Oréal Award and a scholarship at the Sarabande Foundation. Her work (analogue, unvarnished, incomplete) is fascinated with the failures of humankind, rooted in a speculative place where lost souls have been crushed beneath technological progress. Silk dresses hang from the body in a state of disrepair and spectral corsets look as though they’ve been ruptured by winds while straggly raglan sets seem to have been plucked from some kind of pagan hinterland. Her clothes sluice against the sterile nature of modern life, muddying the glass-paned exteriors of the Anthropocene.
RAMP TRAMP TRAMP STAMP
Pierrot bloomers, asymmetrical g-strings, suspendered skirts, and cleavage-baring portholes: Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp is the antithesis of good taste. Founded by Sydney-based designer Niamh Galea, RTTS is about having fun with fashion – and it’s all in the name, which transforms terms of degradation (girls who lust after skaters with lower back tattoos) into sources of pride. The clothes are as kitsch as they are vulgar, poking fun at equestrianites and yummy mummies with bleach-stained tracksuits and see-through horse-girl prints, asymmetrical leotards and reversible Marie Antoinette corsets. If money talks and wealth whispers then RTTS is a full-throated, Lambert and Butler cackle.
Garbagecore is an ascendant Milanese label designed by Giuditta Tanzi that works exclusively with deadstock fabrics. The clothes are tactile and homespun – all patchwork panels, skew-whiff seams, and broken buttons – which bucks the libidinal and pristine glamour synonymous with Milan’s landmark labels. The designer’s latest show took place in an old fleamarket (which isn’t very billionaire chic, is it?) with guests sitting on old armchairs, beds, and sofas which were all for sale. If “stealth wealth” rides on the image of a varnished, put-together millionaire, Garbagecore finds value in second-hand scruff: in holes, bobbles, tears, and hand-warped hems.
For designer Max Danet, an unlikely muse emerged in Maha Vajiralongkorn, the kind of Thailand who spends most of his time in crop tops with elaborate temporary tattoos scattered across his back and arms. Based between Paris and London, most of the clothing under the La Maskarade banner looks like it could have been fished out of the bottom of a bin… which is a good thing. Denim jackets are spray-painted with tourist trash Eiffel towers and t-shirts have been emblazoned with those spam Shein posts that we all get tagged in on Instagram, while jeans have been soiled with trompe l’oeil rips and tears. The entire philosophy can be distilled into Danet’s slogan tees: “Soho House is the worst”.
At Central Saint Martin’s most recent graduate showcase, a neolithic himbo stormed onto the runway holding a behemoth, gnarled hammer. His puffer jacket was mottled in scales, his combat trousers were blown out to extreme proportions, and his shoes looked like they had been carved from a chunk of celestial rock (made from pattern paper and bin scraps). All of that scored Yaku Stapleton the prestigious L’Oréal’s Professionnel Creative Award for his MA collection, which had been inspired by Afrofuturism and Runescape. The designer situated his offering – which he described as “costume design couture” – within a fictional combat zone on some desiccated, foreign planet. Proof, perhaps, that stealth wealth is nothing if not a total lack of imagination.