On model: Vetements extended-sleeve slim-fit shirt, $770 at matchesfashion.com; HNDWVN cotton duster coat, $500 at hndwvn.com; Vetements denim shorts, similar style, $1,160 at nordstrom.com. Wanda Nylon red patent leather boots from Albright Fashion Library. (Fashion photos by Ruven Afanador; styling by Bernat Buscato)
Out of the ordinary
Many influences have conspired to transform the look of luxury fashion from gold-buttoned jackets and brocade dresses into an aesthetic that is less formal, far grittier and rich with imperfections and ambiguities.
The rise of athleticism has meant that track pants and hoodies are now part of the aesthetic vocabulary at brands such as Gucci, Givenchy and Chanel. Gym basics are as legitimate a source of inspiration for designers as a classical painting or an art-house film.
What counts as luxury fashion has also expanded, thanks to millennial consumers whose idea of an enviable fashion find is not a tailored suit or a designer saddlebag but a pair of limited-edition sneakers or a leather jacket graffitied with white stripes.
What else? The porousness of gender lines has made womenswear less frilly and menswear more dynamic.
One of the leading brands redefining luxury is Vetements. Less than three years old, the fashion collective, led by Demna Gvasalia, has turned oversize jackets, banal work shirts, recycled fur and giant parkas into objects of desire. Notably, it transformed a DHL T-shirt into a status symbol. It has been invited to show more recent work as part of Paris’s haute couture calendar.
In 2015, Balenciaga, the storied brand that in the 1950s popularized bubble skirts and pillbox hats, named Gvasalia its creative director. For its spring 2017 collection, he created trench coats and blazers with exaggerated shoulders, devilishly garish floral-print dresses and handbags modeled after cheap nylon shoppers.
Luxury evolves with each generation. This is its latest iteration.
— Robin Givhan
The Luxury Issue:
In Sight: For Vetements and other labels, the banal is beautiful.
Ultimate upgrade: Travel in style to these far-flung destinations.
Expert amateur: Todd Hauptli loves to cook. His dinner guests? Some of D.C.’s top chefs.
The turnaround artist: Meet the museum director behind the hugely popular Kusama exhibit.
Closely crafted: Inside Niermann Weeks, a Maryland firm that creates posh furnishings and lighting.
Retro taste: At the Greenbrier, breakfast is as lavish as the decor.
Premier league: How ranking the wealthy became a business.
Apple has made white ear buds iconic. But there are an ever-proliferating number of ways to upgrade the sound quality of your personal listening devices. Serious audiophiles reach for brands such as Sennheiser and Focal, which make their products by hand, says David Glassman, president of IQ Home Entertainment in Fairfax. A set of headphones made by Focal, based in St.-Etienne, France, can cost from about $200 to the low six figures for the Utopia, which is covered in 18-karat gold and 6.5 carats of diamonds. Sennheiser, based in Wedemark, Germany, sells headphones that cost $80 all the way up to $50,000 for its Orpheus model, whose sound, despite the hat tip to Hades, has been called “heaven on earth.”
— Annys Shin
Haiko Visser says that as part of its expansion into the United States, Trefecta Mobility (trefectamobility.com) is building a warehouse in Hagerstown, Md. (Nigel Cox)
Haiko Visser was not impressed with the first wave of electronic bikes, which run on electric power and pedals. He set out to do “a Hummer in reverse,” referring to the military vehicle that became a status car circa 2002, by creating a military-grade luxury e-bike. Visser, with help from Dutch, German and Swiss engineers, started Trefecta Mobility in 2014 and sold its first e-bikes last year. They were all custom and cost as much as $40,000, Visser said. In 2017, Trefecta is debuting a $25,000 version. Made of aerospace-grade aluminum, it has a lithium-ion-battery-run engine with an automatic transmission and manual gears the rider can shift independently. If you’re in a hurry, the bike can reach speeds in excess of 40 mph with no pedaling.
— Annys Shin
Slides. They’re what you wear to the swimming pool or the supermarket on a weeknight when you won’t run into anyone you know. They are the yoga pants of footwear. But fashion designers like turning something simple into something sublime. For spring, many designers have chosen to riff on rubber slides and shoes like Crocs, Tevas and Birkenstocks. Prada, Fendi, Isabel Marant and others have combined comfort-shoe details such as wavy soles, Velcro straps and sunken cork foot beds with beads, velvet, crystal studs and even mink. The results are cute without being too precious and still comfy enough for a trip to the grocery store.
— Annys Shin
Inks, clockwise from bottom: J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor, $26; Monteverde Rose Pink, $8; Waterman blue/black, $12; Organics Studio Neon red/orange, $13, all from Bertram’s Inkwell, 11300 Rockville Pike, Suite 109, Rockville, Md.; Montblanc Miles Davis Jazz Blue, $19 at Fahrney’s Pens, 1317 F St. NW. Fountain pens, from top: Visconti Van Gogh Starry Night, $289; Pelikan Souveran M600, $550, both from Bertram’s Inkwell, Rockville; Kaweco AL Sport Raw Brass, $100 at Fahrney’s Pens; Montblanc Miles Davis Limited Edition 1926, $31,000 at montblanc.com. (Nigel Cox)
The write stuff
In an age when it’s possible to tap out a novel on a touch screen, writing with a fountain pen represents a “backlash to the digital revolution,” says Tony Butler, who works at Fahrney’s Pens in downtown Washington. “I think people like the feel of a good writing instrument,” says Bert Oser, owner of Bertram’s Inkwell in Rockville. There are subtle generational differences, Butler says. Baby boomers tend to buy staid instruments from classic makers such as Waterman, Pelikan and Parker, while Generation Xers prefer something more “gadgety,” such as the capless Pilot Decimo, with its retractable nib. But customers in their 20s and early 30s covet inks, which come with names such as Bouquet D’Antan (kind of a dusty rose) and Ku-jaku (peacock). “Here we have a whole wall basically of ink,” Oser says, waving his hand. “When I opened in ’85, I had two shelves behind the register with ink, and that was it.”
— Elizabeth Chang
Throwing a little shade now and again isn’t so awful, especially if you’re doing it in a pair of statement sunglasses. This season, labels such as Prada, Dior and Fendi have quirky, futuristic and colorful designs. For those who prefer frames handcrafted from such natural materials as wood and buffalo horn, there’s the ultra-high-end eyewear designer Morgenthal Frederics. The New York-based company has an outpost in downtown Washington’s CityCenterDC. Store manager Andrew Losinger says people drop in looking for the latest trends, but it’s good to have some classics, too: “We talk in terms of having a wardrobe of eyewear. Having just one pair is like having one pair of shoes.”
— Marcia Davis
Macy Brigham-Hill, 12, on the climbing wall in her family's garage. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg)
With two daughters who love indoor rock climbing, Peter Brigham and Shannon Hill decided to erect a small climbing wall in the garage behind their Massachusetts Avenue Heights home. Architect Chris Snowber, a partner in Hamilton Snowber Architects in Washington, created a colorful yet challenging climbing environment in a tight space with eight-foot ceilings. Birch plywood was drilled with holes in a 9-by-9-inch grid. T-nuts were pushed into the holes from the back side, allowing the candy-colored holds to be attached anywhere on the grid for “a variety of ever-changing climbing routes of different levels of challenge,” Snowber says. The finished plywood surface is pitched at 20 degrees. Macy Brigham-Hill, 12, and her sister, Bryce Brigham-Hill, 8, helped pick out the 100 holds, which have intriguing names such as slopers, jugs, crimps and pockets. “Climbing is a great sport, as it teaches kids as they grow,” Brigham says. “You can do this your whole life.”
— Jura Koncius
Spa-level rooms at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown aim to help you sleep with amenities such as sleep masks, blackout curtains and sound machines. (Mike Morgan)
Forty percent of Americans get less than seven hours of shut-eye a night, according to Gallup, which is less than the seven to nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Luxury hotels have come up with a remedy: the sleep-cation. (New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady swears by them and has even inspired a line of Under Armour “athlete recovery” sleepwear.) Now, there’s no need to go far for one. On April 1, the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton (3100 South St. NW) opened a new wing of spa-level rooms outfitted with slumber-centric amenities, including a sleep mask, ear buds, blackout curtains and a sound machine. The bathroom is stocked with lavender bath salts and a “vitamin C shower,” in which the shower head is equipped with an aromatherapy capsule. The rooms also come with a yoga mat and an exercise ball that can be used in place of a desk chair. If you wake up feeling peckish, the hotel’s chef has created a special menu of healthy snacks that includes kale juice and granola. Spa-level rooms start at $595 per night.
— Sarah Halzack
Forest bathing -- escaping to the woods to unwind -- is growing in popularity. (iStock)
A walk in the woods can be restorative, medicinal even. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing,” a practice that since the 1980s has been one of that country’s health responses to an intense work ethic. The practice is still getting its U.S. legs, but its popularity is growing rapidly, says Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. “It is a simple practice. Just go hang out in the forest.” There’s one problem, though: When people are left to their own devices in the forest, he says, “the next thing you know they are on their phones … or thinking about what they need to get done when they get home.” Clifford’s association has certified forest-bathing guides at spas and resorts nationwide, including the Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos, about a five-hour drive from Washington. Rooms start at $329 a night, says spokeswoman Brooke Jennings Roe. That includes meals and a choice of more than 30 fitness classes daily. Clifford expects forest bathing to continue to spread and likens it to where yoga was 30 or 40 years ago. “People know we need it,” he says. “What did Hillary [Clinton] do after she lost? She went walking in the forest.”
— Marcia Davis