No make-up, crumpled coats and girl dinner: how luxury got lazy

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

What does luxury look like to the person who has everything? What does it mean to those who already sleep on Hästens mattresses, have a different house-priced watch for every mood and pleasure themselves with a 24k gold made-to-order vibrator (the Lelo ‘Inez’, RRP $15,000 on Goop’s 2023 Ridiculous but Awesome Gift Guide, if you’re interested)? Ask the 1 per cent and a solid, familiar answer is this: luxury is time.

But as ever, the gulf between what we say we want, and what we really want is vast. Because if time is the great, modern luxury, somewhat paradoxically, too little of it is the great, modern status symbol. To be stressed and frazzled and snowed under says that you are in demand. Congratulations, you are still relevant and yet to be traded in for a harder, better, faster, stronger model. It’s all about ego. This tension poses something of a dilemma when presenting oneself to the world. Fashion, as ever, proposes a solution. Which is? Leaning in to a deliberate, cultivated, lazy look.

First a disclaimer: this is not the lazy of lockdowns or hangovers or adolescence. It is not even trackpants. It is girl-dinner posh snack plate lazy rather than bucket of KFC in bed lazy. Perhaps languid is a better word. This is considered but a bit off. It is knowing what the rules are, being damn good at following them but choosing not to. It is bucking the obvious try-hard appearance of hyper efficiency for one of luxurious leisure.


Not convinced? Allow me to point you to The Row. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s brand has long been synonymous with good taste, mind-boggling price tags and high, high luxury. To wear it is a privilege, a peep into a world where car doors are opened and that’s full of important collectors’ chairs. The fabrics, the execution, the cut (I cannot fathom what sorcery it is that makes a pair of apparently non-descript black trousers make me, at 5’2”, look tall); these clothes do much of the work for you.

People pay attention to what the Olsens decree essential and relevant, and at the pre-fall 2024 collection, shown in Paris this September, that was... towels. Yep. Specifically, towels chucked nonchalantly over models’ shoulders, as if mid-Mayo Clinic break, or post spa treatment. What a flex that is, to hit Sunday mode in a five-figure coat. (On the spa note, see also Balenciaga, where towelling robes made it into the mainline collection).

Amplifying the low-effort, mid-vacation mood at The Row were the jelly shoes (similarly, at Supriya Lele’s SS24 show, there were shoes like those kids wear on rocky beaches). But flats and barely perceptible heels in all manner of styles were everywhere this season, and particularly for formal occasions, beckoning us further to the lazy side.

The half-arsed (that’s a compliment) sensibility was also seen in the literal half-fastening and apparent half-finishing of garments. At Emilia Wickstead, dresses were left open at the back. At Molly Goddard, too, they appeared undone; many of her pieces appeared to be worn inside out, as if the wearer had thrown it on and couldn’t be faffed to change it.

It’s as if a woman was running out the door, realised she needed a coat but couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs to nab her fur

Something else that chimes with lazy luxury? A ‘this’ll do’ spirit to styling. The knotted details at Proenza Schouler that call to mind an impromptu customisation, for instance, or the oversized Barbour jacket — albeit spliced with artsy, beautiful florals — worn atop a swishy midi dress at Erdem, as if his woman was running out of the door, realised she needed a coat but couldn’t be bothered to go back upstairs to nab her fur. Or see the gargantuan purple sweater at Michael Kors — a beach knit — worn atop a bikini, and the white shirts half tucked in to gold miniskirts. In their spontaneous, ‘this was closest’ spirit, they looked even more glamorous than the collection’s long, lace dresses. And allow me to direct you to Paul Mescal in the new Gucci advert, wearing a crumpled trench with boxer shorts and loafers. Does he look bothered? Absolutely not. Does he look good? Well, duh.

Other things you can file in the lazy luxury category: clutching your bag instead of wearing it the ‘proper’ way. Skew-whiff hems. Too-long hems. Coats falling nonchalantly off the shoulder. Visible bra straps. Any detail that your most shipshape friend would deem to be ‘wrong’.

Pamela Anderson ditches the make-up at Vivienne Westwood, 2023 (Getty Images)
Pamela Anderson ditches the make-up at Vivienne Westwood, 2023 (Getty Images)

But why the appeal? It is a swelling kickback, for one thing, against the grind. A purgatorial reaction where we say we want to reclaim a work/life balance but in reality refuse to switch our phones off on our hols.

There is something highly aspirational, too, about the person who looks to be putting in minimal effort, while reaping maximum reward. In reality that might mean dealing with skivers who keep vaulting to positions of power but when talking aesthetics, it is enviable. Haven’t they hacked how to do life?

Lazy luxury is not about giving up but about giving in to the joys of taking your foot off the gas. It is about the freedom that comes with opting out and the space that allows you to do far more interesting things.

Look at the legend that is Pamela Anderson: in one single season the bombshell has elevated to bona fide fashion icon status primarily because she opted out of make-up. An act of rebellion as radical and yet as simple as stepping away from the kohl implied all manner of things: confidence, substance, ownership. Perhaps she got an extra 20 minutes in bed, too. How luxurious.