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Quiet Luxury or Fast Fashion: Consumers Are Buying Both

Blog Post
We asked U.S. consumers about their perspectives on quiet luxury and fast fashion. Here’s what we uncovered.
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Quiet luxury is a fashion style that embraces enduring craftmanship, timeless logo-free wardrobe staples, understated elegance, and long-term value. While not a new concept, quiet luxury is experiencing a resurgence and is represented by such brands as Loro Piana, The Row, Bottega Veneta, and Celine. It’s all about refinement, subtlety, and “making a presence without making a noise” as InStyle Magazine reports. Quiet luxury buyers value investing in simplistic apparel such as high-quality knitwear, classic trench coats, logo-free accessories, and timeless shoes. 

By contrast, fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is mass produced quickly in response to the latest trends. Brands like H&M, Zara, Forever21, and Shein represent fast fashion. This style is all about visibility and catering to the moment.  

For retailers, quiet luxury and fast fashion buyers have long been two different markets. This is changing. Today’s consumers are purchasing items from each style as they focus on differing fashion needs, desires, and occasions.  

While quiet luxury has long been a fashion principle of the affluent, quiet luxury now appeals to a broader market as consumers seek to get the most value and longevity out of their apparel purchases and realize their sustainability values.  

We were intrigued by this shift and decided to ask U.S. consumers about their perspectives on quiet luxury and fast fashion. Here’s what we uncovered.  

Quiet luxury is on the fashion shoppers’ radar. 

57% of respondents were aware of the quiet luxury concept. And their concept of it is spot on:  

What embodies quiet luxury?  

78% High-quality materials (fabric, accessories, etc.) 
56% Timeless and classic styles / trend-proof  
43% Minimalistic design and branding / logo-free 
43% Longevity of item or investment  
31% Ethical and sustainable practices 

We also wanted to know how this plays into their own buying decisions.  

What factors are most important in your clothing purchases?  

63% Quality of materials 
45% Timeless, classic, staple item 
37% Brand reputation 
31% Environmental impact 
30% Latest style or trend 
21% Recommended by friends or influencers 

These combined factors made us wonder about how consumers decide between quiet luxury and fast fashion. We asked respondents what values drive their clothing purchase decisions:  

Values that drive quiet luxury purchases 

76% quality of materials 
67% timeless and classic styles 
66% brand reputation 
57% sustainability practices  

Values that drive fast fashion purchases 

62% shopping convenience and accessibility 
59% trendiness and fashion forward 
58% price and affordability 
54% social influence 

As you can see, different values drive choices between quiet luxury and fast fashion. Shoppers are buying from both categories.  

What proportion of your current wardrobe is made of quiet luxury items vs fast fashion?  

69% quiet luxury  
31% fast fashion 

This is important for apparel retailers to note as consumers are leaning more towards staple, timeless pieces but still have a sizeable fast fashion proportion in their closets.  

Are they satisfied with one more than the other?

Turns out, not really. They’re quite satisfied with both.  

69% are highly satisfied with higher-end clothing purchase 
66% are highly satisfied with trendy, less expensive clothing purchase 

Given a fairly high level of satisfaction, we dove into how they determine which brands they can trust.  

What sources do you rely on to learn about the quality of clothing brands?  

22% online reviews on the retailer/brand website 
19% in-store experiences and staff recommendations 
17% friends and family 
17% I do not rely on any information 
15% social media 
8% online lifestyle news and blogs 
2% influencers and content creators 

It’s notable that despite 15% relying on social media, only 2% are relying on influencers who are typically on social media. This may suggest that brand marketing on social media is having a significant effect. It also underscores the importance of reviews, in-store experiences, and word of mouth marketing.  

Being a fulfillment provider, we were curious about where consumers are buying quiet luxury: in- store or online?  

Where do you prefer to shop for quiet luxury items?  

39% in-store only 
31% equally in-store and online 
15% online only 
15% it depends on the item  

The fact that 31% prefer online and in-store highlights the need for a seamless omniexperience. Retailers can drill down into the factors that influence those choices to better meet shoppers’ preferences and needs – and to drive traffic to one channel or the other.  

What factors influenced whether you shopped in-store or online?  

I chose in-store because of… 

85% greater ability to physically examine products 
69% personalized experience 

I chose online because of… 

61% more convenience 
55% greater availability of exclusive collections 
54% discounts and promotions 
Retailers that want to improve traffic can work to improve the areas that shoppers value most when selecting in-store vs online. Again, omniexperience is vital to meeting the needs of consumers. How well are brands doing?  

What experiences have you had in-store and online when buying quiet luxury and fast fashion?  

There were multiple channels for browsing and buying.

48% Quiet luxury
52% Fast fashion

I was able to access personalized recommendations and content across channels.

52% Quiet luxury
48% Fast fashion  

It was easy to transition between online and offline shopping modes (aka, click and collect, buy online, return in-store).

44% Quiet luxury
56% Fast fashion 

The brand messaging and aesthetics were consistent across channels.

59% Quiet luxury
41% Fast fashion 

What does this data tell us? Quiet luxury brands excel at providing personalized content and recommendations and do well at keeping brand messaging consistent across channels. Fast fashion brands are winning at providing multiple channels and easy transitions between shopping modes.  

Overall, apparel retailers can harness the quiet luxury trend by recognizing that consumers are buying both. By marketing and catering to the values and experiences that drive buying decisions, retailers can capitalize on the wallet share of fashion shoppers. Delivering a highly personalized shopping experience, including order fulfillment and the unboxing experience, is essential to gaining positive reviews and word of mouth sales.  

Radial can help you craft a highly personalized eCommerce fulfillment and unboxing experience.  

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