We can read the room. We know that splashing large wads of cash – or, more likely, inputting your card details into a payment box online – isn’t the number 1 hobby of lockdown 3.0. But it seems that even if we’ve calmed down on the spending front, we’re still searching for designer brands. And, if you have decided to treat yourself, our deeply un-scientific methods of deciding which labels deserve the title of ‘best brand’, will help to guide you to invest in something you’ll love forever. Or that will at least hold onto its value if you decide to resell.
As well as straightforward fashion trends that dictate the colours of the season, silhouettes and fabrics, brands have their moment in the on-trend spotlight too. New creative directors, a collaboration with other designers or limited edition launch all help propel a label into greater consciousness, meaning a search scrabble.
Yes, the list of best designer brands that we have compiled are all red hot right now but the surprise reveal is that several are over 100 years old and one is pushing two centuries!
Originally producing saddles and harnesses for horses, Hermes – founded in 1837 – now creates luxurious leather bags that have become some of the most expensive in the world. A diamond encrusted Birkin sold for almost £300,000 at auction in 2017. Creative director of women’s ready-to-wear, Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski, has ensured that the catwalk collections are utterly elegant, while the silk scarves and smaller Constance bag are still brilliant buys.
Louis Vuitton is also one of the old-school, founded in 1854 and is famous for the LV monogram, which appears on everything from travel trunks to earrings. Nicholas Ghesquiere – current creative director – has kept the ready-to-wear looking fresh while the list of It Bags from the house (the Speedy, The Neverfull, The Alma, The Lockit…) makes it an ever enticing brand. The logo Derby shoes have been spotted on all our favourite influencers this Winter too.
In contrast, Moncler is almost a baby in heritage terms. The active outerwear brand might not be one of the traditional French maisons but luxe re-sale site Vestiaire Collective and global fashion shopping platform, Lyst, have both noted increased interest, making it one of their top 10 most searched for labels. For the past sixty years Moncler has been the go-to for skiers and outdoorsy types but the recent need for practical puffer coats (that keep you warm on a daily walk) and tap into the season’s sporty vibe make it one of the best brands around.
Bottega Veneta is having A Moment thanks to creative director Daniel Lee, who worked with Phoebe Philo at Celine and brings a millennial minimalism to the brand. So cool, they have shuttered their social media presence and their shoes and bags are still the style set’s favourite accessories. Likewise, Prada is having a Total Moment too. The fashion pack’s unwavering devotion to Miuccia Prada’s vision has doubled down since Raf Simons became co-creative director and the iconic black nylon bags, which were a Nineties must-carry, fit into fashion’s current obsession with that decade. The bags are also part of the brand’s Re-Nylon initiative that aims to make them entirely from recycled plastic waste. Sustainable and chic.
Founded in 1909 by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, the French house of Chanel is definitely one of the legends, but despite playing on codes from the brands’ history (all those signature details like quilting, gold chains and boucle tweed that are instantly recognisable as Chanel) Chanel is also looking to the future. This month saw the launch of Chanel Connects – a podcast series bringing together creative minds (like Pharrell Williams, Keira Knightley and Tilda Swinton) to discuss “what matters most and what happens next.” Listen now.
Since Alessandro Michele became Gucci’s creative director his playful, eccentric designs have gained cult status. The shoes, the bags, the jewels, the dresses are all a clash of colour and print that make us feel happy. Clever collaborations – with Manga cartoon characters, artists and, er, Disney – do exactly that! While at Dior – another of both Vestiaire Collective and Lyst’s top ten searched for designer brands in 2021 – Maria Grazia Chiuri has just launched the house’s versatile new Caro bag – a chic sac that can be worn cross-body, over the shoulder or carried by hand.
The recent revival of Celine is credited to creative director Hedi Slimane who has majored on the brand’s traditional bourgeois heritage – all pleated skirts and pussy-bow blouses – while at Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia has kept it resolutely futuristic – just like founder Cristobal Balenciaga did when he opened his atelier in 1937. Also echoing the house heritage is Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent who is keeping it sexy, slick and relevant now – and as it will still be in twenty year’s time. And that’s the key to being one of the best designer brands on the planet!