Get acquainted with the best luxury fashion brands for swank clothing and accessories, groundbreaking designs, and staggering prices.
What Are Luxury Brands?
Luxury brands sell goods or services that are privileged, expensive and sought after. While luxury goods are often made from high-quality materials, their cost far exceeds the materials and effort required to produce them. The high cost of goods from luxury brands reflects a premium that consumers of means are willing to pay to own the luxury label.
In Luxury Brand Management: A World of Privilege, authors Michel Chevalier and Gerald Mazzalovo define luxury brands as “selective and exclusive” and having “the desirable attributes of being scarce, sophisticated and in good taste.”
What are Luxury Fashion Brands?
Luxury fashion brands sell upscale, sought-after and expensive clothing, shoes and accessories. Examples of popular luxury fashion brands include Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Prada.
While the most exclusive luxury brands sell truly expensive and uniquely stylish pieces, fashion houses from Salvatore Ferragamo to Hugo Boss have lowered the entry price point for luxury fashion, creating a spectrum of exclusivity and price points depending on the label.
The Most Exclusive Luxury Fashion Brands
To follow are the most exclusive and upscale luxury clothing brands today. Compare what makes them unique:
Considered the most valuable luxury brand in the world, French fashion house Louis Vuitton was founded in Paris in 1854.
Known for its iconic “LV” Monogram and Damier pattern, the luxury giant is a flagship piece of the largest fashion brand in the world LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton group.
Louis Vuitton specializes in posh luggage and handbags designed for the “art of travel.” Also look to Louis Vuitton for a large line up of unique ready-to-wear clothing for women and men from a $5,400 Monogram trench to a $3,200 Napolitana suit jacket, and swanky luxury men’s sunglasses.
Dolce & Gabbana
For Italian fashion, 1985 became a landmark year when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana founded Dolce & Gabbana in a town near Milan.
From leather pantsuits to the bodysuit and crystal bikini worn by Kim Kardashian on Instagram, the company is best known for sensual, playful, and powerful women’s clothes, including vivid dresses inspired by the warmth and vitality of Sicily.
Men also have their pick of boldly-patterned items, such as buttoned shirts and double-breasted jackets made with patchwork designs, as well as $40,000 double-breasted dinner jacket with crystal embellishments, a $7,000 cashmere coat, and $5,000 cargo pants with vintage appliques.
The legendary designer and fashion icon Tom Ford served as the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent before branching out with his eponymous luxury fashion label. Today, Tom Ford makes a dizzying array of some of the most exclusive and expensive luxury clothing and accessories on the planet.
Men can dress up with a $6,000 Oriental Floral Velvet Dinner Jacket or cozy down with $1,600 shearling slippers. Women can find everything from crepe dresses and slouchy cashmere and silk sweaters to statement-ready padlock metallic leather sandals and $2,500 leather leggings. Tom Ford also has an extensive lineup of luxury beauty products and sells exquisite luxury prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses.
The most famous Givenchy garment is Audrey Hepburn’s black dress in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” an enchanting creation that reflects the profound influence Hubert de Givenchy exerted on luxury fashion since launching his Parisian brand in 1952.
The company continues to produce chic and playful attire for women, such as little denim dresses and asymmetrical pleated skirts. At the same time, Givenchy has developed into an essential destination for luxury men’s suiting and high-end designer clothing.
For both men’s and women’s clothing, the brand has given classic suit jackets a fun and edgy twist by adding padlock closures.
In 1919, Cristobal Balenciaga established his first boutique in San Sebastian, Spain, but it was in 1950s Paris that the Balenciaga brand became legendary with its striking and original new shapes for women’s dresses.
These days, some of the brand’s most distinctive items are its shoes, including Speed sneakers that have a sock-knit upper component and are priced at more than $800. (Balenciaga is also a fabulous option for luxury slippers for men.) Their luxury coats, like a shiny parka for men, can cost more than $6,000.
Balenciaga also shines with collaborations. Balenciaga partnered with Crocs to produce a Crocs boot and a quirky Crocs Madame shoe with a heel that retails for $625.
Even though Bottega Veneta doesn’t mark its products with a prominent logo, you can still identify the brand’s most distinctive leather goods, such as its stunning handbags, by the way they’re crafted with the signature Intrecciato weave.
Since 1966, when Michele Taddei and Renzo Zengario established the company in Vincenza, Italy, Bottega Veneta has become famous for the craftsmanship and textures of its apparel and accessories, which range from print dresses with vivid patterns to men’s calf-hair pants worth several thousand dollars.
The Salvatore Ferragamo brand originated with an innovative shoe designer who opened his first shop in Florence in the late 1920s and went on to design shoes for Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and other Hollywood greats.
Gorgeous pumps and ballet flats are among the many shoes women love from this Italian brand, and the men’s footwear includes monk-strap shoes made of calf leather and priced at over $1,300.
The company has also made its mark with luxury handbags, including the new Trifolio Collection, which has a clean design and rich, bright colors.
Italian luxury jewelry and accessories house Bulgari traces its origins to the tiny Kalarites village of Greece, where Founder Sotirios Voulgaris was a silversmith. In Italy, Sotirios and his sons Giorgio and Costantino set up shop in the late 19th Century, leveraging their history as skilled silversmiths to design and market exquisite jewelry to visiting tourists.
Comme des Garcons
If you’re looking for ready-to-wear items from Comme des Garcons, you can find them in a handful of stores worldwide or through other outlets, such as Nordstrom and Net-a-Porter. Items include fringed blazers, mini-dresses made of black taffeta, and wool sweaters with the brand’s Play logo, which is a heart with eyes.
Giorgio Armani, who launched his Milan-based company in 1975, made his menswear a part of pop culture by designing clothes for a variety of films, including “Goodfellas,” “The Untouchables,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Although the company excels at a range of luxury apparel and goods, its most distinctive item remains the Armani suit, which has always exuded power and class in its many iterations across decades. Armani is also an excellent choice for luxury neckties.
Armani also offers women their pick of luxurious clothes, such as wool coats, suede trousers, and cashmere-gauze dresses designed cleanly in solid colors.
The company’s priciest apparel falls under the Purple Label, which includes a linen-blended cardigan that costs close to $2,500.
For women, the Wellington Collection of equestrian-inspired shoes and bags offers both luxury and a feeling of rugged adventure.
Established by Thierry Hermes in 1837, Hermes is a renowned Parisian brand that first made its mark with high-quality leather goods and has expanded its offerings to watches, jewelry, ready-to-wear apparel, and other luxurious products.
The most iconic items of the Hermes brand are the Birkin bags, some of which have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Beyond bags, there are many other exquisite items, including women’s silk scarves and men’s belts with reversible leather straps and distinctive H-shaped buckles.
Founded in London, the Vivienne Westwood brand got its start in 1971 as a leader in punk fashion. From that point onwards, the iconic designer has been pioneering creative and memorable looks, from clothing inspired by Victorian-era fashion to more recent androgynous styles.
Among the many boldly designed luxury items, the brand’s corsets are a highlight, including one made of Japanese check silk that’s priced at over $3,000.
For men’s apparel, a fine example is the classic wool jacket with a signature broken pinstripe design.
The recently reopened flagship store for Dior, established in Paris in 1947, showcases how Christian Dior revolutionized fashion with his New Look, the full-skirted, glamorous designs for women that launched his brand to fame.
These days, the highlights of Dior women’s attire include elegant Lady Dior handbags and a special collection, the 30 Montaigne Wardrobe, which pays homage to the brand’s Parisian roots.
There’s also plenty on offer for men, from athleisure to classic suits in blue or black virgin wool. The CD Diamond Collection is a standout, featuring backpacks, sneakers, and other items sharply emblazoned with the Dior initials.
Founded in the 1960s by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, the Saint Laurent brand was among the first to promote ready-to-wear clothes for high fashion.
The legendary designer also revolutionized women’s fashion with astonishing new looks, including a feminine and classy tuxedo.
The Paris-based company continues to produce exquisite suit jackets for women, including cropped jackets in chevron or Prince-of-Wales tweed, and the wide selection for men includes bold and colorful printed shirts made of silk or crepe de chine.
Gucci has become slang for feeling great, which is the way people typically feel when they own a luxury item from this Italian brand.
When Guccio Gucci opened his first shop in Florence in 1921, he focused on leather luggage, and leather remains the foundation of the most iconic Gucci items to this day, including handbags and belts with the famous double-G motif.
The brand’s recent offerings include horsebit leather loafers for men and women’s ankle boots designed with brand emblems and priced at over $1,200.
Although Prada was founded in 1913 by Mario Prada, it’s under his innovative granddaughter that the Milan-based business turned into a fashion empire, with memorable moments that included the introduction of a designer nylon backpack in the 1980s.
Cutting-edge styles and impressive durability define Prada products, such as double-satin dresses in petal pink, slingback pumps with a minimalistic, triangular design, and customizable America’s Cup sneakers.
One of the most famous fashion houses in the world, Paris fashion house Chanel is perhaps best known for popularizing the Little Black Dress, Chanel Number 5 perfume and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink suit.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who was born into poverty, founded her eponymous label in 1910. “Chanel was the pied piper who led women from complicated, uncomfortable clothes to a bone-simple, uncluttered, and casual look,” wrote Axel Madsen in Chanel: A Woman of Her Own.
Canada Goose makes some of the best outwear in the world, durable parkas and jackets that cost hundreds of dollars apiece and have been worn by a variety of celebrities, such as Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez.
Founded by Sam Tick in 1957, the Toronto company fixes a distinctive, circular brand patch to its clothes.
The use of Canadian Hutterite down and other high-quality materials makes Canada Goose both a trendy and practical choice, and its offerings also include footwear, sweaters, and various winter accessories.
Beautifully crafted stilettos with shiny red soles are the defining product of the Christian Louboutin brand, which launched in the early 1990s.
Louboutin, who opened his first shoe boutique in Paris, has always had celebrities among his clientele, ranging from Princess Caroline of Monaco to Beyoncé.
Far from being limited to stilettos, the selection of women’s shoes boasts a range of creative designs, and the company has also been offering high-end men’s shoes since 2010.
When Thomas Burberry opened a store for outdoor attire in Basingstoke, an English town roughly 50 miles from London, he may not have imagined that his business would come to represent timeless elegance.
Many finely crafted items are available from this British luxury brand, such as signature handbags and men’s short-sleeve silk shirts priced at over $1,200.
Founded by the late Gianni Versace in 1978, the Milan-based Versace brand is associated with sexuality, boldness, and glamor, as celebrities ranging from Madonna to Naomi Campbell have been a key part of its image.
The most iconic items include the stunning Oroton dress, made of silky-looking metal mesh draped in gold and priced at over $5,000.
The various eye-popping items available from the brand include tiny latex dresses, men’s gabardine blazers, and an extensive collection of bags stamped with Versace’s Medusa logo.
Jeanne Lanvin, a brilliant designer and businesswoman whose creations include a unique shade of blue, founded her Paris-based company in 1899, making Lanvin one of the oldest French fashion houses still in business.
Lanvin’s contributions to fashion include the majestic Robe de Style and chemise dresses popular with 1920s flappers.
The company’s current offerings continue to emphasize exquisite craftsmanship and flowing, soft fabrics.
For menswear, some of the most unique items, such as the asymmetrical buttoned shirts and embroidered sweatshirts, look masculine, soft, and relaxed.
Loro Piana garments are unbeatable in the quality of their materials, particularly cashmere and wool, and the company has been innovating with new textile technologies, such as its Storm System for keeping outerwear reliably dry and warm.
The company was founded in 1924 by Pietro Loro Piana in the Piedmont region of Italy and has expanded to 171 stores around the world.
Current offerings, which may cost at least a few thousand dollars, include men’s crew-neck sweaters made of virgin wool and long, warmly colored dresses in silk and cashmere.
Founded by Rene Ramillon and Andre Vincent in 1952, Moncler has its origins in a French Alpine town and was brought back to life in 2003 by an Italian businessman, Remo Ruffini.
The brand’s defining product is its puffy, quilted down jacket, a high-functioning piece that can cost at least several hundred dollars, making it a memorable example of luxury skiwear.
Moncler’s luxury winter clothes also include wool jacquard capes for women, monogrammed sweaters for men, and puffer jackets for dogs.
Catwalk shows from Alexander McQueen became famous for their groundbreaking and subversive designs, and the quality of the brand’s garments continues to reflect the late designer’s emphasis on fine tailoring.
Founded in London in 1992, the Alexander McQueen fashion house remains highly respected for its artistry and creativity.
The highlights of the extensive selection include beautifully designed accessories, such as jeweled satchel bags, calf-leather curve bags that come in eye-catching shades of cerulean or neon pink, and a backpack decorated with one of William Blake’s illustrations of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
Wife-and-husband Céline and Richard Vipiana founded Celine in 1945 originally as a custom children’s shoe shop in Paris. After opening additional stores in the late 1940s, Vipiana launched a women’s ready-to-wear clothing line focused on casual (for the time) pieces and fabrics from skirt suits to jeans.
Celine, which was sold to the LVMH Group in 1996, has become particularly well-known for its handbags. In the mid-2000’s, under creative director Pheobe Philo, Celine “became the stylish It-girl’s alternative to more mainstream, flashier labels.”
Johnny Johansson founded Acne Studios (“Ambition to Create Novel Expressions”) in 1996 in Stockholm as part of a Swedish collective. The luxury fashion house, which was inspired by the Warhol Factory, has gained a dedicated following for its denim and a range of bold, ready-to-wear, runway-inspired fashions for women and men. Acne Studios’ fashion offers a tailored look and often features unusual fabrics and vibrant, Scandinavian-inspired colors and patterns.
The Influence of Luxury Fashion on Style Trends and Culture
Following luxury fashion can provide insights into important trends and cultural history.
One key reason for the cost of luxury clothing brands is how influential they are on fashion in general, including mass-market and more affordable clothes.
Over decades, visionary designers leading luxury brands shape style trends, such as the silhouette and length of dresses, the cut of suit jackets, the choice of raw materials, and the creative use of artistic embellishments, which filter down into mass-market fashion.
In the Devil Wears Prada, the fictional Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, does a phenomenal job of making the case for the trickle-down impact of luxury fashion to Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway:
Oh. Okay. I see. You think [luxury fashion] has nothing to do with you.
You go to your closet and you select, I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you are trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back.
But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue… it’s actually cerulean.
In 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns…
And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers.
Then it filtered down through the department stores, and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.
Luxury brands have also become part of the wider culture by appearing prominently in movies, television, theater, concerts, and athletic events.
Celebrities may become the face of a brand, especially in connection with a unique item, like a new kind of shoe or handbag.
What Are Your Favorite Luxury Clothing Brands?
What is your favorite luxury brand? Did we miss any high-end fashion houses?
Whether or not you’ve bought from any of these brands, you may have your preferences. Maybe you favor the aesthetics of a brand, the design of a particular item, or an iconic look you loved in a movie or show. Share your thoughts about what makes a luxury brand great.
Photo credit: Featured photo courtesy of Jannis Lucas via Unsplash.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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