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Valentino, 'naked' dresses and bra tops are key for upbeat luxe shopper says Moda Operandi

Nov 19, 2020

There may be a consensus in fashion that stuck-at-home consumers will be buying sweatpants and other comfort clothing for the foreseeable future, but a new report from luxe retailer Moda Operandi suggests the future for fashion and style is brighter than that.

The 'naked' dress is a key seller for SS21 says Moda Operandi

But it also said that while women want style, they’re seeking quality items that will last. 

In its latest twice-yearly trend report, it said women are investing in higher-value pieces. On average, customers spent $779 per pre-order RTW piece for next season, compared to last year’s $576.

And it has found that the appetite for Valentino isn’t waning. For SS21, it has sold double the pieces compared to the next-best selling collection as the label feeds well into what consumers want today. “The collection captured the theme of ‘ease’ we saw across many collections, except in the case of Valentino, it was very much ‘extravagant ease’”, the report said.

Based on the firm’s trunkshow data for SS21, collections that had a runway component drove, on average, 40% more revenue than those that didn’t, suggesting that runways remain an important marketing challenge for luxe labels. 

“Customers responded strongly to the imagery and buzz generated from the runway”, it said. The top 10 shows based on gross order value included Valentino, Alessandra Rich, Johanna Ortiz, Gabriela Hearst, Zimmermann, Ulla Johnson, Jacquemus, The Row, Prada and Khaite.

But Studio Amelia’s debut RTW collection was in the top 15 after debuting via Moda Operandi’s new livestream shopping platform Moda Live. “Clients especially gravitated toward the liquid bias slip dress, satin-lined trench dress, and wool midi skirt,” it said. 

And based on the locations its pre-order customers are in, the places that will be runway label-focused next year are Manhattan in NYC, followed by London and San Francisco. Next come Seattle, LA, Greenwich in Connecticut, Riyadh, Beverly Hills, Brooklyn and Toronto.

So what else are they buying? “Fashion pieces that can work double duty — meaning they’re functional and easy to mix and match”, Moda Operandi said. “Knit bras are being paired with blazers, loose pants with T-shirts”.

But while many consumers are seeking quality, timeless pieces, there are still trends emerging.


‘Naked’ dresses are resonating. What this means is pieces that are “slinky, slightly sheer, backless, or bodycon — anything that enhances the female form through soft and sensual fabrication”. These are emerging “as another alternative to sweatpants for the luxury shopper”. A naked dress was the top-selling piece in several SS21 collections, including Jacquemus’s cotton-blend slip, Christopher Esber’s outline wool crepe dress, Anna Quan’s cotton rib knit dress, Altuzarra’s Dianella midi, and Cult Gaia’s Serita knit dress.

Bra tops and crop tops were also striking a chord. “Call it the Khaite effect, but bra tops saw a 3x increase in popularity this season, compared to SS20”, Moda Operandi said.

Bra tops were featured in 10% of all trunkshows, compared to just 3% last year. Crop tops, meanwhile, appeared in 28% of SS21 trunkshows, compared to 16% last year. 

Meanwhile, bottomweights were all about comfort-meets-style. Each of its top 10 bestselling SS21 trousers were loose-fitting to pair with those knits, bras, and crop tops. Standout pieces came from The Row, St Agni and Victoria Beckham.

But some customers are also splashing out on extravagant pieces that are far from utilitarian. Miu Miu’s $7,500 embroidered mini skirt was a best-seller.

This reflects the fact that some customers continue to invest in higher-value speciality items. Among them are Simone Rocha’s beaded bustier patchwork dress ($1,995), Paco Rabanne’s printed mesh kimono ($4,650), and Rodarte’s printed silk twill dress ($1,600).

Moda Operandi added that “while luxury clients are undoubtedly investing in higher-value pieces, they’re also wanting their wardrobe to work twice as hard. That’s to say, she’s shopping for versatile separates that can be styled together or taken apart to create a whole new look. In other words: more mileage”. 

As a result, it’s seeing sets soar above dresses for the current season, “and the trend is only set to gain steam into next season”. Matching sets from Alessandra Rich, Etro, Ulla Johnson and Johanna Ortiz “were twice as likely to be purchased together than purchased separately”.

Meanwhile, for footwear, Prada’s slingback heel “is back in a big way, holding the spot for Prada’s bestselling SS21 item”. The slingback, updated with the brand’s triangle logo and nylon materials, sold in all five colours: black, pink, orange, blue, and yellow. 


Given the number of lockdowns at the moment and rising Covid cases even where lockdowns aren’t in place, it’s interesting that consumers are still buying clothes for going outside.

Moda Operandi said outerwear sales as a proportion of all sales are 115% higher than last autumn. It said this could be a reaction to public health experts encouraging people to only socialise outdoors. The pieces that are selling well include Max Mara’s Teddy Coat, Paco Rabanne’s printed wool coat, and Staud’s vegan leather jacket.

Moda Operandi said comfortable, loose trousers are major pieces for AW20

The company has also found that the average handbag sold for $1,560 this autumn, compared to $900 a year ago, “suggesting that consumers are spending more on higher investment pieces they’ll wear — and be seen in — every day”. The top seller is Bottega Veneta’s Chain Cassette Bag, while Olympia Le Tan’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg Clutch at $1,250 sold out within hours of Justice Ginsburg’s death, despite being on the site for over six months.

In footwear, the “off-duty boot is the number-one shoe trend” with seven of its top 10 best-selling shoes fitting the utilitarian look “that takes consumers from indoors to out and back again”. Popular pieces include Prada’s leather lace-up boots, Proenza Schouler’s leather Chelsea boot, Ganni’s rubber Chelsea boot, and Bottega Veneta’s lug sole leather boot.

Meanwhile, for jewellery, eight out of the retailer’s top 10 best-selling fashion pieces this season were chunky gold chains. “The luxury consumer is optimising for the bold and bright pieces that can stand out — outside or on Zoom”, it said.

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