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Many of us resonate the most with anything old and vintage. From ancient cultures and archaic buildings to family heirlooms and classic films, we admire them all. Likewise, there are people who are ardent followers of some of the oldest luxury brands too. It is indeed surprising that some of these date back to 100 years and more!
It is interesting to note that most traditional brands have matured and expanded, by creating remarkably innovative products that have revolutionised how we look at these commodities. With the evolving concept of luxury, these brands have brought in desired changes, all through these years.
However, most of the brands that are now stalwarts of luxury, craftsmanship and style have had humble beginnings; they went on to build flourishing empires. Such has been their renown that their products have been flaunted by royalty across the world; add to it popular celebrities and of course those who wish to own the timeless and expensive pieces.
Here are some of the oldest luxury brands that are alive and kicking
The story of the French fashion house begins in 1837, with Thierry Hermès setting up his first harness-making workshop in Paris. A go-to store for European royalty, whose clientele included Napoleon Bonaparte, the brand went on to add more notable names to its portfolio, with time. These include Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy. Today, it has over 300 stores in 45 countries.
Running for six generations of craftsmanship and innovation, the luxury brand has revolutionised leather goods manufacturing through their sophisticated and timeless designs. From the launch of its first bag Haut à Courroies in 1900, followed by accessories, jewellery and clothing, to the emblematic pieces such as the Birkin, Kelly, Bolide and Constance, it has come a long way.
The ultra-rich factor of Hermès bags can be further understood by a 2016 study conducted by the online marketplace for handbags Baghunter. The research compared three kinds of investments over 35 years of historical data and found that the Birkin bag, as a collectible, had outpaced the price of gold and the stock market index S&P 500, making the Hermès product a better investment than the other two.
Costing somewhere between USD 60,000 and USD 200,000, the bag can have a waiting list as long as six years. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum, Lady Gaga and Cardi B are proud owners of a Hermès bag.
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Founder Louis Cartier’s motto is depicted in every item the luxury brand has been creating since its inception in 1847. He once said: “Never imitate, always innovate.”
At a time when pocket watches had become a standard accessory among the gentlemen, Louis invented a ‘hands-free’ wearable and named it Santos. Then came the jewel-studded Tank watch, which was even worn by former US First Lady Michelle Obama, among other celebrities like Jacqueline Onassis and Andy Warhol. The luxury brand’s other timeless pieces include the Ballon Bleu watch, worn by Kate Middleton, and the gold Panthère de Cartier watch, spotted on the likes of Anne Hathaway, Sienna Miller and Dua Lipa.
When it comes to its exquisite jewellery, the heritage label has crafted a staggering range of signature pieces, including Tutti Frutti necklaces and bracelets inspired by Indian royalty. Additionally, the Trinity rings were worn by Princess Diana and the Panther brooch was adorned by Wallis Simpson, wife of King Edward VII.
Cartier jewellery has gleamed on many crowned heads across the world, including Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, who wore a ruby and diamond platinum tiara at her wedding. The brand also crafted her engagement rings.
The jeweller of choice for royalty, celebrities and tycoons, its star-studded list of clients include King Farouk of Egypt and Clark Gable. Cartier’s Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton diamond necklace is another signature creation that features the 69.42-carat pear-shaped gemstone.
Today, the multinational luxury brand has over 200 boutiques across the globe.
Set up in 1848 by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Omega has been delivering luxury watches to horologists and collectors for decades. The brand owes its reputation to the innovative techniques and incredible design used to deliver each timepiece. From extreme weather conditions and operating in space to diving to the depths of the ocean, the iconic Omega watches are lauded for many more factors.
Such is its renown that the illustrious watches have been worn by the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Presley, as well as former US President John F. Kennedy. Other celebrities whose go-to choice is an Omega timepiece include George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Eddie Redmayne.
Omega watches are also associated with the James Bond franchise, with the first timepiece appearing in GoldenEye (1995). Ever since, the brand has been the official watch worn by the fictional spy. Other watches by the label worn by Bond include the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M and Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition.
One of the most valuable luxury and premium brands in the world, German automobile maker Porsche is renowned for its superior quality and world-class sports car manufacturing. Rising to the challenge of a world that is becoming increasingly eco-conscious, it introduced its first electric car, Taycan, in 2019. With this, Porsche became one of the leading names in sustainability and among the first conventional luxury car makers to introduce a fully electric model.
Established in 1948, Ferdinand Porsche formed a company with 200 workers. Some of the most notable launches by the luxury brand are Porsche 356, Porsche Carrera GT, Porsche 959, Porsche 917, Porsche 911, Porsche 911 Carrera RS and Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid.
Proud owners of a Porsche include celebrities like David Beckham, Adriana Lima, Gwen Stefani, Wiz Khalifa, LeBron, Miley Cyrus, MS Dhoni, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Amitabh Bachchan.
Recently, Porsche and Rimowa collaborated for a limited-edition collector’s case called Hand-Carry Case Pepita. It was inspired by the first-generation Porsche 911.
Louis Vuitton started his business in Paris in 1854. Interestingly, before opening his first store, Vuitton had already spent 17 years honing his skills and understanding the market. Today, the French luxury house has a range of luxury bags and leather goods, ready-to-wear, shoes, watches, jewellery, accessories and books.
The product that put Louis Vuitton on the map was the Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk, which featured the signature grey-patterned, lightweight Trianon canvas. This was followed by the modern traveller’s bag, Louis Vuitton Keepall. At first, it showcased the iconic LV monogram, floral patterns and leather accents, but later it was made available in many colours and prints, including Murakami’s Cerise, Multicolour and Virgil Abloh’s PVC take.
The brand’s other iconic creations include its first handbag Alma, the bucket bag Noé to carry champagne bottles, Speedy ordered by acclaimed actress Audrey Hepburn for her daily travels, the Capucines, the City Steamer, which took shape as a women’s day bag and the Petite Malle, which was inspired by the label’s founder’s trunks and had the signature S-lock clasp.
From some of the earliest celebrities like Catherine Deneuve, Nan Kempner and Lauren Bacall to newer stars, including Rihanna, Kate Moss, the Beckhams, Gigi Hadid, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Kardashians, Louis Vuitton has reigned for decades as the ultimate celebrity status symbol, when it comes to high-end suitcases and glamourous travel.
Not just that, the brand has furthered its reach by combining the love and creativity of fashion with art and architecture. Some of the most famous collaborations are with Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami from 2003 to 2015, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in 2012 and the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collection in 2017.
Appealing to Gen Z, the luxury fashion house also launched an adventure-based game named Louis the Game to mark its founder’s 200th birth anniversary.
Vibrant floral designs exuding bold creativity, the historic BVLGARI BVLGARI timepiece, Bulgari Monete pieces mounting antique Roman coins, the mythical serpentine talisman and the flexible Tubogas bands are some Bulgari icons that are treasured to date.
In 1884, Greek silversmith Sotirios Voulgaris, who later changed his name to Sotirio Bulgari, founded the luxury brand. Over the years, it went on to be known for its signature jewellery crafted in gold and silver, striking colour combinations and distinct motifs inspired by the company’s Roman heritage.
What added to the renown of Bulgari’s creations was the flourishing ‘Dolce Vita’ years of the ‘Eternal City’, with legendary films like Roman Holidays being filmed there. Owing to that, the label’s store in Rome drew stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and Anita Ekberg for its eclectic jewels, resulting in Bulgari being depicted in over 40 movies. So much so, Taylor even stated that “undeniably one of the biggest advantages to filming Cleopatra in Rome was Bvlgari’s shop.”
Further on, its signature pieces have been sported by celebrities strutting the red carpet at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and film festivals like Cannes and Venice. Some more recent celebrities who were seen wearing the jeweller’s exquisite pieces include Charlize Theron, who wore the Serpenti necklace to the 91st annual Academy Awards, while Lady Gaga shone in the BVLGARI heritage and High Jewellery diamond earrings and necklace to the LA premiere of A Star is Born in 2018.
Ruling the Parisian haute couture for many decades, French fashion designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel created elegantly casual designs for fashionable women. Her innovations include the exquisite Chanel suit, the quilted purse, costume jewellery, No.5 perfume and the ‘little black dress.’
Coco Chanel opened a hat boutique in 1910, which helped her build a reputation among renowned French actresses. Over the following decade, her tweed suit, conceptualised with masculine and feminine designs, has been donned by some of the most celebrated personalities, including Romy Schneider, Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana and Anna Wintour. However, the suit was reinvented as dresses, playsuits, blazers, trousers and mini skirts during the luxury fashion house’s late creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s reign. On the other hand, Chanel No.5 was among Marilyn Monroe’s favourites and she reportedly wore it to bed.
Not far behind were notable products like the Chanel Classic Flap bag 2.55, which saw a reissue with a rectangular twist lock and the chain, the dual-toned slingback shoes and ballerinas, the iconic pearl necklace and double-C diamond-studded earrings, to name a few of the French luxury fashion house’s creations.
During Lagerfeld’s tenure as creative director, the French fashion brand saw many collaborations. Chanel teamed up with Swedish high street giant H&M, Coca-Cola Light, Vans, Faber-Castell and Shu Uemura, to name a few.
In 1913, Mario Prada and his brother Martino opened the first store in Milan, where they sold a range of products — most of which were imported from England — such as leather goods, handbags and steamer trunks. When it was time for Mario to retire, he passed on the brand’s ownership to his daughter Luisa. After her, Prada was succeeded by Luisa’s daughter Miuccia. The latter also launched her own brand named Miu Miu, a subsidiary of Prada.
Prada is known for its progressive and pioneering designs that are often showcased on the runway. For instance, in its first Fall/Winter 1988 collection, Miuccia revealed designs that represented modern understated luxury at a time when too much of anything was considered ‘glamourous excess.’
Over the years that followed, Prada brought something new or brought back tones and hues that were forgotten, such as the muted avocado greens and earthy browns of the ’70s and the archival Bowling Bag. It also relaunched its sport-infused Linea Rossa collection in 2018 to keep up with the evolving ideology of the 21st century.
When it comes to collaborations, Miuccia Prada is too not fond of it, according to a 2021 Vogue article. She told the publication that she has been “asked to do a collaboration since ages! They always seemed to be just about selling more — about clichés, banality, and not about ideas. I was never interested.” However, Prada collaborated with sportswear brand Adidas to launch an all-white take on the Adidas Superstar sneaker in 2019 and a collection, including ready-to-wear, accessories and bags among other items, in 2022.
Interestingly, when Belgian designer Raf Simons joined one of the world’s oldest luxury brands as co-creative director, the duo reinvented many of Prada’s iconic products. This included the 1984 Nylon backpack, which was recreated to make it more functional and in line with sustainability. Another star accessory by the co-creative directors, many among others, was the Prada Cleo bag that was reintroduced at the Spring/Summer 2021 collection.
In 2021, Balenciaga dethroned Gucci to take the first place among the most popular fashion brands in the world.
Established by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in San Sebastian, Spain, in 1919, this brand went on to be one that was revered by fashion’s greatest designers — Chanel, Dior and Givenchy. So much so that Christian Dior himself called the founder ‘the master of us all.’
What started with iconic costumes like the 1950 balloon dress, the 1960 cocoon coat and the 1959 empress dress, the fashion house has seen many reigning designers whose costumes have made history. Some of its more recent creations include American designer Alexander Wang’s costumes for Lady Gaga at the 2015 Met Gala, Ghesquière’s super-slim preppy blazers, and Demna Gvasalia’s contemporary pieces like the cagoule and puffer and denim jackets in 2015.
Balenciaga pieces have also graced the silver screen. Among the earliest was the one that Cristóbal designed for Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia (1956). Other celebrities who marvelled in the brand’s creations include Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Anita Ekberg and Spanish aristocrat and socialite María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú.
Balenciaga also made a stellar entrance with the Motorcycle Lariat bag, whose prototypes were spotted with Kate Moss and the Olsen sisters. From red carpet appearances and chic runway looks to celebrities like Beyoncé performing at the 2007 BET Awards in a Balenciaga costume, the brand also went on to create bold footwear with chunky buckles and unique styling by Ghesquière.
The brand’s continuing popularity also owes to its many collaborations. One of the most recent is Gucci and Balenciaga’s The Hacker Project, which includes products with branding by both labels.
Moreover, when one of the world’s most popular video games Fortnite joined hands with Balenciaga, offering players the possibility to get virtual Balenciaga outfits and fashion accessories, the collaboration instantly caught the attention of Gen Z and the entire fashion universe.
One of the most widely recognised luxury fashion brands in the world, Gucci began as a luggage manufacturer for Italy’s elite in Florence in 1921. Named after its founder Guccio Gucci, the label today produces designer handbags, ready-to-wear outfits, shoes, accessories, makeup products, fragrances and a lot more.
Other than the epic collaboration between Gucci and Balenciaga in 2021, various labels like Adidas, The North Face, Disney, COMME des GARÇONS, Xbox and Kia have made striking debuts featuring a blend of the Gucci logo with theirs.
Not just that, Gucci has had an array of iconic launches, from handbags and scarves to shoes and accessories. Among the most significant ones were the reinterpretation of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Bamboo 1947 and the Gucci Diana handbags. Other timeless pieces include the Gucci belt, the 1950s’ Horsebit loafers, the Gucci silk scarf, the 2014 Soho Disco Bag, the Logo T-shirt, the 2017 Marmont Bag and the Dionysus Bag.
Additionally, Gucci has been one of the leading names in the fashion industry to engage with metaverse. First, it bought virtual real estate on The Sandbox for its off-shoot brand Gucci Vault in February 2022. More recently, it teamed up with 10KTF. The project includes the floating virtual world of ‘New Tokyo’, fashion accessories for NFT owners to purchase with profile photos and a fictional character named Wagmi-San.
When it comes to the renown of this luxury fashion brand set up by Adele and Edoardo Fendi in Rome in 1925, all we can think of is its daring style statement. One that became almost synonymous with the 1998 show Sex And The City was the Fendi Baguette, ‘not a bag’ according to Carrie Bradshaw said. (SACT fans get the reference, don’t you?)
Since its inception, Fendi has been all about opulence, innovation and beauty. Even after the death of Edoardo, the brand continued creating excellent leather and fur products. But the brand reached the pinnacle of success under the mentorship of Karl Lagerfeld who used fur across products, including accessories and ready-to-wear designs.
Some of the most iconic bags by the brand, other than the Baguette, are Peekaboo with a flip-lock fastening system, Fendi Backpack with the embossed signature FF logo, Fendi Purse in a variety of colours and metallic finishes and the Croissant purse that can be worn as a shoulder or satchel bag.
Fashion brands are known for reinventing themselves through collaborations and Fendi was no different. The luxury brand joined hands with Versace for the exclusive Fendace collection in 2021, switching roles for a fresh interpretation of ‘iconic codes at their counterparts’ houses.’
It also teamed up with Kim Kardashians’ shapewear and clothing brand SKIMS. The pieces from the collection flaunted the bold FF motifs. Additionally, it has partnered with notable celebrities like Nicki Minaj, Beth Ditto, Amy Winehouse and Jackson Wang.
Other premium brands that are still popular
Luxury fashion brands that are among the oldest and are still thriving amid much fanfare include Nina Ricci founded in 1932, Dior set up in 1946, Valentino established in 1960, Givenchy operating since 1952 and Yves Saint Laurent in 1961.
Meanwhile, notable names in luxury watchmaking are Rolex, which was founded in 1905, Patek Philippe that was launched in 1839 and Audemars Piguet in 1972, among others.
(Main and Featured images: Laura Chouette/Unsplash)
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