The Real Reason You Like Shopping For Vacation

Blame global warming, Instagram or the spring runways: Resortwear has never been hotter. The category is exploding, say analysts, and vacation-minded shoppers are more likely to pay full price. How the art of lusting for a beachy holiday is powering retail

by: Rebecca Malinsky

Originally published on June 5, 2019

Photo Originally published on Courtesy Everett Collection PHOTO: FOX SEARCHLIGHT / EVERETT COLLECTION

Photo Originally published on Courtesy Everett Collection PHOTO: FOX SEARCHLIGHT / EVERETT COLLECTION

How many swimsuits make for the perfect summer vacation? What about floral dresses and straw hats? A scroll through Net-A-Porter or Instagram this time of year might make you feel lacking—despite the 15 maillots you own that have yet to see sand. 

Shopping for a vacation is part anti-cubicle fantasia...and part personality disorder. Marketing director Elizabeth Fuller, 31, bought a pile of bright linen dresses last year before a trip to Ibiza to celebrate her wedding anniversary—outfits she said she would never wear at home. “There is a very specific series of habits that I don’t apply to any other aspects of my wardrobe except when I’m shopping for a trip,” she says. “It’s like I’m this completely brand-new person who spends reckless amounts of money to become someone else on vacation.” 

After recently booking a summer trip to Tremezzo, Italy, I found myself spending an inappropriate amount of time researching swimsuits, flowy dresses and flat, cobblestone-friendly sandals. Never mind that I have a closet full of these items. Something about a new trip on the horizon made me want new everything. Friends and colleagues have assured me they do the same. Vacation is partially about decompression, but it’s also about living out a fantasy life; fashion helps us get into character.

According to retail analytics firm Edited, the high summer (May to August) luxury category increased in volume on U.S. e-commerce sites 10% from 2017 to 2018 with a 40% increase in luxury caftans and swim cover-ups on offer. Surfing the resort wave into this year, the spring 2019 runways were a parade of in-your-face destination-wear, like tie-dye tees and sarong-like silks at Chloe, or the actual sandy beach and barefoot models at Chanel. Etro is producing and selling the surfboards their models carried during their Milan show; Tory Burch’s layered caftans were a New York Fashion Week standout.

Off the runway, luxury brands are reaching their clientele wherever they may be summering. Loewe continues its collaboration with the local boutique Paula’s Ibiza, meant to “evoke the cathartic abandon” of a summer getaway, and Christian Dior is expanding its beachwear pop-up program Dioriviera from one location to five—now including Mykonos and Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Net-a-Porter even has a program in which a personal shopper will pick and pack a full vacation wardrobe (sunscreen included) and have it shipped to your final destination.

Valentino Spring 2019, Tory Burch Spring 2019, Hermes Spring 2019

Valentino Spring 2019, Tory Burch Spring 2019, Hermes Spring 2019

Elizabeth von der Goltz, the company’s global buying director says it is aggressively invested in the resortwear category. It’s annual Jet-a-Porter program, which this year will offer 59 exclusive capsule collections by brands like Eres and Zimmermann, was created in response to their customer, who they say travels an average of 11 times per year. The program has beaten sales estimates annually since it’s launch in 2017. “For us, it’s truly a full-price business because we don’t mark down the product at the times you would expect us to,” says Ms. von der Goltz, of the resilience of resortwear. Edited’s market research echoes this trend: markdowns decreased in the category from 2017 to 2018, but wares on offer went up.

“Seasonality is becoming a bit more blurred in fashion,” says firm analyst Kayla Marci, describing resortwear’s increased influence among retailers. “Flights are getting cheaper—and of course people want to look their best on holiday when they share on Instagram what they’re wearing and what they’re doing.”

San Francisco–based marketing manager Sarah Carnabuci says her packing lists are heavily Instagram-influenced. “Obviously we all go on vacation to relax,” the 32-year-old says, “but we take these photos in amazing places and you want to look and feel a certain way. You don’t want to be in a ratty old beach cover-up on your beautiful vacation.”

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2019, Chloe Spring 2019, Chanel Spring 2019

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2019, Chloe Spring 2019, Chanel Spring 2019

Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and e-commerce site, has created an entire retail concept around an effortlessly casual wardrobe that can go (and ‘gram) from Beverly Hills to Waikiki. Swim accounts for nearly a fifth of Goop’s total fashion business during its summer season, says the company’s SVP of fashion, Shaun Kearney. It can also be built-in marketing for Goop: “Who doesn’t want to look good while they’re travelling?” Mr. Kearney says. “On destination vacations you’re more likely to be in photographs and sharing your best pictures on social platforms. People are really willing to splurge a bit, and I think that’s the reason we can expect more regular-price [purchases] in this category.” (Ms. Paltrow Instagrammed herself in a white bikini in the Maldives late last year.)

Net-a-Porter’s Ms. von der Goltz agrees. “Now with social media, everything is out there,” she says. “If you like taking pictures, and you are in a beautiful location you want to look the part...with different swimwear and different dresses for different holidays.”

All those varied outfits still need to fit in your luggage. Designer Tory Burch’s collections, almost always inspired by a romantic notion of travel, are intended to pack down and transport with ease, she says. “When you think about travelling, you think about clothing that will travel well,” Ms. Burch says (though she herself still hasn’t figured out how to be carry-on only.) Her brand launched a #destinationanywhere campaign this spring meant to encourage exploration in the clothes; using the tag, brand loyalists can search and compile the posts on their feeds. But of the fantasy of resortwear shopping, she says, is all “about dreaming and getting into the mindset. Vacations are so short—and it extends that euphoria.”

Spring Theories

At runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, designers posted bold style ideas

by: Rebecca Malinsky and Rory Satran

Originally published October 5, 2018 in The Wall Street Journal


“WHAT IS REAL is what lasts,” said Oprah Winfrey in her toast to Ralph Lauren at his recent anniversary event in Central Park. After 50 years as a pivotal fashion figure with an unwavering American aesthetic, Mr. Lauren has outlasted his contemporaries like Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, both of whom no longer design for their namesake companies. At the close of a season marked by change, Mr. Lauren’s consistency stands out in a mutable fashion landscape. While some brands are still defined by their core DNA, others have been reinvented by a revolving-door procession of creative directors.

At the label Mr. Klein launched in 1968, originally known for its beige-y minimalism, Belgian designer Raf Simons proposed inventive, postmodern clothing for spring with references from prom to “Jaws.” It was heart-poundingly fun, and relevant, but bore little resemblance to Mr. Klein’s blueprint. At Celine, which former creative head Phoebe Philo turned into a brand beloved by women for its professional yet comforting shapes, Hedi Slimane divisively pulled the accent off the first “e” and sent sharp, very-Slimane tailoring and abbreviated dresses down the runway. The renegade designer Demna Gvasalia continued his sleight of hand at Balenciaga, combining elements from the brand’s past (like architectural waistlines) with technical fabrics. More faithfully, Pierpaolo Piccioli drew gasps for his gowns at Valentino, many in the brand’s signature scarlet color. And as one of the few designers who rivals Ralph Lauren’s longevity, Miuccia Prada unveiled delightfully (and characteristically) eccentric efforts at both Prada and Miu Miu. A variation on Ms. Winfrey’s sentiment seems likely to be chewed over in seasons to come: Do women want consistency or evolution?


Seeing Spots

That Betty Boop-ish vintage standby, polka dots, was given new life. From left: a sweet minidress at Carolina Herrera (care of a new designer, Wes Gordon); a sheer frock (slip required) at Prada; volume play at Celine; va-va-voom mega-dots at Dolce & Gabbana; a baby-doll at Burberry (newly designed by Riccardo Tisci).


To Dye For

This season proved that tie-dye, against all odds, can be refined. From left: An acid-washed interpretation on the cool girls at Proenza Schouler; a ladylike, deconstructed, shibori-style skirt at Prada; hints of a Bali summer gone absolutely right by Paco Rabanne; a silken slip dress at Christian Dior ; a showstopping, full-tie-dye jumpsuit (on Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter) at Stella McCartney.


Noir Hour

Inky, gathered, voluminous dresses were a novel idea for evening. From left: The Row’s sheer layers of chicness; Thick navy knots show Rei Kawakubo’s mastery at Comme des GarçonsSimone Rocha’s silk taffeta garment, topped off with a lacy veil; an off-the-shoulder gown at Valentino.


Shore Things

Retro beach vibes harked back to more glamorous summer travel. From left: patterned splendor at Etro; the ultimate embroidered caftan at Tory Burch; a fringed ensemble at Valentino for SPF-50 types; that Goa lifestyle at Chloé; a yé-yé-girl shift at Chanel, where the models walked barefoot on a ‘beach.’


Practical Magic

Refined utility looks will make phone storage a cinch in spring. From left: Sheer pocket play at FendiGivenchy’s luxe cargo pants are wish list-worthy; Hermès nailed the pocket-y jumpsuit; at Loewe the pockets were almost as big as the garment; Louis Vuitton’sfuturistic woman uses old-school utility tricks.



From left: Croc coat at Burberry; a pearly gradient at Gabriela Hearst; ruffled sleeves at Max Mara; stripped-down stripes at Tod’s.