Designer Sisi Li on why quiet luxury is about more than a lack of labels.
In conversation with Editor-at-Large Jamie Rosen.
Before quiet luxury was a buzzword, Nells Nelson founder Sisi Li was designing tailored suits and structured blazers with a honeyed whisper to their Italian-made roots. “My design philosophy is very much form follows function, we don’t have anything that is unnecessary,” she says of collections that are steeped in refinement and devoid of logos. “Luxury starts with materials that pamper you like you’re wearing a cloud.”
Those materials—lightweight cashmeres, white twill, sheer and brushed cottons that each reflect light differently, and gauzy wools—are married with a construction that is somehow structured and supremely comfortable. “Being comfortable is not just about looking comfortable but feeling comfortable and looking polished,” she says. In her world, it’s possible to be completely at ease in a three-piece ensemble of single-breasted blazer, high-buttoned vest, and long skirt, all rendered in buttery cream. “I don’t want to separate my weekend clothes and my dinner clothes,” she says. “My dream is to create that tuxedo power suit that feels like a cardigan.”
Since 2016, she and her line Nells Nelson, named for her son and husband, has been making impactful waves in fashion, being seen on Julia Roberts, Kristen Stewart, and Jessica Chastain, and has become a modern staple for women who prize quality over trend. “I don’t really get inspired by an era or a painting or an object, I get inspired by daily life, by the journey, by engaging in conversation,” she says. “When you are inspired by a lifestyle, which is deeper than a look, you naturally evolve.” That evolution—expressed subtly with the height of an armhole, the length of a cuff, the tension of a knit—is underpinned by a commitment to discrete designs that speak volumes. “Yes, I am quiet, that’s me,” she says. “But I think being quiet and being polished is actually very powerful.”