Hey, luxe lovers: Flashing your wealth is a big no-no

In-your-face luxury is suddenly very passe.

Ostentatious taste and conspicuous consumption will make way for conservative looks and “stealth wealth” in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute in New York.

“Nobody wants to be the luxury piñata,” Pedraza said recently. “Who wants to be the focus of attention on greedy spending in a tremendous crisis?”

Luxury consumers will still covet extraordinary things, but they'll spend less and won't let everyone know what they're consuming, Pedraza said. That may be especially true for members of the financial industry, he said.

“You clearly need to be discreet, far more than those who made their money in, for example, technology,” Pedraza said. “Even Donald Trump is going to be a little more subdued.”

Pedraza identified the dos and don'ts of luxury consumption during a financial meltdown. His firm surveys the wealthy regularly and sells data to clients including major luxury-goods makers.

Living in “a huge McMansion” is out, and buying a “classic Colonial” is in, Pedraza said.

“I don't think you'll want to show up in your orange Lamborghini,” Pedraza said. “You might want to bring your navy blue BMW instead.”

Pedraza also said more men will start carrying attache cases as a symbol of gravitas. As for the bigger picture, the luxury expert sees a gender shift.

“Women are in as CEOs and board members, men are out,” Pedraza said. “Men have lost a lot of credibility.”

Oversize watches are no-nos, he said, while classic timepieces are de rigueur.

Insignia mania will subside as the wealthy get frugal, Pedraza predicted. That should benefit brands like Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, he said.

Men's fashions will undergo a noticeable change, he forecast. “The ‘I'm-rich-but-casual' look is out, and the ‘I'm-credible-and-conservative' suit and tie are in,” Pedraza said.

In the current environment, bold, multicolored shirts with French cuffs and bejeweled cuff links are “tacky,” Pedraza said.

Loafers – in particular, rubber-studded driving shoes – now seem “flimsy” and streamlined wingtips are the better, more substantial choice, he said.