If nostalgia sells, how do you move a fashion brand forward?
Who needs a time machine when you’re in fashion?
If I had to pick a decade to live on based solely on her fashion, it would be the ’80s. Running out of a time machine, I would spend 1,000 percent a day on the set of the Netflix show. Sex education rather.
And it’s not just because Emma Mackey is terribly awesome, but because Sex education combines the aesthetics of an iconic from the 1980s John Hughes movie with modern comforts. In other words, it’s the epitome of nostalgic fashion – fashion that brings the past into the future.
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A scan of my college halls confirms that I haven’t been the only one who has loved fashion for decades. Mom jeans, turtlenecks, flares… if our parents wore them, well, we probably are now. But then, how do brands continue to evolve if nostalgia is what we modern fashionistas dream of?
It turns out that many of our beloved brands are constantly on the lookout for ways to bring the past into the future and fuel our love for their heritage designs. Think nostalgic reissues, repair initiatives, and limited capsule collections. And believe me when I say it’s good news if, like me, you also like dressing like the main character in a nostalgia-meet-2021 TV show.
Levi’s: taking what we know and love, and make it even better
If anyone knows how to harness nostalgia, it’s Levi’s. The brand was founded over a century ago, in 1853, and yet it continues to dominate denim. Karen Riley-Grant, Marketing Director for Levi Strauss & Co, attributes this to Levi’s commitment to updating his heritage pieces for modern clothing and current concerns.
“We are constantly reinventing pieces and cuts from our extensive archive to help inform future collections,” says Karen. “We are also investing in material and technological innovations such as [Tencel] and cotton hemp to improve the quality of our clothes and keep the planet in mind.
But nostalgia for decades past is also to be thanked for keeping the brand alive. And Levi’s undeniably has its finger on our vintage impulses. Its regular vintage Levi’s collections draw on its own archives and external archives to serve up slices of fashion (and human) history. the Fall / Winter ’20 collection allows you to channel the underground grunge of Louisville, Kentucky in the 80s. And the Folk town collection will make you feel like you’ve just pulled out the cover of a 1960s Bob Dylan record.
I was 15 when I went in search of my first pair of vintage Levi’s (the black 550s, if I remember correctly). I secured mine online, but browse any op store and you’ll see a pair of used Levi’s. And so, in addition to reinventing the past in new vintage collections, Levi’s appropriates the re-wear of customers through Tailor shop and his Authorized vintage interval.
These two circular efforts inform Levi’s ‘buy better, wear longer’ a message. The brand knows that despite our desire to dress in styles of the past, we have modern heads on our shoulders – people who care about climate change and sustainability.
“By inviting our customers to buy used or vintage items, we’re not just helping to keep clothes out of landfills,” says Karen. “We also invite our fans to invest in coins that they will cherish for longer.”
Mimco: A (time) capsule collection of the past, present and future
The flip side of updating past designs for modern times is adding heritage elements to new ones. This is exactly what Australian accessories brand Mimco did in its latest limited edition capsule collection, designed to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Mimco’s head of design, Lisa Tyler, told me that the anniversary capsule was an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the evolution of the brand. “With this campaign, we have delved into our archives, exploring the evolution of Mimco women over this quarter century.”
Each of the capsule’s four collections embodies different parts of Mimco’s history and pays homage to its past creations. But the Is. 96 The collection gives me the most nostalgia with its introduction of limited heritage material to new 90s inspired accessories. I’m talking about denim lunch boxes and backpacks with limited edition Mimco rubber badges.
Country Road and Sportsgirl: what goes well, comes back well
If there is one item from my first collection that I would like to pay tribute to, it would be my purple check Sportsgirl duffel bag. When we were 12, there was no field trip, school day, or sleepover where my best friend and I didn’t bring our Sportsgirl duffel bags.
Sportsgirl CEO Leah Summers tells me the warm, fuzzy feeling my gym bag memories give me is shared. “Nostalgia is a recurring theme for Sportsgirl, which stems from our customers’ emotional connection to the brand,” says Leah.
The rewind logo Collection, launched over 10 years ago, pays homage to Sportsgirl’s heritage and iconic brand. The collection is designed to be as timeless as the logo itself, taking inspiration from old Sportsgirl pieces and focusing on wardrobe essentials that never date.
Considering the state of the world and the logo’s nod to simpler times, it doesn’t surprise me when Leah says interest in logo pieces has grown over the past 12 months. And it’s not just us Sportsgirl alumni to thank.
“Whether it’s a nostalgic thrill from their early days or the younger generation loving the retro side of pieces, all of our customers seem to have a real connection to the Sportsgirl logo,” says Leah.
Sportsgirl isn’t the only brand to have built heritage and nostalgia into its DNA. The Country Road collections give me, although much more neutral, nuances of Sportsgirl with its quality basics and prominent use of the logo.
Country Road Women’s and Children’s Clothing Manager Maria Rinaldi-Cant confirms that “nostalgia is something that’s just Country Road. It’s part of the brand.
With a history dating back to 1974 and claiming to be one of Australia’s premier lifestyle brands, Country Road understands customers’ desires for consistency. “We keep our style simple and use the color direction to update heritage designs, often choosing colors that resonate with the Australian landscape,” says Maria.
But it’s not only through its distinct color scheme that Country Road evokes sentimentality. Earlier this year, the brand collaborated with Australian cotton growers and Victorian manufacturers on a reissue of their iconic ’90s Heritage Sweat. The unisex design replicates every detail of its original counterpart, features oversized bat wings and an embroidered Country Road logo to the front.
For Executive Director Elle Roseby, the limited edition reissue was more than delivering a sweet dose of the past in uncertain times. “The past 12 months have been a catalyst for change,” Elle says. “We have made a conscious effort to look into our own backyard and ask how we can further support the locals. “
Converse: propelling us into the future, one step at a time
Converse is a brand that has always had a heel in the past, a foot in the present, and a toe in the future. And its recent launch, Create next, is no exception. The futuristic line of sneakers merges its innovation CX Toolbox Technology with familiar converse designs like the canvas top.
The CX Toolkit is set to transform the way Converse shoes are made, with the brand aiming for all of their designs to contain the technology by 2022. There’s the stretch canvas that conforms to the foot, the foam. CX for better shock absorption and more durable and flexible rubber outsole.
As a Converse purist at heart, I love the CX Chuck Taylor for staying true to Chuck’s iconic shape while introducing new technology.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the design genius that the Run Star Motion, Weapon CX, and Aeon Active CX are. These sci-fi iterations combine elements of traditional Converse designs with innovative silhouettes and clever cushioning. If you ever have the chance to time travel in the future, these are the shoes that you will want to wear.
For Brandis Russel, vice president of shoe development and merchandising at Converse, Create Next is as much about emotion as it is about physical innovation. “The way we make Converse has brought a significant amount of emotional comfort to consumers, which means connection, nostalgia and memory,” she says.
This meant that the design team had to finely balance innovation with loyalty to their historic styles. Sure enough, the collection uses Converse’s past design language, but more figuratively, if you will. “[CX technology] allows us to refer to the past, but not always to be so literal with this reference, ”explains Brandis. “When you access our archives, you see a lot of language and line gestures that give us leeway and the opportunity to bring a ‘future familiar’ vibe to some of our products. “
Considering the level of change we’ve been through over the past year, “familiar future” is a pace of innovation that I can sidestep. But modern life, pandemic or not, is changing rapidly, and technology is still advancing relentlessly. It’s heartwarming to know then that we can count on fashion to give us the dose of nostalgia we clearly crave.
It’s even more heartwarming that as the past, present and future merge into the minds of designers around the world, nostalgic fashion only becomes more comfortable, progressive, and enduring. And I’m here for that: eco-mom jeans, futuristic connies, denim lunchbox and all.
To learn more about why brands are turning to heirloom designs, try this.