Then and Now
A growing number of brands are mining their past and reissuing iconic styles for women and men, capitalizing on a wave of nostalgia and addressing younger generations with surefire hits. Here, Versace’s iconic prints on the runway circa 1991, and 2018.
LONDON — Fashion is having a flashback as retailers plunder brands’ archives and luxury giants revitalize their greatest hits — the Fendi Baguette, the Dior Saddle Bag, the Prada flame and banana prints, to name a few — and mine the past for future profits.
Versace continues to pump out pieces from its successful Tribute collection, an explosion of Nineties gold baroque prints and flashy hardware that debuted in Milan last year on supermodels including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni and Claudia Schiffer.
Prada’s flame print has been licking its way across limited-edition tops and shoes, while Mr Porter revived the brand’s quirky bowling shirts in April. The Helmut Lang brand is reintroducing replicas of the original jeans the designer pioneered when he still helmed the brand, while Maison Alaïa is offering reeditions of designs from 1988, 1989 and 1993 on the brand’s web site.
Then there’s Marc Jacobs who, as reported, is this month set to deliver a full-on grunge collection for resort that harks back to his spring 1993 outing for Perry Ellis. Those seminal designs, which famously got him and his partner Robert Duffy fired, cemented Jacobs’ position as a maverick.Fine jewelry and sneaker brands are getting in on the action, too: Last year, Cartier created a new iteration of its 1984 Panthère watch on Net-a-porter, with the first one selling out within two minutes of the launch via WhatsApp. In August, the new Panthère watch returned to Net permanently, alongside other Cartier stalwarts including the Tank, Ballon Bleu and Baignoire.
Last month, Fila signed a lifetime deal with NBA Hall of Fame player Grant Hill, who had previously been an ambassador for the brand more than two decades ago. The company has since unveiled an exclusive line of products inspired by the athlete including two special-edition footwear styles that nod to Hill’s recent Hall of Fame induction as well as a line of tracksuits, hoodies, T-shirts and longsleeved shirts. Last year, Nike celebrated the 45-year anniversary of one of its icons, the Cortez running shoe, with a variety of projects such as having Nordstrom’s Olivia Kim put her own spin on the style.
Why now? There’s a young generation of designers and consumers that can’t resist looking back — witness the revival of Eighties and Nineties streetwear and sneakers — and then there’s fashion’s obsession with spinning narratives around products. There’s also comfort to be found in the classics and in collections that recall better times.
Some brands don’t need to look back far to find success. Carryover styles represent 70 percent of Gucci’s sales across the board and across all age segments, according to Kering’s chief financial officer Jean-Marc Duplaix, just in case anyone was wondering about the fount of the Gucci billions.
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, said there are multiple reasons behind the surge in icons and classics: Heritage brands need to speak to a new generation and younger names want to tell the world “I’m still here!” There’s also a big comfort factor involved for brands and consumers alike.
“With all of the global unrest, people are thinking ‘How far do we push the future?’ There is a kindness to these collections and pieces. They offer a lovely security and comfort level in uncertain times,” Downing reasoned.
Rebecca Robins, Interbrand’s global chief learning and culture officer, also believes that a storied past is something to shout about. “Whether these brands are 20 years old or 200 years old, there is something in the luxury of time and the notion of icons being built over time through reissue and constant reinvention. For Millennials, the appeal [in purchasing] lies in being part of the footfall of history. There are stories, there’s a sense of being connected to other generations.”
Luca Solca, sector head luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said security — and the promise of steady revenue — is a motivator behind the revivals. “I’d compare this trend to producers launching a sequel to a blockbuster success, or making it into a series: It reduces risk. It’s not lazy, because you need to make the icons relevant again and update them to the current zeitgeist. But it’s safer, and it reinforces the brand equity and DNA.”
While the big brands may be banking on old styles, they’re promoting them with new — and aggressive — influencer, social media and brand campaigns.
According to a Launchmetrics study for WWD, there was almost no discussion of the Dior Saddle bag until it debuted at the French house’s fall 2018 show last February. At that time, the media impact value — the value of placements on all channels including paid, owned, earned media — reached $600,000. On July 19, following an influencer campaign as the bags landed online, that MIV figure spiked to $6 million.
In the year to Oct. 31, the Saddle bag notched $24.5 million in MIV, while the Gucci Dionysus, an evergreen, recorded $8.3 million. The Fendi Baguette hit $1.7 million, although that Italian icon only just made its latest comeback on the spring 2019 catwalk in September.
Silvia Venturini Fendi said the updated Baguette, which is bigger than its predecessor and has long and short removable straps, is the result of broader thinking about the brand’s history and its future.
“This year is 10 years of the Peekaboo, but it is not just reinventing the Peekaboo, it is also reinventing the Baguette. It’s really talking about icons. I think it’s nice to have both of them on the catwalk, because one is the opposite of the other, but the DNA of Fendi is there, shown on both.” She said this new baguette in particular is “meant to stay with you all your life, so according to your mood, you can change the function.”
Downing, who’s been watching the Versace Tribute collection fly off Neiman’s racks and shelves, from the printed tights and shirts to the medallion buckle booties and leather cross-body bags, said nostalgia pieces add value and speak to the staying power of old and new brands alike.
Mary Katrantzou has been marking her 10th anniversary in a variety of ways this year and has put together a collection of her favorite archive looks with Matchesfashion.com.
“At a time when the revolving door is getting swifter and quicker, doing an anniversary collection is a chance for younger brands to say ‘I’ve been here for 10 years, for 15 years!’ It’s proof they can sustain a business in an ever-changing industry,” Downing said.
Katrantzou said 10 years in business is also the right time to start bringing new customers into the fold. “You don’t realize it, and you think you are speaking to the same woman, but it is not the case. After 10 years, you are also talking to a new generation, a customer who, perhaps, ►
Versace, spring 1992.Versace, spring 2018.
NOW: Christian Dior, spring 2019.NOW: Helmut Lang, fall 2003.
THEN: Christian Dior, spring 2000.
THEN: Helmut Lang reedition.