The internet and the cyclical reinvention of classic fashion
Everything has its time. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a singular time – that a thing has its moment just the once. “Everything has its time” is far more fluid, far more frequent, far more repetitive. Things return, never quite the same. This is true of relationships one has with people, of tactical styles in football, of techniques and sounds in music.
It’s difficult to avoid. When it comes to the creation of products and even personal relationships, people worry about a lack of originality – a culture doomed to repeat itself. Not everyone worries, though. Some rejoice, happy to see rediscoveries and reinventions as the things they loved make their comeback. The world of fashion isn’t exempt from this; indeed, it draws every clothed human being into this cyclical culture.
The ever-accessible past
Is the internet to blame for this approach to the world? One thing the internet has promoted and made easier is archiving and accessing an archive. Nothing is lost, and if it is then it’ll be found. Here, the pursuit is often for knowledge and preservation, so that one knows what has been done in order that they don’t make those same mistakes – or at least so that they become aware of the mistake they are making.
There’s also the nostalgic tone. The comfort of reminding oneself of how things were – whether one experienced them personally or not. There’s a whole genre of music called vaporwave, which samples music, jingles, broadcasts, films and TV from the 70s, 80s, 90s, even before, and drenches them in reverb and effects to warp them, making them ghostly and haunting. The genre elicits frequent comments about how it reminds listeners of a memory they never had, like sitting in front of the TV at three in the morning and watching adverts in the 80s, despite them being born in the 90s.
Nostalgia, which occurs at higher rates and intensities because of how accessible the past is, informs many consumer demands. This is the case in gaming, for instance. Fans routinely ask developers and studios to remaster old games and give them new life on the new systems. As tech improves and advances, gamers enjoy better graphics, faster gameplay and easier access to their favourite games and titles.
Studios can get caught up and flood the market with remakes of games and films, leaving little space for new things, opting for “safe choices” rather than funding “riskier” original content. But even then, many fans simply want things exactly the way they used to be. Gamers who frequent online platforms enjoy playing with fruit machines, and other such historical consistent games, are good examples of this. Reviews, on OLBG and other sites like it, will often highlight these kinds of games as well as those stylised on and inspired by films of the 80s like Rambo. It’s that familiar philosophy: “If things aren’t broken, don’t fix them.” The best games are often considered the simple games, the ones that are fast-moving and require little brainpower.
There is also the simple matter of personal taste, which dictates an inadvertant tendency towards using, wearing and listening to past products and trends. The historical context for such things have been removed, rightly or wrongly, and now they are things, just like new trends, which are there to be discovered by whoever may enjoy them. Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours and The Weeknd’s After Hours; flower diffusers in a vintage design and Febreze auto-dispensers; and a 90s BMW M3 and a Tesla Model 3 can all inspire the same “I like that” sentiment. Reinvention of the past isn’t necessarily a doom and gloom. Progress looks different to everyone.
Fashion right now
Fashion traverses awkward borders when it comes to classicism. What is classic and what is traditional? Often, the two get blurred. Classic usually refers to business-produced products which themselves are classic or are part of a classic trend. Traditional is meant more in the religious or cultural sense. However, as these religious and cultural market lines became muddied, “classic styling” became a common phrase when referring to eras, peoples and other identity labels, as reinventions of such traditional and classic garments appeal to anyone and everyone.
Japan’s kimono, for instance, is one example of traditional clothing which has become more universally appealing, intentionally. It’s fuller robe style is often played with by designers at their shows. They’ve opted to create risqué shapes and lines, or use fabrics with manga-prints. Lady Gaga had a kimono designed for her, one which she wore on her way to a yoga class. Also, the kimono garment has become more widely worn as a blazer – it finds itself, in this adapted manner, within many wardrobes across the world.
Another example is the indigenous fashion in Ecuador. Juana Chicaiza, who was once mocked at a pageant when she wore the traditional clothing of the Puruha indigenous group from which she originates, launched a modelling agency in 2013 with the intention of improving the representation of indigenous groups on the runways of Ecuador. Her models now proudly adorn garbs that mix western and indigenous culture. Fashion labels have been formed with similar intentions, updating the traditional for weddings and for everyday wear.
Many fashion brands right now, especially major brands which have a legacy lasting many decades, have vintage/classic collections as well as the newer ones. Sportswear companies are successfully making use of this at the moment. Adidas Originals from the 80s and 90s are being traded second-hand on e-commerce sites while Adidas themselves craft retro-inspired sneakers, tracksuits and sweatshirts for the first-hand market.
Even brands that no longer sell so well when it comes to contemporary fashion, like Ellesse, are producing better sales figures due to this demand for more retro-looking items. Levi’s seem to live off their vintage wear. Their denim items are considered timeless. While they get marginal updates for new seasons, they always deliver within the image that their customer base has come to expect
There has also been the return of trends that aren’t particularly associated with a single designer, but more with a group of models, celebrities, or personal memories. General discourse around returning trends treats them as “classics”. They defined that era, becoming the foundation and initial reference point. They are classic because they epitomise. For instance, the mini kilt made a comeback in 2020. The 90s trend, made so by more than just Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, seemed a logical extension of the chunky-boot fad happening at the time – it was a whole fit.
One could say that the world is incapable of moving on totally and wholeheartedly. People owe too much to what has been. Innovation comes from fusion as well as spontaneity, not in lieu of it.
The editorial unit