Fashion is always fluctuating. But what explains the industry obsession with the past?
By Fernanda Ferreira
Meghan, the ex Duchess of Sussex, was at several times spotted on vintage clothing or accessories. Not only her but also the phenomenon family the Kardashians, which are known for their highly expensive outfits, are often seen on some pieces from earlier ages. Vintage clothing is indeed trending now more than it has ever before. One of the world’s greatest stylists Coco Channel once stated: “Fashion comes and goes, but style lasts forever.” Why does fashion come and go? Why is there an obsession with the past?
Vintage is a word that has a wide variety of definitions. Specifically, when it comes to fashion, it is a quite personal concept since what is considered vintage by someone born in the 70s is not that same as what a Millenium would consider. Fashion experts Scarlet Eden and Stella McClure would refer to any piece that is dated more than twenty years as vintage. Others would consider anything from the past century as vintage. The general idea can be summarized in two main traits of this type of clothes: uncommon and second-handed. Those traits touch on deeper and current issues, mainly sustainability and originality.
The socio-environmental relevance
As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion, they are looking for a more sustainable way to shop. This is the perfect timing when thrift stores and all the vintage fashion arrives at the scene. According to ThredUp’s annual resale report, last year, 64% of women were willing to buy pre-owned pieces compared with 45% in 2016. This represents a behavioral change that begins a necessary revolution in the industry that mostly harms our planet: the fashion industry. Choosing to buy pre-owned vintage clothes is extremely relevant to the 21st-century reality and represents a total match to the growing eco-friendly mindset in the fashion field.
Unique, original and hyped:
Vintage clothing became highly popular in the past few years more than it has ever been before. Brands such as Brandy Melville – known for its particular vintage style – or even huge fast fashions such as H&M or Forever21 are showcasing mainly pieces that are just like the ones worn decades ago. However, the classic vintage clothes, sold in old thrift stores, are pieces that actually belonged to someone else before. Those types of stores usually sell only one piece of each cloth, making it extremely original. Yet, even though vintage is now more accessible and less unique, it still represents a peculiar and authentic style. As issues such as identity, self-esteem, diversity, and ancestry are currently appearing on (mainly) women’s daily basis, being original is key.
Even more, there is the hot word of the moment: hype. It is a slang term that comes from the word hyperbole, and it relates an exaggerate promotion and publicity of some product or idea, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Not only in the vintage field, but Fashion, in general, has felt the impact of the hype concept. So many brands are now doing “product drops”, according to Fashion United, as a sale strategy, that it has even become a culture.
In vintage fashion, the hype is more related to its strong popularization which can be attributed to social media influence and affordability. Social media directly impacts popular demand. If any It girl, for instance, Bella Hadid, is spotted on the 5th Avenue on Floss heels, the next day a thousand 17-year-old teenagers will be desperate to have it. With that, popular and affordable brands – the fast-fashion- start producing more of it, which makes other consumers start buying it, creating a cyclical process until it becomes a real trend – just as it’s happening right now.
From its aesthetic hype to its environmental importance, the vintage style popularization is changing the Fashion industry, apparently for good.