Fashion week is often focused on the future, but New York designers are nostalgic this season, with echoes of the 00s and 90s ringing around the Big Apple.
Fendi kicked off the first day of fashion week with an anniversary show celebrating 25 years of Baguette. The original It bag came to prominence in 2000 when Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City as Carrie Bradshaw was forced at gunpoint to hand over her purple sequined version. “Give me your bag,” the robber yells. “It’s a baguette!” wails Carrie.
As a tribute to Baguette’s legacy, Fendi’s Artistic Director of Women’s Clothing, Kim Jones, invited friends from the fashion house, including Marc Jacobs and Parker, to present their own interpretation of the shoulder bag at a star-studded event. On the same day, Marc Jacobs’ subsidiary Heaven, beloved by Gen Z, launched a campaign featuring ’90s TV stars such as Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson and Twin Peaks’ Kyle MacLachlan.
On Sunday evening, Tommy Hilfiger returns to town after a three-year hiatus. Hilfiger, who dominated the scene in the 90s, said: “This is where fashion, art, music and entertainment all came together when I started… It’s the perfect expression of what we stand for when we pay tribute to our roots.”
During the pandemic, millennials and Gen Z embraced late 90s nostalgia, and this dedication shows no signs of abating. Emily Gordon-Smith, of trend analysis firm Stylus, follows the trend. “It’s getting busier and more nuanced,” she says. “For the youth cohort, it feels like those decades were better and simpler times.”
The 90s theme is all over New York. At the newsstand, W magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary with issues starring ’90s models Cindy Crawford, Iman and Shalom Harlow. Billboards feature Kate Moss’ daughter Lila in a Calvin Klein campaign, 30 years after Moss first modeled for the brand, while Jerry Seinfeld campaigns for streetwear brand Kith. On-screen, the Sex and the City And Just Like That spin-off has been re-launched, such a hunger for its high drama and even higher heels.
There is also a notable shift towards more streamlined silhouettes. British designer Roland Mouret, who has dressed everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Beyoncé in his signature bodycon dresses, is on a resurgence. After entering the administration in 2020, his label was taken over by the SP Collection group. In the high street, Zara has started a collaboration with the designer from the 90s, Narciso Rodriguez. Known for his slip and sheath dresses, he delved into his archives to bring minimalism to the masses.
The trend is also visible among the next generation of designers. Take Conner Ives and Miss Sohee, who are both part of The Vanguard, and –Net-a-Porter initiative that aims to promote and support new talent. Form-fitting silhouettes and shimmering crystals come out strongly in their designs. Their references? The Y2K era they grew up in.
Behind this trend is social media. While previous generations had to wait to see their favorite celebrities in magazines, Gen Zs have an archive at their fingertips, allowing them to make nostalgic edits, with a string of old Instagram accounts like @90sanxiety. Think Polaroid photos of the Spice Girls and dad photos of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Second-hand sites like Depop have created a wave of sellers who also appeal to this cohort. Some specialize in Y2K labels such as Blumarine, Morgan and Kookaï.
With brands trying to juggle things like sustainability, Gordon-Smith says there’s often less time for creativity. “Nostalgic touchpoints are simple design elements. Even places like Zara can look into their own archives and bring pieces to life. There are so many avenues for brands and consumers to explore, it’s a complete maze of nostalgia.”