How Old is Fashion's Newest New

By Julie Lombardi
Photography by Calem Robertson
Modeled by Bridget McDonald, Julia Buckner, Kaela Anderson and Isabella Spigel

This article has been adapted for the web from our Flux Issue.

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Seasonal fashions are like karma—what goes around comes around. It’s safe to say that you should stop throwing your “out-of-style” clothes away because you never know when an outdated item may reappear at New York Fashion Week. Fashion, an ever-evolving industry, can only remain so innovative before designers look to previous decades and collections for inspiration. The word “new” in fashion refers to the revival of an item or trend rather than an original unveiling. Iconic 80s and 90s trends are resurrected using more sleek and modern silhouettes, fabrics, and textures. These trends are cycled through each season faster and faster as we absorb newer trends more and more rapidly. Thanks to innovative technology and social media, fashion occurs and recurs, and we do our best to keep up.

This past NYFW saw reappearances of trends that were established decades ago, from bright neon colors, fringe, and classic silhouettes from the 1980s and 1990s. Anna Wintour commented that brands incorporated a sense of optimism and bright neon colors as a way to detract from the barrage of dark news that surrounds our current period (Anna Wintour, Vogue). Bright neons found their origins, however, in the 1980s pop scene. Think: Madonna, Like a Virgin. Bright colors, especially marigold yellow, were shown by brands such as Prabal Gurung, Brandon Maxwell and many more this season.

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Brands such as Versace and Ralph Lauren reached milestone events, such as the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death and the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren’s designing career. These milestones are inspiring the respective designers to look to their brands’ immeasurable pasts and incorporate their trademark designs into their newest collections. In the case of Versace, that means bringing back legendary baroque prints and classic early 90s silhouettes such as shoulder pads, miniskirts, and high-waisted trousers. or With Ralph Lauren, that means reviving earth-toned plaids, oversized jackets, and chunky sweaters that originate from the late 80s and early 90s, a time period so many other designers seem to borrow inspiration from.

Contemporary streetwear also seems to be influenced by past decades, as runway trends make their way into real life. The reintroduction of peasant blouses by niche brands such as Orseund Iris, I.AM.GIA and The Reformation is reminiscent of the 70s yet made more modern with updated and more flattering silhouettes. One of the most popular streetwear trends being revived is the “dad sneaker” by brands such as Balenciaga, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. These oversized and eye-catching sneakers are broken in by celebrities and fashion bloggers alike and are the source of some fashion controversy; are they ultimately worth the hype and expensive price tag? Whatever the case, the fashion community as a whole seems to have re-embraced this trend. Also borrowing from the 90s “dad” aesthetic is the reemergence of fanny packs that are reproduced by iconic brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and so many more. The fanny pack trend is essentially the result of combining fashion with practicality. Making a more subtle comeback has been the 80s and 90s power suit, sported by influential names such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Rihanna. Powersuits have been updated from the 80s by reimagining the silhouettes and giving them a more deconstructed vibe by pairing with more casual pieces like t-shirts and sneakers.

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Style revivals are incorporated into fashion by designers during fashion month and by magazine writers and editors. From there, celebrities and fashion bloggers incorporate revival trends into their own wardrobe, adding a personal touch to a bigger trend. Because of modern technology and social media, throwback trends are circulated into the mass market very quickly and made available for the everyday consumer. The very nature of the fashion industry—borrowing from the past and making it current—is cyclical. In each decade you can trace inspirations to an earlier decade, whether it be 90s trends that came from the 70s or 70s trends that came from the 20s. Think back on the iconic thin brows and dramatic eye makeup sported in the 1920s that were made popular again in the 70s. We can expect the industry to carry on this way, always inventing new twists on old pieces, because old is the new new.