Fashion, one day you are in, the next you are out and sometimes you might also make a comeback. Fashion archives tell the history of where the brand comes from and are often a reference for designers to remember the brand’s identity and create updated versions of the pieces.
Recently, luxury fashion brands have established a different use for archival fashion pieces. Previously, they were stored away for safekeeping; brands like Dior kept their archival garments starting from the 1980s in dress storage. The Parisian brand utilised the archival as a resource for the design department and a space for educational purposes for internal staff, high-profile clients and fashion students. As discussed in our previous read on Kim Jones’s debut collection, he dipped into Dior’s archive to gain inspiration, aiming to create a modern Dior silhouette while sticking to the brand’s roots. By being relative to times, a revived look from past collections allows fashion houses to flaunt their rich history in dressmaking.
Today, luxury brands are featuring these archival and outdated pieces on red carpet events such as the Met Gala, styling them with new pieces and anticipating the idea of solidifying classics. Nicolas Ghesquière, the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear, decided to have the array of stars adorned in the house’s dated garments. The idea of merging heritage with modern style on one of the biggest stages in the world act as a tool to push the idea that the creations of past pieces are here to last. In a way, it is also a marketing effort of the brand relooking into the past, in remembrance of the craftsmanship as vintages meant to sell the brand’s heritage as a perk.
Burberry, too, features a capsule of classic signatures in its previous collection reinterpreted by creative director Riccardo Tisci. He took the silhouette of some archives, reimagined it to be relevant today, and stayed on top of the game with new designs while retaining the brand’s heritage. Prada, Celine and Coach have all recently debuted handbags reimagined from archival styles. This outlines the significance of archives which comes in handy for creating looks that circle back to the vision that classic works are here to stay.
As we look at the renowned model Bella Hadid, who had the privilege to wear vintage dresses, she aided the idea of the “old meets new” concept. At the 2022 Met Gala, she wore a Fall/Winter 2004 Jean Paul Gaultier’s dress, which the team allowed her to pick from its archives for the event. By having archives out to showcase, it encourages others to style or create the look they want to achieve and at the same time appreciate the works of late designers from different houses.
Hadid drove the idea further when she turned up at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in a string of archival dresses from Versace’s archives of the 80s and 90s. The model enlisted the help of her stylist friend, Law Roach, who was in contact with the famed Donatella Versace and the designer opened up the brand’s archives for them. These gestures promote the “classics” being brought to life and emphasise that the luxury vintages could be firmly related in today’s age of fashion. Furthermore, at these events, it creates conversations that potentially boost Versace in terms of brand awareness.
With the media overlooking these archival pieces being worn at prominent events, the audience picks up these looks as inspiration for their own styles. It pushes fashion to a greater level, bringing in newer or perhaps never seen before looks. The power of the archives shifts how people see the brand. Many appreciate archives, which mean so much more than the newest hyped collection as it bears the weight of history and heritage. Showcasing stars wearing iconic pieces creates conversation and popularity for the brand. This becomes engaging as many could visually connect to the way people see archival garments while brands could curate the future of fashion.
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Fashion has reinforced its role in modern culture, and brands are thinking carefully about their archives as they realise the significance of old timeless collections. The fashion house, Paco Rabanne, disclosed they would sell NFTs of its most conceptual pieces and use the profits to fund its archive. This includes buying back archival garments, sketches, image rights, video and radio recordings of the designer himself and improving preservation and storage. Retrieving archives builds the heritage and fundamentals of the brand’s starting years. Archiving is important to brands as it tracks the journey and provides evidence of their works. It helps with the identity and understanding of brand cultures over time.
Brands today showcase and bring back old timeless pieces to accommodate the luxury fashion market’s penchant for timeless pieces. The market is growing and many brands are pushing for newer ways to design products, but it is always satisfying to look back on these memories and meet the old again.
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