June 28, 2018

Fashion - Nineties-Era Brands, Casual Friday Nostalgia Lead Trends

By Lois Sakany
Nostalgia for ’90s-era brands and silhouettes is driving the latest fashion trends with menswear, fueled by streetwear and a new generation of luxury designers.

From a big-picture perspective, menswear now more than ever is where trends are started in fashion. Women’s fashion, from the perspective of design, distribution and marketing, is the laggard. During recent menswear presentations, Virgil Abloh’s debut presentation at LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.E.’s Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones’ debut at Dior Homme garnered a massive amount of buzz and press coverage. Not coincidentally, both Abloh and Jones are known for their deep connections and appreciation for the streetwear movement. Abloh in particular has been praised for his collaborative efforts with Nike Inc. that are widely viewed as helping reignite the brand’s cool status.


Photos: (Left) Louis Vuitton baggy pants and PVC backpack; (right) Supreme waist bags

In addition to menswear leading on sneaker, sport-style and the nascent suiting trends, the current hot trend of fanny packs, a.k.a. waist bags (worn across the body, not on the waist), is one that was spurred by men's streetwear label Supreme. While menswear may lead, women’s will add feminine variations on the theme that then circle back into menswear. Case in point, the clear PVC bags first shown by women’s luxury and boutique labels are starting to show up in menswear, most prominently on Virgil Abloh’s debut Louis Vuitton spring 2019 menswear runway, shown in Paris last week. And while all-over logos are still relevant, more forward statements are being made through silhouettes, like waist bags, fresh materials like PVC plastic and detailing like industrial-looking canvas straps, hardware and graphics.

And while there’s chatter of a return to dressier looks, the suiting shown on Louis Vuitton and other designers’ runways is less about signaling a return to formality and dress as it is an ironic interpretation of ’90s-era "casual Friday," with looks combining loose-fitting suits and knee-length-or-longer dresses with bulky sneakers and other comfortable shoes. 

While dad shoes grab all the press, comfort footwear in general is having a moment: There’s been an embrace of all comfortable shoes with authentic comfort kings Birkenstock GmbH & Co. KG, Crocs Inc. and Deckers Outdoor Corp.'s Ugg leading the way.

With dad shoes on the way back, baggier silhouettes are starting to follow, signaling a move away from the triangular jogger silhouette that’s been dominant for so long. At the recent menswear presentations, editors and influencers photographed going to and from shows were often wearing baggy tops and pants paired with bulky shoes. 

While the baggy suited look is a leading trend among the boutique/high-end customer, among fashionable teens and 20-somethings, the ’90s and early ’00s brands continue to be the look du jour. 

However, it's not enough to simply be a brand that once existed in the ’90s. In order to succeed, brands need to first correct any prior issues with over-distribution and lay proper groundwork through high-prestige collaborations and influencer campaigns. Brands that capitalized on ’90s or ’00s-era mojo with varying levels of success include PVH Corp.’s Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, Hanesbrands Inc.'s Champion (which is so hot right now it can't keep up with delivery -- see OTR Global's June 21 snapshot), Fila Korea Ltd., G-III Apparel Group Ltd.'s DKNY, Guess? Inc. and Buffalo, among others. There’s a massive opportunity for Ralph Lauren Corp. to leverage its ’90s-era brand mojo, but it has been inconsistent at best. 

All of the above brands feed into the unisex #teamcozy or #cozyfits (widely used hashtags on Facebook Inc.'s Instagram) fashion trend, which has been led first by top-tier sneaker boutiques, followed by the crack merchandise teams at Urban Outfitters Inc. and Asos PLC. While Urban and Asos have been all over the ’90s brand trend, other retailers like Foot Locker Inc. are starting to hop on board. 

And while the ’90s/’00s trend is in part a reflection of a predictable fashion cycle, it also reflects a healthier consumer who’s spending more as well as the newness and thus effectiveness of influencer-themed campaigns. When young people scroll through their feeds, the people they follow are no longer making high/low fashion statements, pairing expensive sneakers and bags with private-label clothing, they’re telling head-to-toe brand stories. And while many of those brands are paying for their position, the consumer is not yet pushing back mentally on the fact that they’re paid-for placements, making them wide open to suggestion. 

Photo: Example of monochromatic photo shoot set (OTR Global photo)

While the consumer may be open to influencer messages, the presentation needs to be sharper than ever. The concept of curated Instagram themes has led to hundreds of photo-editing apps, turning everyone into junior art directors. Thus, it’s critical that brands and retail campaigns use imagery that reflect current art direction, which changes rapidly.

The feed that crushed it two years ago now looks worn out and tired. While monochromatic shoots may be hot today, by this time next year, they may be viewed as passé. Thus, campaigns need more than just a photographer, merchandise and cute models, they need art directors who understand the moment and the target consumer and are capable of conveying it in imagery.

lil miquela

Photo from Lil Miquela Instagram page

In addition, consumers now expect to have local conversations with brands through pop-up shops, shopping events like ComplexCon and geographic exclusives. Brands that are leading the way in this effort include VF Corp.'s Vans, Adidas AG and especially Nike, which has turned its tier-zero boutique accounts into marketing arm extensions. It’s no longer enough that a store looks amazing; stores now need to create events around launches, document them beautifully and broadcast them on social media channels. 

Computer-generated influencers like Lil Miquela are at the forefront of the latest marketing wave. It’s not likely anyone will recreate the hyper-coolness of Miquela (landing her campaigns with Nike and more), but many brands and retailers are going to give it their best shot. 

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OTR Snapshots are direct feeds from our editors expressing their views on key issues and events in their industries, within and beyond our core coverage. Snapshots feature industry insights, source commentary, and general observations.