Fashion week is often focused on the future, but designers in New York this season are being nostalgic, with echoes of the 00s and 90s ringing around the Big Apple.
Fendi kicked off day one of fashion week with an anniversary show celebrating 25 years of the Baguette. The original It bag came to prominence in 2000 when Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker 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.
In homage to the Baguette’s legacy, Fendi’s artistic director of womenswear, Kim Jones, invited friends of 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 line Heaven, beloved by Gen Z, launched a campaign starring 90s TV stars such as Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson and Twin Peaks’ Kyle MacLachlan.
On Sunday night, Tommy Hilfiger will return to the city after a three-year hiatus. Hilfiger, who dominated the scene in the 90s, said: “This is where fashion, art, music and entertainment was all coming together when I started out … It’s the perfect expression of what we stand for as we pay homage to our roots.”
Throughout the pandemic, millennials and Gen Z embraced late-90s nostalgia and this devotion shows no sign of abating. Emily Gordon-Smith, from the trend analysis agency Stylus, has been tracking the trend. “It’s ramping up even more and becoming more nuanced,” she says. “For the youth cohort it feels like those decades were better and simpler times.”
The 90s theme is everywhere in New York. On the newsstand, W magazine celebrates its 50th anniversary with issues starring 90s models Cindy Crawford, Iman and Shalom Harlow. On billboards, Kate Moss’s daughter, Lila, features in a Calvin Klein campaign, 30 years after Moss first modelled for the brand, while Jerry Seinfeld fronts a campaign for the streetwear brand Kith. On screen, the Sex and the City spin-off And Just Like That… has been recommissioned, such is the appetite for its high drama and even higher heels.
There is a notable shift towards more streamlined silhouettes, too. The British designer Roland Mouret, who has dressed everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Beyoncé in his signature bodycon dresses, is having a resurgence. After entering administration in 2020, his label was acquired by the SP Collection group. On the high street, Zara has launched a collaboration with the 90s designer Narciso Rodriguez. Known for his slip and sheath dresses, he delved into his archives to bring minimalism to the masses.
The trend is evident in the next generation of designers too. Take Conner Ives and Miss Sohee, who are both part of The Vanguard, an –initiative from Net-a-Porter that aims to champion and support new talent. Form-fitting silhouettes and glistening crystals feature heavily 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 favourite celebrities in magazines, Gen Zs have an archive at their fingertips, helping them create nostalgic edits, with a string of throwback Instagram accounts such as @90sanxiety. Think Polaroid snaps of the Spice Girls and pap shots of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Secondhand sites such as Depop have created a wave of sellers who appeal to this cohort too. Some specialise in Y2K labels such as Blumarine, Morgan and Kookaï.
With brands trying to juggle issues such as sustainability, Gordon-Smith says there is often less time for creativity. “Nostalgia touchpoints are easy design cues. Even places like Zara can look at its own archives and resurrect pieces. There are so many avenues brands and consumers can explore, it’s a complete warren of nostalgia.”