Fashion industry unmasked: why trends are never really new


There is a fair amount of nostalgia hanging on the rails of almost every retail store these days. This can be attributed to the fact that designers are constantly re-imagining old trends, which means we don’t have to go thrift shopping to find mom jeans anymore. 

Some would argue that fashion has become lazy and designers have brought us nothing new over the past decade or so, but sartorial blasts from the past are a necessary part of the trend cycle.

Trend forecasting

Every year/season the bigwigs of the fashion industry put together a fashion forecast – that is what will be the popular trends for the season to come (from the colour to the fabric), including what will be on the runway at fashion weeks. 

Fashion forecasting is an all-inclusive process, as it takes into consideration everything about the current fashion climate, from haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market and streetwear. 

Image: Getty Images

The irony here though, is that new trends are often sampled from past iconic eras – much like a Kanye album. In order to predict accurately, you need to know what trended successfully before. 

You can’t simply take any fad from the past, as a lot of popular items peaked, plateaued and plummeted tragically in a very short space of time.

Read more: 5 trends that just won't die

This is therefore why a certain window period has to be allowed before a particular decade of style can be returned to our rails and runways. 

Fashion designers and creative directors have to wait for at least 20 years before reintroducing trends to consumers. This includes hairstyles and accessories too.

Today's inspiration

We are in the 20-teens, which means the '90s have made a comfortable return just like how figure belts, Vans, huge earrings and mirrored sunglasses reminiscent of the '80s were a major trend alert in the late 2000s.

Anything from the '90s onward is now called retro. In 1992 American Vogue introduced grunge (or “angry fashion”) to us. This was a rebellious way of dressing in comparison to conventional womenswear in the decades leading up to the '90s. 

Women started getting a lot of their style influences from sport, music and pop culture like what Beyoncé did with her activewear brand, Ivy Park.

Image: Getty Images

Hip-Hop also played a major role in the clothing worn in this era, as it became a lifestyle rather than just rap music, which is something we can clearly see now with the sneaker culture that has Puma and Reebok back on everyone’s wishlist. 

The return of the '90s has enabled us to relive our '90s childhoods vicariously through fashion. We can’t give all the credit to the Fresh Prince era though, because a comeback from any decade creates scope for us to experience culture through dress we would not have had the chance to enjoy otherwise.

Read more: We never knew exactly what futuristic '80s fashion looked like until now 

Look at the shoulder pads from the '80s, for example; a time when it became acceptable for women to be wealthy and show it. These were power symbols and this is why certain trends such as this one return – to harken back to iconic moments in history.

The only method is to draw inspiration from those who came before you, tweak it, glow it up, and boom...lucrative nostalgia.

Have designers stopped innovating?

As great as the throwback phenomenon is, we can’t help but wonder if creative directors are experiencing a little fashion fatigue, much like writer’s block. I mention this because the recycling of certain styles just seems somewhat premature. 

It was just 2003 when the 47-year-old Adidas Superstars were all the rage commercially and they are already back faster than we can say “NMD” without even a difference in stitching. 

Image: Getty Images

Perhaps you can’t tamper with a classic, but even classics need to make a little way for the new kids on the block to establish a comfortable sense of longevity.

Also, I suppose it is not entirely possible to invent a never seen before practical item of clothing unless you are an avant garde fashion designer, who isn’t conceptualising themes for everyday wear. 

The only method is to draw inspiration from those who came before you, tweak it, glow it up, and boom...lucrative nostalgia.

A new era

So now do we wait for the 2000s to slowly creep up on us in bootleg jeans and a fedora hat? 

Mannequins in our favourite stores show slip dresses/spaghetti tops over white tees a la Cher Horowitz in Clueless, but I’d like to think and hope the trends from the early 2000s will not be phased in, in the exact cringeworthy style they came in. 

We could look at what we’re wearing today as a playlist of remixes of all the greatest hits, but we all know some original tunes should just never be remixed.

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