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Archive collections: Fashion’s new nostalgia

Find out how new nostalgia is being revitalized across fashion and which retailers are revitalizing their archive collections.
Archive collections: Fashion’s new nostalgia | EDITED

2020 flipped life upside down, with all corners of pop-culture forced to pare back.

There was an uptick in traditional hobbies and a renewed focus on quality, care and what we have. This has extended into fashion, playing into the ever-present nostalgic theme. Here we spotlight heritage and archive-inspired initiatives across a range of brands and retailers.

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A dig into the archives


“Archive beige” is a color term used at Burberry that EDITED data has tracked since February 2019. 14% of products currently retailing have the descriptor, while an even greater number make up neutrals in the brand’s color wheel at 17%.

Shortly before his exit at the end of 2017, Christopher Bailey’s penultimate presentation for Burberry saw the brand reclaim and reinstall the historical check that had been tarnished in the 00s. Data from Burberry illustrates how the brand have reintroduced this beige associated with the heritage of the brand as a core color. All products retailing that are described as heritage are outerwear, while the Spring 2021 presentation saw the shade used exclusively across outerwear.

Similar use of attaching archive to color is noted at Barbour, with “archive olive.” We’ve tracked this term since 2015, but interestingly it’s used by third party retailers rather than the brand itself. Barbour UK has four times more products described as heritage rather than archive, but this only accounts for 7% of stock.

new nostalgia


Mentions of “archive” have shot up 42% in 2020 to date vs. last year at Gap. The retailer has had at least three newsletters a month referencing its archive and how it has inspired products.

At the start of the year, Gap had been amping up 90s style pieces inspired by its roots, before making a marked move into promoting more basic products such as T-shirts. In Q2, the brand revisited its beginnings through newsletters that referenced reflection and content. This resulted in a series of playlists featuring music that had been played in stores across the past 15 years – a great way to connect with customers in the height of lockdown.

Looking at items described as “archive” that have arrived this year, a pair of overalls were £180/$228 and a varsity jacket at £114.95/$158, both at its highest price. However, a number of outerwear products that don’t have the archive tag sit much higher, including a $498/£304 leather jacket and a suede jacket at the same price. Gap doesn’t use the archive tag as a way to bump-up prices. Pricing mostly reflects strategy across the retailer on the whole. The most recent reference in a newsletter saw the retailer’s attempt to “reimagine workwear.”

Broader themes

Luxury handbag focus

One of two stand out products that are of particular note is handbags. Chloé donated to UNICEF from every sale through its bag line. Gucci reworked a style from the 60s and Longchamp the 80s, while Lulu Guinness look to more recent years, including 2007 and 2012 – archive doesn’t have to mean decades old.

Denim products

The second stand-out category is denim, with a focus on heritage and quality. Maison Margiela recently profiled a shadow effect, while Miss Sixty featured highly stylized retro shapes – in contrast to many other denim brands that keep archive-inspired cuts simpler.

Archive sales

There are a couple of ways that archive shops or sales are communicated. “Up to 70% off” at Roberto Cavalli suggests they are dressing up the need to move old stock. Be wary of potentially cheapening the term. Archive suggests quality and heritage, and should be preserved by steering clear of such high markdowns or graphics traditionally associated with sales.

Part of Chloe Gosselin’s loyalty program, of which you become a member by simply signing up for newsletters, includes “subscriber-only archive sales.” Similarly, Greats invited newsletter subscribers to “unlock the vault.” Both of these approaches add a layer of exclusivity to archive sales.

Reworking iconic prints

Season-over-season, Marine Serre tweaks its iconic crescent moon. Signature, historical prints help enhance a brand’s handwriting. Other designers who’ve done this recently include Versace and Balmain, while Paul Smith invited an artist to create digital content around archival visuals.

Retro reproduction

Rowing Blazers has re-released two sweaters worn by Princess Diana in the 80s with her upcoming appearance in The Crown’s latest season. The iconic red design with a sheep repeat and I’m A Luxury sweaters are from the brand’s latest drop.

An invite to explore

Though still a relatively young brand, In The Style has managed to tap into the trend for historical references by sharing the story of its beginnings this week. Founder Adam Frisby was prompted by the “how it started vs. how it’s going” meme, illustrating that storytelling is applicable regardless of how old the brand is. Chez Maison Valentino is a digital world to explore the Valentino brand, featuring beautiful illustrations to entice shoppers to stay connected, informed and inspired.

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Instagram – In The Style

EDITED’s verdict

Retailers looking in on themselves is a way to create authenticity and strengthen brands. Cases outlined above show that it’s not exclusive to a particular price banding or product type. It’s common practice for retailers to look at what’s historically worked for them to inform future lines, framing that as a story in itself under heritage or archive is something that’ll drum up extra interest and add a new dimension to nostalgia.

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