If you're a Xennial, as I am, the coming spring collections may earn a special soft spot with you. The clothes seemed made for that micro-generation of people aged between 30 and 45 – too young to identify with generation X, too old to count as a millennial, but with a decent amount of disposable income to spend on a dress.
In my case, I saw my childhood and pre-adolescence flash before my eyes during the spring shows. Supermodels, logomania, head-to-toe checks, George Michael, My Little Ponies, bubble skirts, cycling shorts, jelly shoes — and all on the runways. So bad, it's good. But no matter what year you were born, there's an entertaining appeal in this, whether you're recognising the old or discovering it as new.
Style is having a love affair with nostalgia, from the classic Nineties-era tartan at Burberry and grunge references at Miu Miu, to Eighties acid-washed, bad-taste denim at Stella McCartney and metallic jumpsuits at Isabel Marant. There was a sense of wistful reminiscence for simpler, pre-smartphone times, and it surfaced through the return of familiar trends and designers reviving their greatest hits.
It's telling that the most memorable runway moment of 2017 was a throwback: original supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer and Helena Christensen reuniting for a Versace show to recreate an iconic 1992 moment from founding designer Gianni's heyday at the house.
Recognising the 20-year anniversary of Gianni's shocking murder, the show doubled as a retrospective of his work, featuring many of his most iconic prints and pieces from the early to mid-Nineties: the Warholian pop-art print, emblazoned with the faces of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, the gold and black swirls from his graphic Baroque series, the maximalism of his Animalia collection, and the bejewelled leather jackets from his iconic autumn 1991 show. 'It all combined to create the most literal representation of this era to date,' says Lisa Aiken, retail director at Net-a-Porter.
The nostalgia started in dribs and drabs: a wave of familiar CD logos on handbags in Christian Dior's spring and fall collections. And in Gucci's cruise 18 show, the return of the GG monogram in the house's red, green and brown colourway. That same collection included an homage to the famous Eighties bootlegger, Dapper Dan, a man largely responsible for making logomania a streetwear thing by co-opting the logos of Italian luxury brands. And then during the men's 18 season: a most clever revival of the original Burberry check, when Gosha Rubchinskiy collaborated with the brand for his show.
The women's collections doubled-down on the idea, with Burberry rolling out even more check on coats, Fendi debuting vintage-looking bags covered in the brand's inverted Fs, and Miuccia Prada reviving the 'It' bag of the Nineties, her black, nylon carryall. It may not have made for the most agenda- setting fashion, but there's no doubt it created a feel-good balm in a year's worth of nonstop news that covered devastating natural disasters, sexual harassment and mass violence.
The nostalgia wave isn't limited to fashion – it's happening in pop culture, too. TV and cinema in 2017 looked very Eighties, with remakes of Wonder Women, Blade Runner and Star Wars. Even the new shows had an old-school patina, such as Netflix's Glow, about women pro-wrestlers, or the second series of Stranger Things, which follows a gang of mystery-solving kids, both set in the President Reagan years.
Patrick Metzger, author of The Nostalgia Pendulum, says this is nature running its course: 'The driving factor seems to be that it takes around 30 years for a critical mass of people who were consumers of culture when they were young to become the creators of culture in their adulthood,' he says. 'People who were young 30 years ago suddenly have liquid assets, so companies market the culture of their childhood to them.'
In a way, it makes sense that so many designers are pulling out bestsellers from the archives at a time when luxury fashion as a business is at a crossroads. From a retail perspective, Lisa says the shift makes sense: 'It's not a surprise that several brands now champion the approach of evolving their collections season on season, offering repeat styles to provide customers with pieces that have longevity to invest in. Nostalgia, as a trend, speaks to the millennial customer who didn't experience it properly the first time round.'
In fashion, nostalgia is a no-brainer, when the life cycle of trends gets shorter and the price gets higher. There's comfort in investing in the long-game, spending on pieces that have withstood time. Let's just hope that in this moment of looking backward, fashion doesn't lose sight of the thrill in the new.