In fashion, what’s old ineluctably becomes new again. Now, some designers are taking that truism a step further by repurposing their own past collections.
At the end of September, Vetements relaunched its first-ever collection, which originally debuted in spring of 2014, as a capsule exclusively for sale on the new Style.com. According to a Vogue interview, designer Demna Gvasalia considered it a “redo” of the original collection, items from which are still relevant in today’s trends, like the brand’s signature reworked denim, hoodies and ankle boots.
When it was released, the then-unknown Vetements debut collection flew under the radar of most who consider themselves fans of the label today. The updated relaunch offers them a chance to catch items they might have missed (some products were no longer available, while others have been tweaked slightly in fabric or style), and gave Vetements a renewed chanced to capitalize on missed sales.
It’s not the first time that the collective has tweaked existing items to drive new sales. Vetements recently hosted a pop-up sale in South Korea in conjunction with Seoul Fashion Week, and for sale were items from existing Vetements collections tailored to the Korean customer.
Vetements also isn’t alone in propping up its past work. Brands like Oscar de la Renta, Gucci and Helmut Lang are also finding new purposes for previous collections. The trend is representative of a resistance to the churn of the fashion calendar the currently requires designers to release a product drop and fly it down the runway before immediately moving on to the next thing.
“A lot of self-reference has been happening this season and designers seem much more comfortable pulling silhouettes from relatively recent seasons and bringing them back,” said Leandra Medine of the fashion site Man Repeller, in a previous Glossy interview. “It’s almost as if to say, ‘I wasn’t done with this! But I had to be because of technology.’ And it’s been sort of satisfying and refreshing to see the human side of it.”
Tweaking and reintroducing past collections is more than a case of the designers’ being in love with their own designs. It’s a strategy: By doing so, designers are able to freshen their offerings without going into overdrive during a time when they’re expected to produce more than ever before. For the Spring 2017 season, some designers who didn’t fully restructure their design schedule around see-now-buy-now opted to create an additional capsule collection for the season to go on sale immediately, in collaboration with another brand. For instance, Alexander Wang partnered with Adidas, and Prabal Gurung partnered with Bandier.
However, when pushing out multiple collections for different purposes at one time, designers could wind up compromising their creativity, even with the crutch of a collaboration.
“[Collaborations are] an assist,” said Rony Zeidan, founder of RO NY. “But creativity will get affected by it undoubtedly. Designers are realizing that business has to be thought out differently, but there will likely be a moment when they go ‘enough.’”
The repurposed past collection, which can appear in a few different iterations, offers a reprieve from the madness without forcing brands to stay silent. For the Spring 2017 runway, Oscar de la Renta was without a creative director: Peter Copping exited the brand in July, and his replacements, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Monse, were recruited just a week before the fashion show. So a “placeholder” collection that resurrected past pieces from Copping’s design team paraded down the runway.
Vogue critic Nicole Phelps called it a “feel-good moment for the brand ahead of Kim and Garcia’s homecoming. In other words, it was a chance for the brand to reminisce on the past without moving the needle or sitting out on fashion week all together.
On Wednesday, Resurrected Vintage announced a collaboration with Helmut Lang to sell a selection of rare items from Lang’s collections before he quit fashion in 2005, bringing a renewed sense of excitement to the brand.
It’s all seen as an exercise in figuring out what resonates with customers on a brand-by-brand basis, during a confusing time for luxury fashion.
“The truth is that consumers want classic pieces,” said Jeff Carvalho, global chief strategy officer at Highsnobiety. “As we’ve seen through examples of stylists with huge archives of great stuff, the demand for vintage high-end is strong.”