Celebrities Are Bringing Back Archival Designer Looks — And It's Driving Attention to Resale

Ana Colón

Trending now: Jean Paul Gaultier, Mugler, John Galliano for Dior, among others.

Over the past few years (and even days!), we've seen celebrities and their stylists show off their fashion knowledge by bringing back designer looks from iconic runways — ones originally modeled by '90s supers, often revisited by Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to remembering some of the biggest moments in fashion history. 

"Living in an era where social media has monetized every outfit, celebrities are turning to vintage as a way to individualize their style," Alice Hebrard Lemaire, Vestiaire Collective's Head of Vintage tells Fashionista. "When you wear vintage, chances are that no one is stealing your look."

This extends from the red carpet to street style to model-off-duty wardrobes. Seth Weisser, CEO and co-founder of What Goes Around Comes Around — a celebrity-favorite purveyor of secondhand designer goods since the '90s — explains that "with vintage, there are truly a lot of [collectors] — whether it's of archives or pieces from a certain moment that resonates with them." 

Pre-quarantine, celebrities would frequently be photographed coming in and out of What Goes Around Comes Around's SoHo flagship in New York or browsing through the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. Some of the most memorable red-carpet moments in recent years have been looks plucked from the archives, like Cardi B's '90s Mugler shell ensemble for the 2019 Grammys, Jennifer Anniston'John Galliano-era Dior dress (from her own closet) from the 2020 SAG Awards or Kim Kardashian West's one-of-two 2003 Alexander McQueen gown for the most recent Vanity Fair Oscars after party

Jennifer Anniston wearing vintage Dior by John Galliano to the 2020 SAG Awards.

While this kind of sartorial throwback isn't a new trend in the world of celebrity style, resale retailers are seeing it have a bigger effect on searches for and even sales on the very collections they're wearing: Some secondhand retailers report seeing a surge in interest — and sales — around certain designers and vintage collections after it's been worn by an A-lister. 

Vestiaire Collective's Hebrard Lemaire says that the Kardashian-Jenners, the Hadids, Cardi B and Kaia Gerber, among others, have led to increased interest in designer collections from the '90s, particularly those of Jean Paul Gaultier, Manfred Thierry Mugler and Galliano at Dior. (Also big right now: the Murakami x Louis Vuitton collaboration.) 

Cardi B performing in archival Mugler at the 2019 Grammys.

"Ever since Cardi B wore the 1995 Mugler shell dress at the Grammys [red carpet], we've seen a dramatic increase in searches for the designer — +96% compared to the previous year, 2018," she says. When Jennifer Lopez closed Versace's Spring 2020 show wearing a remixed version of the jungle-print gown she made iconic almost two decades earlier, she adds, searches for "vintage Versace" on Vestiaire Collective went up by 75%, compared to day before she walked the runway. 

Galliano's Spring 2004 collection for Dior and Prada's Linea Rossa, which first launched in 1997, have also been popular recently on Vestiaire Collective, thanks to sightings on Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid (in the case of the former) and A$AP Rocky and Timothée Chalamet (for the latter). 

For Gaultier, the reason for the upswing is two-fold, according to Hebrard Lemaire: A lot of celebrities and influencers are wearing pieces from his archive, and also he's topical, given the news that he's stepping back from his haute couture business

On Vestiaire Collective, one of Gaultier's collections in particular seems to be popping off: "Consumers are most interested in the Tattoo collection from Spring 1994. The Kardashians, in particular, have made the mesh T-shirts and dresses popular."

Kendall Jenner wearing a mesh set from Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring 1994 collection during London Fashion Week in February 2020.

What Goes Around Comes Around's Weisser highlights how, when Kardashian wore a formfitting, optical-illusion dress from Gaultier's Spring 1996 collection to the 2018 People's Choice Awards, it reignited interest in that particular design. "That piece became an instant hot commodity, to the degree that Gaultier himself revisited it in a different way," he says. 

"Gaultier has been a [big designer in resale] for the better part of the last year because his history and range of style is incredibly dynamic," Weisser continues. "Also, the way his products translate are incredible, with the use of stretch fabrics that work on a lot of different body types... We're seeing Gaultier being popular down to the consumer level and the trends being established perhaps by a celebrity and then people following them. It does carry all the way down the pipe." 

The return of the Fendi logo over the past few years has also been big among the boutique's customer base, Weisser adds. 

At Farfetch — where there's a whole section dedicated to Pre-Owned designer pieces — archival Mugler and Gaultier are also ready-to-wear favorites, thanks to celebrity endorsements, according to Senior Womenswear Editor Celenie Seidel. Other big brands for the retailer's audience: Versace and Tom Ford-era Gucci on the apparel side, and Christian Dior Saddles, Fendi Baguettes and Prada nylon styles for bags. 

Bella Hadid carrying a vintage Prada nylon bag during Paris Fashion Week in September 2018.

"I think that celebrities have had an incredibly positive impact on the popularity of pre-owned/archive pieces," says Seidel. "Their influence has significant power in swaying consumer trends, and the popularity of vintage items [particularly bags] among celebrities has undeniably inspired many consumers to take an interest in 'pre-owned' as a new way to shop." 

Because many of these resale retailers have e-commerce capabilities and put their product online, they've become a big destination for shoppers at every tier looking not only for the vintage pieces they're seeing their favorite celebrities wear, but also for slightly more affordable alternatives to designer reissues — a big trend in accessories. 

"The re-edition handbag trend caused an uplift in searches for almost every luxury brand," Hebrard Lemaire, noting that, because so many resale retailers have set up e-commerce, they'll come up when shoppers search for them online. "Consumers search for pieces that are either unavailable or too expensive to buy first-hand. Vintage can be the better option as it gives you the original at usually a much more attainable price."

Individuality and cost are two big draws for people looking to shop designer pieces secondhand, whether they're famous or not. Another is sustainability and more mindfulness around consumption overall. The resale market is only growing — and experts already have a sense of the specific designer collections that might trend next. 

Cardi B wearing vintage Jean Paul Gaultier to the premiere of 'Hustlers' in August 2019.

"I think Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton is going to be quite sought-after this year thanks to the strong feedback he's received after his last few collections," Hebrard Lemaire predicts. "Also, Prada's new re-editions from the 1990s and the appointment of Raf Simons at the house has resulted in a renewed interest in the original collections of both designers." 

Seidel agrees on the latter: "Often if a brand is in the news, it's not uncommon for the buzz to be reflected in sales to a degree. As Prada is about to enter a new era with Simons joining Mrs. Prada as co-creative director, fans of the brand may be keen to invest in archive pieces from Miuccia Prada's time as the sole creative director." 

You'll want to get shopping now. 

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