Many of us remember the “hip” brands that dominated the 90s, like Billabong, Joe Boxer, JNCO, Stussy, and Oakley. Born out of the counter-culture movements of skateboarding, hip-hop, and underground raves, these big-name brands were snapped up by kids around the world in an effort to associate themselves with each respective movement. By now, most of these brands have faded into obscurity, but if you’re feeling nostalgic, you might be able to track them down on eBay. That being said, four brands have managed to stage major 21st century comebacks by repositioning their image to appeal to today’s consumer in new and inventive ways.
Read on to find out which four brands have clawed their way back from near extinction to become some of the coolest names to wear right now.
Back in the day, young adult shows like Saved by the Bell and movies like Clueless not only showcased the style of the 90s, but they also gave directives on how to dress in order to be cool. Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell was the “It” girl of the moment, and her beloved Keds were featured on nearly every episode. The brand instantly became associated with cool, preppy girls, but as the 90s ended and styles changed, it lost its charm and significance. In recent years, it has enjoyed a major comeback that coincided with the rise of the sneaker trend. To capitalize on its big moment, the brand enlisted Taylor Swift for a design collaboration, and suddenly Keds were cool again. A little star power goes a long way toward reviving a brand’s image for the modern shopper.
Although Bill Blass originally launched his fashion career in 1945, it wasn’t until the 80s that his contributions to American sportswear had solidified. During that era, Bill Blass suits hung in the closets of well-dressed business people and were known for their sharp tailoring and glitzy fabrics. Over the years, however, the brand became over-licensed, over-saturated, and over-the-hill. An aging clientele, mis-management within the Bill Blass Ltd. organization, and the death of the namesake designer all contributed to the brand’s demise.
Last year, Chris Benz – an alum of J.Crew – stepped up to revive the brand’s image for the 21st century. By taking a wide-lens approach to archival pieces, he kept the DNA of the brand intact, but his business approach was as cutting edge as it gets. The new Bill Blass e-commerce strategy dismisses the traditional fashion calendar and brings all product categories straight to the consumer every season, which means you can only buy products on the brand’s website. This season-less, straight-to-consumer approach is only part of the reason why Bill Blass’ comeback has been so spectacular; the collections themselves are youthful, wearable, well priced, and vibrant.
The Guess of the 90s was an altogether different animal. Decades ago, Guess ads were dominated by buxom models shot in various stages of repose – always in black and white. Signature light-wash denim jeans and jackets were the brand’s biggest calling card back then, but in 2016 it is revamping its image in an unexpected way while retaining its inherent 90s style.
Guess tapped rapper and style icon A$AP Rocky to design a collection that features striped shirts bearing the logo GUE$$, denim coveralls, and varsity jackets. In keeping with the cool-kid theme of the collection, ‘Guess Originals x A$AP Rocky’ launched at Opening Ceremony in New York City at the beginning of the year. Rocky is dead serious when it comes to fashion, and in a statement to the press he dished on his perspective, “It’s taking archival designs and adding a new twist, and developing new colorways… Something for men, women, boys, and girls around the world. It’s a very personal collection: limited and very focused. I think this is dope, because hip-hop hasn’t seen these colorways and patterns since the early 90s.”
Back in the 90s and 00s, the Coach logo was as ubiquitous as it gets, and the brand’s mid-market products were carried by everyone from soccer moms in middle America to celebrities like Britney Spears. However, ubiquity can often hurt brands, especially when over-saturation turns perception from mid-market to down-market. Soon, it simply wasn’t cool to carry Coach anymore. However, since the brand hired brilliant designer Stuart Vevers to take over creative direction, it has made a roaring rebound and sales have skyrocketed. By capitalizing on the “magpie effect”, which is so popular in fashion right now, and combining it with Americana kitsch, Vevers is churning out some of the hippest products on the market. Now everyone wants a Coach bag, keychain, varsity jacket, floral dress, and more, and the brand is being stocked at some of the most high-end stores in the world, like Colette in Paris.