Archive Fashion: What It Means & How You Can Get Your Hands On Timeless Pieces

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. This adage is certainly true when it comes to vintage fashion. To this end, discerning fashionistas have always been known to scour flea markets, thrift stores, and vintage shops both online and in person in search for a truly excellent sartorial deal. Yet, social media trends now point towards an interesting detour from vintage shopping. We are referring to archive fashion.

Whether you call it a movement, a quickly spreading interest, or a trend, archive fashion has caught the imagination of many people and is here to stay. You may be wondering what exactly is meant by the term archive fashion? The term refers to pieces from past collections of popular mainstream designers, especially those that have a story to tell.

Now that you know its meaning, you may also wonder how you can get your hands on these timeless pieces. Pre-loved retail websites are your best bet in this regard, but we are here to share all of our best tips and tricks in helping you up your archive fashion game.

Archive fashion: Is it for you?

In an industry largely run by the demands of a fast fashion cycle, young people with a sustainable frame of mind are looking for solutions that allow them to express their individuality while also sticking with their ideals. Archive fashion as a concept fits that mode remarkably well by being both fashion forward and environmentally friendly.

However, it is important to note that archive fashion isn't equivalent to the general term known as vintage fashion. It is more selective in its ambit. The clothing is extremely rare and, therefore, more precious than just any random vintage piece. It most often belongs to a designer label from a specific point in time and bears a unique story that cannot be replicated by other vintage clothing pieces.

Additionally, for a piece to be considered archive fashion, it must have some historical significance. For some people, this intense attachment may arise from their obsession with a particular designer or a nostalgic collection they feel connected to in a particular way (perhaps their birth year or decade).

How did this trend begin?

Just as is the case with any kind of collector's hobby, the origins of archive fashion lie in people proudly sharing their archive pieces on social media. TikTok in particular has become a hub for members of Gen Z to show off their archive fashion finds to an audience. The content created in this genre includes tips on sourcing and styling these pieces effectively and discussions on the importance of archive fashion in general.

As an antithesis to fast fashion, archive fashion seeks to preserve the authenticity of branded fashion. It is complementary to the slow fashion movement, and people who pursue it delight in devoting energy and time to sourcing the piece of their dreams.

A number of high-profile celebrities have endorsed this trend, which is, perhaps, another reason for it taking off in such a big way. Take the case of Kanye West whose now iconic Yeezy collections were reportedly inspired by similar pieces he had seen in Japan which had belonged to vintage Raf Simons. West's promotion of the Yeezy's was undoubtedly influential in introducing young people to the original iconic designer, whom they may not have otherwise come across.

Which brands should you shop for?

What constitutes an archive fashion piece really depends on your personal preferences and interests. However, there are certain criteria that should be considered for a piece of clothing to fit the archive fashion category. The term could denote a piece created during a defining moment in your favorite designer's career or something that elevated their status in the fashion industry. It must be completely original, preferably in good condition, as the idea is not to simply imitate a fashion trend from the past.

With this in mind, a few key brands are favored by collectors when selecting archive fashion pieces. These designers include Helmut Lang, Vivienne Westwood, Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Raf Simons, among others. They have reached this status owing to their collective reputation as being inspirational, innovative, and path-breaking in their own right.

These designers' biggest achievements are in encapsulating a period of time through their designs, which, when worn, can transport the wearer back in time. In some cases, archive pieces will also share a glimpse of how fashion movements that shaped people were born — this might include the popularity of loungewear or streetwear.

How to get your hands on timeless pieces

Having read this far, you may be intrigued by the concept of archive fashion and keen to explore it yourself. You should first be aware that it isn't easy to source archive fashion pieces. However, with the correct guidance and through the right channels, you shouldn't have a problem.

Begin by identifying your dream archive fashion pieces or designers. They could be from particular years or specific collections. Once you have a list that suits your personal preferences, you can focus your search on those exclusive items. Look to social media platforms for tips and leads with respect to archive fashion. Your favorite content creators may be able to guide you better than anyone else in this regard.

Armed with this knowledge, you should explore secondhand retail websites to score the best pieces. The most renowned examples of these include Grailed, Lamb Vintage, The RealReal, and Depop, among others.

If you are lucky, you may even score a rare piece through smaller online vintage shops or your local vintage haunt. You just have to keep your eyes peeled for best results.