Blast from the Past: Why 2016 was the Year of the 90s Revival Brand

Nostalgia is a very funny thing for humans; sometimes you catch a scent on a breeze and immediately be transported to your childhood, others, you see a childhood tee shirt and remember Jaime Vanderburen from 6th Grade that would chase you home from school every day. None of us are immune to it – and neither are big brands. It’s a common adage that history repeats itself, and It seems that 2016 was an unexpected window of opportunity for dormant apparel and lifestyle brands to make a resurgence.

Apparel label Hollister is the perfect example of a brand stepping back into the spotlight after a prolonged absence. For 2016 the brand will be relaunching their Gilly Hicks line of intimates, loungewear and swimwear. In 2014, Hollister (a division of Abercrombie and Fitch) shut down 28 freestanding Gilly Hicks stores amid lackluster sales and restructuring. It seems “the relaunch comes as American Eagle Outfitter’s intimates brand, Aerie, is enjoying widespread popularity” as reported by Chainstorage. Aerie is known for using realistic, natural models and have captured the trend of women wanting more relaxed and casual bra styles. This model is being translated over to Hollister in the hopes of catching the same wave of customers.

You don’t have to dig much deeper to see other brands who have recaptured some of their former brilliance in 2016. PVH Corp (the mother company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Speedo) had a monster year in 2016. After a disastrous 2015 where the company’s sales plummeted 40%, PVH saw “its share price has climbed by more than 28% since January as of March 24, 2016.” as reported by Market Realist. The company outperformed other brands in its bracket like Hanes and Ralph Lauren and is aiming for the likes of Michael Kors and Kate Spade. This growth is no doubt due to millennial and Gen Z’s interest in ‘throwback’ trends, feeling nostalgic for the days of Marky Mark rocking the Calvin Klein. Paired with the disposable income of a newly employed generation, you’ve got a retail goldmine.



Other brands taking advantage of this trend include huge names like Reebok Classics (as seen on Kendrick Lamar), Champion athletics who now offer new “retro inspired” hoodies, and Fila reviving its retro athletic wear. GQ Australia sited all these brands as part of the “long arm of “Nu Lad” clothing culture”. A revamping of retro brands who “saw a surge in popularity in the mid Nineties after originally grabbing attention in the Eighties”. These brands are seeing a jump all over the world and the boost of revenue is making the once shaky companies realize that embracing the past and going with the “old” isn’t the worst idea in a time where ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ are no longer taboo words.

“From Macklemore’s obsession with his grandfather’s sweaters, right down the line to mom jeans, there is no fighting the past.”

For the once juggernaut brands above, recognizing the upcoming trend and positioning themselves perfectly in the market allowed them to catch their current audience. What do people want? What do they gravitate towards? If the current wave of nostalgia infused resurgences is any indication, many more “once great” brands will be embracing the things they were once trying to grow out of.


*Image via Urban Outfitters/Calvin Klein

Dante Berardi Jr.

Dante Berardi Jr.

Dante Berardi Jr comes to Hubba from a background in content creation and grant writing for musicians and artists. A writer/musician himself, Dante has a thirst to consume words and the stories they create when pieced together. He sleeps too little, reads too much, lives on coffee and will talk your ear off about vinyl.
Dante Berardi Jr.