The neo-nostalgia that fuels most tumbles into internet k-holes finally reached high fashion this week: even the most future-minded designers were openly longing for the very recent past. Fashion designers always look back to create something that moves us forward, but rarely do you hear "my youth" cited as inspiration. At Opening Ceremony, the origin story for the season was a summer Carol and Humberto spent pool hopping in 1991. Before they'd even spoken to the designers about the collection, Spike Jonze and Jonah Hill, who were writing a play for the company's show, had a script that mined youthful exuberance. In the last scene, the show's Humberto character reflects on fashion "before things got so serious." At Proenza Schouler, where Jack and Lazaro are known for highly specific, semi-obscure references combined for futuristic effect, the two said they were inspired this season "thinking about our youth."
On the runways, we saw plenty of references to our youth – ideas in style that we thought would never, ever make a return. In fact, the references were some of the most cringe-worthy fashion moves from the 1990s and early aughts (even at Proenza, they referenced school uniforms, which rarely get a nostalgic gaze). At MM6 a latex paisley bandana tube top recalled one Britney Spears wore on her Baby One More Time tour. Rodarte showed a stream of mermaid dresses with asymmetrical hems with floaty fabric that felt a lot like an ultra-luxe take on the glittery, strappy versions worn to school dances and in Mary-Kate and Ashley's travel movies. I associate those hemlines with braces. Meanwhile, in another ode to a now-passé trend of the era, the models sported multiple eyebrow piercings. At Marc by Marc Jacobs, baby ravers pounded down the runway with their hair in a mohawk of micro-braids, a favorite style of Gwen Stefani and Björk. At OC, a running joke was that the designers kept calling for "baby bags" to be styled with the looks – another nod to the early 00s and the rule of the Baguette. Marc Jacobs showed exaggerated cargo pants that out-pocketed even Aaliyah's in the 90s. Has fashion grown Tumblr-funny?
Last week in i-D, Nathalie Olah wrote an argument against nostalgia, explaining that our absorption in old photos of Winona Ryder was a security blanket; it's easy to wear jelly shoes and reblog Kate Moss pics in the face of daunting global crises. She could also include the overwhelming pace of evolving technology (in New York Magazine's cover story, baller CEO Martine Rothblatt talks about extending life by scanning human consciousness onto the internet – give me some Kate Moss pics! I'm not ready!). But maybe there's something good in fashion's neo-nostalgia.
Looking back in order to think about why we're all in this anyway is a good thing: there's so much fashion coming out so fast, maybe we need a thinking season to remember why it's important. And there's something inspiring about turning our most cringe-worthy fashion mistakes into cool, new ideas right after we've left them behind. The cherry on top was Britney Spears’ launch of her lingerie line at New York Fashion Week: it was like designers summoned her with latex tube tops (I even saw a young woman wearing a slinky, rhinestone spotted denim dress front row at Telfar – #tbt). Seeing her made us realise you can always reinvent what was once cringe-worthy; our past is valid inspiration, and we never have to be afraid of the future.