Fueled by Millennial nostalgia and a new golden age of streetwear, once-popular brands are coming back from the dead, filled with retro-inspired products and re-imagined archive pieces.

Rediscovered classics

In the 80s and 90s, brands like Champion, Fila, Reebok, Ellesse and Kappa were must-haves for hip-hop stars, sports icons and suburban teenagers alike. These classic brands, each with their own long-standing heritage, used to fly out of stores, until megabrands like Nike and Adidas, and rare streetwear brands like Palace, BAPE and Supreme took over. Now, in the midst of a streetwear renaissance, key nostalgic brands are experiencing a powerful resurgence.

Now, in the midst of a streetwear renaissance, key nostalgic brands are experiencing a powerful resurgence

Nostalgic mood

Millennials are often described as a nostalgic generation, inspired by iconic images and old paparazzi shots circulating on Throwback Thursday (#TBT) Instagram threads, “On This Day” historical Facebook features and Spotify’s “Your Time Capsule” playlists.

The impact on fashion trends is clear. According to Lyst, the top accessory trends in 2018 were nostalgic styles like scrunchies, chunky sneakers and belt bags. Retail analysis company Edited predicts that the nostalgia wave is likely to continue, with Dior featuring Britpop-era bucket hats on the catwalk for Autumn 2019, while brands such as Versace, Fendi and Burberry are digging deep into their archives for inspiration.

Design disruptors

The return of retro streetwear brands like Fila and Champion is a result of the nostalgic mood, as well as support from high profile fashion figures. Before designer Gosha Rubinskiy featured Fila in his Spring 2017 menswear show, the brand was in the doldrums, having fallen from a sales peak of $687m in 1997, to only $19m a decade later. But Fila is now going from strength to strength, thanks to savvy collaborations with a wide range of labels, such as Fendi, 3.1 Philip Lim, Schott, Liam Hodges and Weekday.

Woman wearing Fila T-shirt and Disruptor trainers

Key to its success is a reissue of its Disruptor trainer, originally released in 1996, but fitting seamlessly into the chunky sneaker trend dominating footwear for the last two years. The Disruptor II is an undeniable hit, selling strongly all over the world, and becoming one of the most sought-after products in 2018, according to Lyst.

Those brands with legendary or revolutionary products, or a particularly compelling history tend to be more likely to survive.

Fashion cycles

It’s nothing new for a brand to return to popularity long after its heyday, in fact many iconic brands go through cycles of popularity as different generations discover classic pieces for themselves, like Dr Martens boots or Clarks Desert Boots and Wallabees.

Those brands with legendary or revolutionary products, or a particularly compelling history tend to be more likely to survive. Champion is one of those brands, having invented the hooded sweatshirt, or “hoodie”, in the 1930s, and becoming a key brand for musicians, skateboarders and cool kids everywhere during the 1990s.

Unlike Fila’s explosive return, Champion has been slowly and carefully bringing itself back in to the limelight, beginning with a collaboration with Supreme in 2010, followed by projects with streetwear legends like BAPE and Off-White, and hip brands like Wood Wood and Vetements. Now marking its 100th year, Champion is stocked in the world’s most influential streetwear boutiques, as well as mainstream sports stores, simultaneously appealing to hypebeasts and to long-standing customers.

Old is new again

The renewed popularity of Champion and Fila is encouraging other brands to stage a comeback. Reebok, the British-founded sportswear brand now owned by Adidas is being buoyed by renewed interest in iconic archive designs, like the Classic Leather introduced in 1983, Freestyle high-tops from 1982, the Club C tennis shoe from 1985 and the InstaPump Fury first issued in 1994. Its latest re-issue, is the Aztrek, launched with a 90s-inspired content series and a high-profile spokesmodel, Cardi B.

Kappa’s highly recognisable logo and its popper tracksuit are becoming increasingly popular among streetwear fans. Meanwhile, Italian brand Ellesse is coming back on the fashion radar, with a retro-inspired collection of simple trainers and sportswear emblazoned with the brand’s logo and signature colour palette.

Not going away anytime soon

Sportswear nostalgia is nearing its peak, with more brands coming out of the shadows to relaunch key products from the past. Nostalgia is now a perma-trend and consumers are showing an eclectic approach to vintage styles – mixing pieces from different eras with impunity and offering an ongoing opportunity for heritage brands.