The fight for the fashion archives: Brands, collectors and Gen Z collide

As fashion has cemented its role in modern culture, brands are thinking carefully about their archives. In April, fashion house Paco Rabanne revealed it would be selling NFTs of its most concept pieces and using all proceeds to fund its archives, including buying back archival clothing, sketches, copyrights, and more. image, video and radio recordings of the creator himself and improving preservation and storage. Julie Ann Clauss, a New York-based fashion archivist with clients including Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Gabriela Hearst and Calvin Klein and PVH-owned Tommy Hilfiger, says she was recently approached for support by emerging brands, streetwear and activewear. A resale site also told Business in vogue that some streetwear brands are leveraging its app for key historical pieces to redeem.

Brands are sometimes in competition with creators. “Designers themselves love vintage pieces and I know a number of them who not only collect their own, but also other inspired pieces that they love,” Mears says. Anna Sui has pieces from Marc Jacobs’ grunge collection for Perry Ellis (it got him fired), while the late Hubert Givenchy collected archival material from Cristóbal Balenciaga, his idol and mentor, she says.

The old is new again

Investing in archival fashion is a cultural enrichment, but also a good business decision, says FIT’s Mears. Designers often find great inspiration in archives. Re-releases of iconic designs have become a popular tactic for brands. The Raf Simons Archives redux, launched in January 2021, consisted of a reissue of 100 pieces tracing 25 years of the creator’s work. The Future Burberry Archive, launched last year, features a capsule of classic Burberry signatures reinterpreted by creative director Riccardo Tisci. Prada, Celine and Coach have all recently launched handbags reimagined from archive styles.

“There’s a lot to be said for archives serving as inspiration for current designers or opportunities for houses to reissue items from their glory days,” says archivist Clauss. “Like postmodern art, fashion is obsessed with itself and its references.” Archives allow brands to control their materials and manage their own story more directly, she adds. “It can be a valuable tool for marketing teams, onboarding new employees, or raising awareness through retail partnerships, museum exhibits, or celebrity dressings.”

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For Laudomia Pucci, daughter of the founder and vice president and chief image officer of Emilio Pucci, archives play a bigger role beyond marketing. While the LVMH group took full ownership of the Emilio Pucci brand in June 2021, the archives still have and will continue to belong to the family, says Pucci via a call from the Tuscan countryside at Villa Granaiolo, where she decided to transfer part of the brand’s archives, creating a private museum in 2011. The villa also houses a multi-purpose space dedicated to the training of young talents, students and teachers wishing to experiment and express their creativity in the fields of art, fashion and design.

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