Archive Fashion

An introduction- and the meaning of Archival Clothing

Did you live under a rock in the last few years? If you answered ‘yes’, I’m going to give you some education about the topic ‘archival clothing’, ‘archive pieces’, ‘archive garments’… whatever, you get what I mean. If you answered ‘no’, actually, also stay and obtain some more knowledge about this interesting topic on behalf of the left side of your brain. 

What are archive pieces?

So, what exactly are archive pieces? Basically, Archive pieces are garments released in earlier seasons of high-end designers. Hence the blunt meaning of the word ‘archive’; ‘The archive or archives are a collection of documents and records that contain historical information’. 

These pieces are pieces which hold extreme value due to its age, condition and the designer by whom it’s made. For instance, earlier collections from Raf Simons hold the most valuable archive pieces. Some of those pieces are absolutely wrecked at this point, also mainly due to Simons using ‘Acid wash’ on some of these pieces. Which causes the fabric to break down in time, which creates this garment with holes and rips. Pretty sick look in my opinion.

Raf Simons AW02 Nebraska Sweater Courtesy of Cest Chaud
©C'est Chaud, This is a Raf Simons Nebraska Sweater from AW02-03

As a matter of fact, there lies a deeper meaning within the whole ‘archive’ thing. The big difference between spending your money online; shopping the newest season and buying archive is the whole process behind it. 

Let me retrace the steps you take when buying archive. First, you find out about some crazy-ass piece which you’ve seen shoot by on social media, probably multiple times. Secondly, if you don’t already know the exact garment name, you will have to find this before you can start the hunt. Thirdly, so you’ve found out what name the garment bears, from which season it is and which size you need… oh yeah, there are multiple sizes (obviously)…. Anyway, It’s finally time to track down the garment on the internet.

After a rough day of turning the internet upside-down and inside-out, you haven’t managed to find it, or maybe you did, but not in your desired size. This means, you’ve got to check all the markets everyday till one pops-up and even then, you’ve got to be the first to pick it up, you’re probably not the only one searching for this exact piece.

The person in this picture is wearing a full 'archive' outfit. The boots are 'Dior Navigate Combat boots in patent leather from AW07'. The pants are 'Helmut Lang Bondage Cargo Pants from AW04'. The jacket is a 'Dries van Noten Back-zip Bomber from FW14'.

If you managed to keep track of all the markets everyday to check for this one particular piece, congratulations; you can add one extra thing to your long list of obsessions; ‘archival clothing’. That’s basically what it is, an obsession over clothing, also consisting of the main fact that probably no one in your area has the same garment. This is a consequence of low market saturation, partly the reason why the pieces have such ridiculous prices.  

Not that weird if you ask me. Regular people in your area may even wonder; ‘why the hell is this dude wearing this ripped old hoodie every time’. When you tell them; ‘it’s archive fashion, I paid over thousand bucks for this hoodie’, but they don’t understand it, they haven’t been through it, so they can’t relate. Such a shame….. better find me some new friends lol.

So, did you have to make this much effort on buying that garment that you’ve been eye-ing for weeks but doesn’t sell out, that lingers in-store? I don’t think so. That doesn’t necessarily make the more recent clothes less great or even bad, but for now, it has a lack of story and too little holes and patina for real archivists. 

Kanye West In Raf Simons
©Vogue, Kanye West wearing the 'Riot! Riot! Riot! bomber from Raf Simons FW01'

The rise of archival clothing has a lot to do with certain celebrities who have been seen sporting archive pieces. For example, Kanye West, the man who single-handedly made the ‘Riot! Riot! Riot! bomber from Raf Simons AW01’ sky-rocket to over 30K, because of one photo. Alongside was the A$AP MOB with A$AP Rocky and multiple instagram celebrities such as Ian Connor and Luka Sabbat. Travis Scott in Particular is a big fan of Helmut Lang, he has worn some archive pieces from Helmut Lang in multiple music videos and instagram photos. 

The main archive brands

What people generally agreed on is that there are a few key designer brands which are like renowned labelled as archive brands. These ‘labelled’ archive brands include Helmut Lang (when Helmut Lang was still creative director), Raf Simons, Maison Margiela, Dries van Noten, some Jean-Paul Gaultier and Hedi Slimane, mostly his Dior designs. Most of the archive pieces from these brands are from the 90’s and early 00’s.  

Brands like Comme Des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto were the first wave of Japanese designers to show their collections on the runway in Paris, some of their pieces from that particular time are also considered ‘archive pieces’. 

Issey Miyake Parachute bomber

In conclusion, collecting ‘archive clothing’ is a very expensive hobby, wish you buy the most expensive pieces obviously. I reckon your needs will be heavily satisfied when you find the garment which you were looking for after a year of hunting.

By Kevin Vergeer

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