It’s fair to say we’re living in a golden age of clothing archivism. Never before has vintage luxury fashion been so in-demand: industry-defining retailers are selling archival clothing next to their seasonal buys, pop-culture kingpins are co-signing collectors, and the world’s biggest brands are digging into their own backlogs.
That last bit is actually a fairly recent development; most of the curating was done through social media and stylists until the past couple years, when the designers themselves took note of fans’ rabid response to their old work.
It began with labels like Raf Simons, one of the quintessential archivist favorites, reiterating the classics and has led up to Antwerp Six member Dirk Bikkembergs getting in on the action.
But, first, let’s quickly break down the meaning of “archival clothing.” It ain’t just a bunch of old clothes.
When folks bandy about archival clothing, they’re generally referring to old garments from designers like Helmut Lang, Simons, and UNDERCOVER.
The brands that fit into this niche were once quite limited but expanded as new labels were adopted by tastemakers — today’s archival clothing aficionado may collect items from disparate names like Stephen Sprouse, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Hysteric Glamour, Vivienne Westwood, Ann Demeulemeester, and General Research, to name a few. And demand exists for all of them.
This has inspired designers to revive old designs, like General Research’s 100-pocket Parasite jacket.
Bikkembergs isn’t quite as sought after as some his Antwerp Six peers — Demeulemeester and Walter van Beirendonck probably top that list, with Dries van Noten right behind — aside from the inimitable bungee cord boots that have garnered a cult following and impressive auction prices.
Now, Bikkembergs himself is entering the D2C archive game with a digital selection of his own archival clothing, available in subsequent drops via the Bikkembergs website.
“[For] many years now, the word “archive” has incited much interest within the fashion world,” Bikkembergs himself said in a statement. “About a year ago we decided to move the archive and start this project. The pieces were carefully selected for their individual appeal and relevance to the mission.
“The clothes are elegant and dark, rigorously black and navy blue, with rich textures and surface treatments, leather accents and, on closer inspection, very strong construction details that reminded me of the heavy industrial architecture of the shipping cranes.”
Though his eponymous label is perhaps best known nowadays as a purveyor of semi-questionable and very European sportswear, Bikkembergs body of work is vast.
This debut drop pulls over a dozen pieces from the past, ranging from leather jackets to satin slacks, all very sleek and all very much of an era.
Bikkembergs cites a black wool coat, 2006 World Cup T-shirt, and leather trousers as his favorite pieces from the initial lineup, describing them as “Strong, sexy, and sporty.” Indeed.
The prices aren’t exactly for the faint of heart so only true Bikkembergs devotees need apply.
Do many die-hard Bikkembergs fans exist beyond the folks who collect his bungee boots? Hard to tell. But perhaps this new archive program will create more.