How Heritage Brands Are Making Classics Cool Again

Photo: Portia Hunt. Courtesy Pringle of Scotland
Fashion, much like anything else in the world, exists in a dichotomy. On one hand, there is a desire and thirst for youth culture; for new and unknown designer to be at the forefront of things before the rest of the world catches up. On the other, however, lies a respect and reverence for the labels and designers that have seemingly been around forever; a certain deference is paid to them. In the past few years, these two disparate characteristics have come together, resulting in a sort-of resurrection of heritage brands. You know the ones: They've typically been around since the 1800s and started off doing something really specific — say, a trench coat or fishermen sweaters — before slowly expanding and getting the full fashion makeover — complete with a buzzy new designer, celebrity fans, and cool new clothes that take the brand's heritage and update it for modern times.
Burberry kicked this trend off in 2001, when Christopher Bailey — then a relatively unknown designer who had spent time at Gucci — was named creative director. His transformation of the brand became the stuff of legend, and since then, reviving heritage brands has become a common occurrence. 2017, though, seems to really be their moment; for example, Lyst reports a 17% increase in global searches for Burberry over the last three months, perhaps a response to the rise of the new "youth" aesthetic to the echelons of high-fashion. This new wave can be traced to Jonathan Anderson's appointment at Loewe, too, which showed you can honor tradition while still have a uniquely modern point of view. More recently, Pringle of Scotland and Mulberry have joined the ranks with cool new designers bringing a fresh perspective to the classics. Their aesthetics may all be rooted in history, but there's nothing old about the clothes and accessories they're delivering. And at a time where the fashion industry feels as tumultuous as ever, there's something to be said for keep with tradition — even if it does involved, cutting, pasting, and remixing its roots.