Secondhand luxury shopping has never been more mainstream. Credit a rising interest in sustainability or the increase in pandemic-fueled online shopping, but thrifting for designer pieces has reached an entirely new pitch.
And within that world, a specific trend has emerged: archival fashion — pivotal pieces in fashion history, such as Vivienne Westwood's corset, Raf Simons’ bomber jacket, and early 2000s John Galliano-designed Dior. This isn’t just any old vintage shopping. These are pieces that have helped solidify designer careers and are highly sought after. Though wily collectors long knew to sniff out archival pieces, more and more casual shoppers are joining their ranks. Increasingly, they’re broadcasting their finds on TikTok using #ArchiveFashion.
Over the last two years, the Gen Z-beloved platform has allowed budding fashion archivists and fans of fashion history to find a community where they can learn, trade tips, and show off their closets. Unlike marketplaces like eBay, TikTok allows users to have a direct line to interact with each other in a candid way. As a result, the #ArchiveFashion tag has over 14 million views. Whether it’s sharing knowledge about archival fashion (i.e. rare Prada bags from the 1990s) or showing viewers where to find pieces, what to buy, and why to buy them, archival fashion enthusiasts have built a thriving community on the platform.
Twenty-three-year-old Landon Annoni is leading the pack, with over 94,000 followers. The Californian collects and archives fashion from musicians and pop culture icons. It all started when Annoni bought his first archival piece in the year 2016: a chiffon horse-printed top that Stevie Nicks wore during the Buckingham Nicks tour, as well as on Fleetwood Mac's first tour with Lindsey Buckingham in 1975. Since then, Annoni has collected the Gareth Pugh costume that Lady Gaga wore to the 2013 Artpop album release party and the dress that Harris Reed made for Harry Styles’ Vogue cover shoot, among others.
Anyone @stevienicks fans out there? 🎩 ##fleetwoodmac ##stevienicks ##fashion ##1970s ##70s ##music ##hippie ##myjob ##icon ##fyp ##foryoupage ##foryou ##iownit ##f♬ original sound - Landon’s Archive
“All the pieces I have are one-of-a-kind, and [as] there are over 15,000 outfits I have amassed, I can't even choose a favorite,” says Annoni. “The video that people have reacted to the most would be the BTS ‘Life Goes On’ music video outfits! The BTS Army was flipping out that I owned those. They were so happy to see they were being taken care of, which made me feel good about what I do.”
Annoni started posting on TikTok purely to share how he was archiving clothing, but he has since found a niche community eager to have conversations about the craft of collecting. “There are definitely TikTokers that archive some amazing couture pieces,” he says. “TikTok is different from any other platform because they push [your content] to certain audiences to fit what you do. You get to meet and interact with new people every day, which I really enjoy.”
Fellow collector and Sacramento, California resident Ryan Kwong, 26, posts videos featuring pieces from his closet including Haider Ackermann FW14 reversible silk bombers, Raf Simons AW17 disturbed knit cardigans, and Balenciaga FW17 square-toe harness boots.
The Haider heads will know what this beauty is. Wow. ##haiderackermann ##archive ##archivefashion ##fyp ##grailed ##grails ##haul ##mensfashion♬ t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l - WILLOW
“Instagram was failing me as a platform, and honestly, I just wanted to have fun posting content without feeling the pressure of being conventionally ‘cool,’” says Kwong, who runs his own fashion brand.
For many, posting about archive fashion is deeply personal, as content creators tell stories about what they wear and why. Ari Avi, 27, a retail buyer from New York, posts videos of some of her most treasured pieces, from brands like Simone Rocha, Comme des Garcons, and Undercover. In one of her videos, she wonders aloud if what she does counts as “archiving” or simply “being a shopaholic.”
“Like many others during the pandemic, I was completely consumed by TikTok,” she explains. “I was mostly watching funny videos with nostalgic references and cooking, and I barely saw fashion videos. If I did, it wasn't quite my same wavelength.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Avi remembered looking up hashtags for Undercover and Sacai on TikTok, but only finding sneakers rather than runway-focused content. Later, a video about Japanese designer label Hysteric Glamour showed up on her For You Page (TikTok’s version of the Explore or Discover page), and it inspired her to post a Comme des Garçons one.
Part of the appeal of archive fashion on TikTok is that it’s educational. There aren’t very many platforms where you can hear people who buy unique fashion pieces talking about them casually and in such an open way — many of these people say how much they paid or how they found these pieces, embodying a transparency that was until recently unheard-of in the world of collecting.
“Initially, I just wanted to share my collection because I'm really passionate about it... but as I posted more videos, more people started asking me questions and I thought, I can use my platform to help others develop their own collections,” she explains. Avi often talks about where and when she bought things, and tries to encourage others to search on the secondhand market for pieces they love — often without having to pay the original retail prices.
“It took me around eight years to curate my collection, which may be surprising to some, but it really takes time to find the right pieces,” she says. “My mom always told me patience is a virtue, but I never thought it would apply to finding vintage Prada.”
Londoner Millie Adams, 23, who runs Studded Petals Vintage, posts items she sells, from knee-high Dior boots to Versace Fall 1994 leather jackets, as well as finds she intends to keep for her personal archive. Her most viral video (780k views) is of her unveiling a 1980s Christian Dior wedding dress (which she bought when she was “very, very single”). The rarest piece in her collection is a museum-quality 1988 Vivienne Westwood gold corset.
The rarest piece we’ve ever had...Vivienne Westwood 1988 corset ##archivefashion ##viviennewestwoodcorset ##viviennewestwood ##unboxing ##fyp♬ Peaches - Justin Bieber
“I’ve always had a love of high fashion and especially appreciate pieces from the ‘90s, so getting into the vintage resale business was a natural progression and a great way to fulfill my love of these items without hoarding just for myself,” Adams reasons. “I love to share my rare finds with everyone and I love knowing they’re going to other fans of archive fashion.”
For some, archive fashion is a way to interact with other fans around the world who they wouldn’t necessarily encounter in real life. Avi even connected with a childhood friend she once went on a cruise with and a neighbor who turned into a great friend on the platform.
“In the beginning, I didn't see very many TikTok creators [focused on archive fashion], but after I started posting, the For You Page showed me so many different people worldwide with amazing collections and style,” she says. “Before, I wasn't really trying to show off my collection on Instagram, I was just wearing my clothes. On TikTok, however, I wanted to fill a gap in content I hadn't really seen, and wanted to show a different facet of fashion.”
At the end of the day, the fact that an item is rare or designer is beside the point. “The outfits are often outrageous, memorable, and larger-than-life,” says Annoni. “Connecting an outfit to a specific song or point in your life and being able to own and hold it is a feeling I cannot describe.”