The '90s Cult Brands We Almost Forgot About (& Why They Ruled)

Photo: Courtesy of Todd Oldham.
The nostalgia junkie in me has been enjoying the '90s resurgence that's taken the fashion world by storm these last few seasons. Though I can’t help but think we have more to thank for the omnipresent '90s swagger — and the throngs of young women dressed in the era’s uniform of crop tops, combat boots, and mom jeans — than the obvious brands and designers that have become synonymous with the era.

To be fair, I’ll never stop lusting after the minimalist-yet-slightly-offbeat designs Calvin Klein and DKNY adhered to back then, and I’d probably die from happiness if I came across just about anything from Marc Jacobs’ collection for Perry Ellis in 1992. But, there are a few other names — some great, and some (by today’s standards) probably not so great — that still  deserve a nod of recognition.

Some of the styles ahead transition seamlessly into components of a modern-day wardrobe, while others are better left in the great void we call Tumblr. Still, each of them garnered a dedicated and cultish following in their heyday, and their unique perspectives continue to influence fashion today. Let's take a look back and remember the beloved '90s, which, more than any other period in fashion history, truly struck the perfect balance between the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fiorucci.
You might remember Fiorucci’s iconic logo featuring two adorable little cherubs, but this Italian brand has actually been around since the late '60s, and its star-studded clientele — Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, and Cher, just to name a few — were loyal customers throughout the '70s and '80s.

The company experienced a brief slump in the late '80s, but was revived again in the good-ol' '90s with a risqué advertising campaign. Today, getting your hands on any of the racy staples (think lots of leather, animal print, and hip-hugging denim) pumped out by this cult brand two decades ago is...a challenge.
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Photo: Courtesy of Skechers.
It’s easy to dismiss this brand's influence if you only consider its status quo, but the Skechers we know today is of an entirely different class than the Skechers of the '90s. Some of its chunky platform sneakers from that period are downright ugly, it's true. But, I’m a little more forgiving of its missteps only because it also made really great heavy-duty leather boots.

Even so, the chunky sneakers Sketchers cashed in on back then are still more relevant now than its current take on orthopedic-inclined fitness shoes. Sure, the brand today isn’t exactly thriving, but its older models are so sought after that they auction for exorbitant amounts on eBay. So, here’s to the Skechers of yesteryear.
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Photo: Courtesy of Unisa.
Shoe brand Unisa had its start in Spain in the'70s, but in my opinion, the '90s really brought its best work. Unisa’s beachy, minimal aesthetic holds at least partial responsibility for the recent rebirth of the espadrille, and its sturdy, utilitarian boots and handbags made of soft, buttery leather are as good today as they were back then.

Although Unisa is still around (and available on Zappos!) it seems to have lost its previous cache. The older designs are still where its at, and luckily they're mainstays on Etsy, eBay, and at many vintage and thrift stores.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alloy.
Chances are you're still mourning the recent loss of Delia's, but you barely noticed when another cult catalog from the '90s, Alloy, seemed to fall off the face of the earth. Alloy was like the edgier version of Delia's, and somehow managed to incorporate every '90s trend in existence into a single catalog delivered to your door every month or so. Alloy was your one-stop shopping destination when you wanted to achieve that laid-back "am I a surfer or a hip-hop artist?" look.

Believe it or not, Alloy outlived Delia's and is still in existence today, but its current styles can't compare to the mish-mash of amazing '90s trends we swooned over way back when.
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Photo: Courtesy of Todd Oldham.
Todd Oldham
Hearing his name brings back hazy memories of '90s fashions and the good ol' mall-rat days, and though the brand is not as evocative of the decade as Calvin or Donna, which come quickly to mind, revisiting its glory days proves Todd deserves a spot on this list.

Perhaps what made Todd Oldham’s designs so appealing was the fact that he only made clothes for such a short span of time, from the late 1980s until the early aughts, before transitioning into interior design and publishing projects. His couture collections showcased geometric prints, intricate embroidery, Indian-style beading, and tons of unexpected touches (like a coconut-shell bra top).

His Todd Oldham Jeans label is a lot easier to track down online, but a search for pieces from his runway collections may just leave you hanging.
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Photo: Courtesy of Candies.
Candies belongs to the category of '90s fashion I like to call "so bad it's good." The brand's current offerings tend to veer more toward the "so bad" end of the spectrum, but it's available at Kohl’s if you'd like to see for yourself.

Back then, however, it perfected its own rendition of the awkward, clunky wooden clog, and pretty much every teenage girl hung the provocative ads (featuring Jenny McCarthy, Alyssa Milano, and that guy from Sugar Ray) on their bedroom walls.

The brand was also known for its line of platform sneakers at the time, but it's the wooden clogs and chunky leather boots that you still kind of want, and those can go for a pretty penny online.

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