The '90s are back
Small sunglasses, biker shorts, and plaid co-ord sets. We’re reclaiming looks from 1990s fashion, each season surprising us with pieces we never thought would make a comeback. So we're back to the 90s, but we're out of luck since so many of the pieces are environmentally unfriendly. Luckily, though, the 90s was not too long ago. It's easy to borrow and shop second hand for vintage pieces.
In a fashion cycle where most trends seem to return to some degree every twenty to thirty years, designers tend to re-introduce trends of previous decades. Taking inspiration from older styles, pieces are brought back to our wardrobes with a twist.
For instance, Virgil Abloh, in the 2018 spring/summer Off-White show, dedicated the Off-White runway looks to Princess Diana, re-introducing the iconic biker short look on Naomi Campbell. Unlike the original look, where the shorts were worn casually, the runway saw them paired with a blazer, a more sophisticated look for a once casual piece.
Trends come back, which is great because we have the opportunity to up cycle old pieces. Dad’s blazer can begin to look more and more appealing.
Generally, this is more beneficial for the environment as we aren’t constantly in a pattern of the new. In fact, we can save our old pieces and watch as they can be styled to match current fashion. We never know what might come back next, so it encourages us to not live in a throwaway mindset.
We can't ignore what we know now about plastic
However, the horrors of '90s fashion come in the excessive use of plastic - think jelly sandals. While we didn't anticipate the return of such a statement, Gucci’s introduction of a chunky, pastel retro-style jelly heeled sandal in their 2020 pre-fall collection could be quite a horrific beginning to the return of such an environmentally unfriendly shoe.
Petrochemical-based material PVC, the material used to make jelly shoes is the ‘single most environmentally damaging type of plastic’. We may need to rethink how far we want to delve into these trends. As environmental harm caused by plastic becomes a bigger issue, it’s worth considering how much of the '90s we should bring back to our wardrobes. With a material so dramatically damaging as PVC, there’s more to consider regardless of ‘90s they look.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the jelly sandals that illustrate the horror of plastic use in '90s fashion. The comeback of PVC shoulder bags has the same detrimental impact as the sandals. Even plastic claw clips, which have made a huge comeback in the past year, are popping up in fast fashion. The "Rachel Greene from Friends" look with a claw-clip is increasingly trendy. Though they are not made from plastic as damaging as PVC, these plastic hair accessories are not strong. They are easily broken, and this can lead to us having to buy multiple items. They're causing too much environmental harm. We don’t have much time to change the rapid rate in which plastic consumption is increasing.
In 1974, global plastic consumption per year was 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) per capita. Today, this has increased to 43 kilograms (about 95 pounds) — and this number is still set to increase. If plastic consumption increases at its current rate, according to National Geographic, by 2050 there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills.
But I really want the '90s style
We can still buy into the trends, though. Shopping second hand is one of the most sustainable ways we can shop generally, but it’s great for older trends. There’s so many unique and genuine '90s and early '00s pieces on platforms like Vinted and Ebay. Charity and vintage shops are also full of trendy finds. This is a perfect way to get involved with the authenticity of '90s, without adding any further damage. It’s also a big money saver.
Since '90s fashion is making a return, and many more eras likely to follow, how sustainable are we being? Buying newly produced '90s style pieces consistently and exclusively will have the same plastic damage as entirely new trends would. Instead, we should look to our existing wardrobes first. How we can utilise our own pieces to adhere to the trends?
But maybe we don't still have these pieces. Maybe we didn't expect a jelly sandal to ever re-appear. In that case, there’s always those second hand outlets where we can buy them, and get our wear out of them for their comeback!
Again, warn the parents - their wardrobes could come in handy.