American brands need nostalgia to save themselves
Maybe this is part one to a deeper conversation around trends, style movements, and our rudderless era of menswear at large.
TL;DR — are American brands back, or are that hanging onto the nostalgia of something that doesn’t exist anymore?
Dipping into the past
J.Crew and Brooks Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2020.
The next year, GAP and Banana Republic announced they were closing 350+ stores.
It’s… been a long time coming. The prep sportswear era that put these brands on another playing field has come and gone. After that, the Americana / raw denim moment ensued, followed by the utter commercialization of streetwear in the 2010s (thanks, Ye, Travis, Virgil).
Beyond that, over the last decade, much has changed. In came Instagram, TikTok, online shopping, the western application of Zara and HM, and the rise of streetwear as a default way to dress.
American brands lost their way in a sea of noise and change.
Still, I find it curious.
That the notable American brands we (millennials) were all once married to are now leveraging, well, the good old days to build back consumer interest.
Brooks Brothers just announced a return of “The Vintage Shop” where they list OG Brooks pieces from their website for sale.
The intro to their vintage shop announcement had me smiling…
“There’s something special about a garment that was crafted to last; It carries nostalgia for its original heyday and excitement for rediscovery. For us, it’s a reminder of consummate craftsmanship.”
There’s something about the past. Hey, remember us? Look, we know you used to love us, and we’re really in a pinch here. We need you to care about us and buy our stuff now though. Plz.
Banana Republic did something similar last year. Under the leadership of Ana Andjelic, the then Chief Brand Officer, Banana came out of the woods and released a vintage collection of BR pieces of their own, and it felt really cool. We all loved it. Then… things sort of tapered off.
Haven’t heard from Banana since.
Just last month, J.Crew opened a Men’s Shop at 316 Bowery Street in NYC. It’s eerily akin to their late Liquor Store, a J.Crew relic from the golden days when Mickey Drexler was at the helm of the business.
The space is clearly incredible, well-thought through, and is a nice investment in the company’s rebuild under the reigns of Brendon Babenzian.
Let me be clear about something: None of this is bad, per se. At least for now.
But what’s the alternative? Is there one?
Is it all that any classic American brand can do to keep their long-forgotten consumer tapped into a world that’s washed and changed? A dip into the past as a way of trying to maintain relevenace in a world that’s moved on from them?
Let there be nostalgia. Even if we don’t want it.
Or do we?
What do you think?