top of page
  • Isaac L. Davis

FUTURE ARCHIVE: Decoding the Present to Predict the Future of Archive Fashion

Often in the archive fashion community, looking towards the past happens much more than gazing towards the future, with the ideas and pieces of clothing examined, sold, and worn being from previous collections. However, as time progresses and the clothing of the now becomes the clothing of the then, what will be considered archive? Which niche designer will end up being the next Raf Simons? Which items will inflate in value? And which designs will become highly coveted and collected? These questions are somewhat unanswerable, as is the question of whether archive clothing culture will even continue, but some generalized predictions can be made about the subject. In my opinion, archive clothing culture will likely continue into the future as vintage has been quite popular since the 1990’s (thanks Mr. Cobain), and the archive clothing market has seemed to explode in the last decade. In this vein, the idea of future archive and items that may very well become archive or vintage-worthy in the future is one that deserves to be examined.

The idea that certain pieces from current seasons can become archive in the future is completely reasonable given the fact that it is already happening. Take for example Dries Van Noten’s AW2014 Jackets, or even more recently Raf Simons’ AW2016 Knits. As the years progress the question of what will become archive will become all the more significant to collectors and those who wish to seek a profit. In trying to pin down what will be archive in the future, looking back as to what is archival both now and in the past will likely provide a template for what archive will be in the future. Of course, what is collected going forward will likely vary widely, from Hedi Slimane era Celine to the meticulously crafted Visvim and even smaller labels such as Alexander Digenova, and all are liable to be considered archive in the future given what has been considered archive in the past and present.

Raf Simons AW2016 Runway Collection, featuring Oversize Knitwear
Dries Van Noten: AW2014 Runway Looks, featuring Bomber Jackets

Raf Simons AW2016 Runway Looks (top) and Dries Van Noten AW2014 Runway Looks (bottom), via Vogue.

From brands such as Hysteric Glamour to the highly coveted Raf Simons, all garments considered to be archive have some qualities in common. First, archive pieces are by definition from seasons that are not current, e.g. for simplicity's sake, two or more years ago. Secondly, with archive clothing there is often a barrier to entry such as a monetary-based (see Raf Simons AW2001 Sweatshirts), knowledge-based (e.g. having to know about Yahoo Auctions Japan or other Japanese sites), and scarcity of the product(s) (Certain Slimane pieces come to mind). In some cases such as Carol Christan Poell pieces, multiple barriers such as monetary and knowledge-based ones come into play. However, simply being exclusive doesn't make a garment archival. The second main factor that seems to contribute to whether or not an item becomes archive is the piece's stylistic longevity, that is to say how wearable will the item be in 5, 10, or even 25 years. In this way the item is not only exclusive, but also fairly easy to wear and show off, whether in person or via social media. These barriers of entry, combined with the timelessness of style, seem to form a common through-line in what is currently considered archive, and barring a major change in archive culture will likely continue to do so.

Grailed 100 featuring Archive Fashion Items, 2016, via GQ.

In defining future archive, it is useful to have pieces that serve as examples and archetypes of what is currently considered archive. Having produced clothing for over a quarter of a century, Undercover has made pieces that are undeniably archive, while also having items that haven't reached archive status. With seasons such as SS2003 ‘SCAB’ and AW2005 ‘But Beautiful’, among other seasons that have produced some of the most sought after archive pieces currently for sale, certain pieces from these collections exemplify what an archive garment is. However, on the other side many Undercover pieces are not considered archival, with some of the cheaper, more avant-garde, or harder to style pieces not being nearly as desired within the archive fashion community. In terms of items that are widely regarded as archival from Undercover, the two prominent examples would be the But Beautiful 68 Yarn Denim and SCAB’s patchwork crust punk inspired pants. The barrier of entry for both of these items is quite high, with both being fairly expensive and the items themselves being scarce in terms of the sheer amount available for sale. This, combined with the ease of styling of the jeans and pants, makes them archive under the definition established in the previous paragraph.

Undercover SS2003 'SCAB' and AW2004 'But Beautiful' Archive Fashion Items, via Silver League.

With the definition of future archive and an example of what is currently archive now established, it is much easier to present an example of what future archive can be. In this definition of future archive, garments have to both have a barrier of entry and be stylish both now and in an abstract future. A relatively clear example of garments that fit this definition well would be Kanghyuk’s signature airbag pieces. Officially founded in 2017, Kanghyuk began making clothing out of airbags as part of Kanghyuk’s Central Saint Martins graduation project, with fellow student Sanglak Shon joining at the time of the brand's official founding. Although Kanghyuk puts out both airbag pieces and clothing made of more passe materials, it is much more likely that the airbag pieces will become archival in the future, as they clearly fit the definition of future archive.

From the time consuming, skill intensive manufacturing process to the high prices, the garments constructed out of airbags certainly are limited in terms of attainability. This provides a barrier of entry, fulfilling the first requirement of future archive. When these factors are combined with the relatively timeless styles on offer such as the blazer version, or even the perfecto style biker jacket, it is easy to imagine these pieces being worn well into the future, checking the box of stylistic longevity. For these reasons, one can easily imagine Kanghyuk being collected, both by archivists and dedicated fans well past their initial release date. In contrast with the much easier to produce shirts and pants that Kanghyuk have put out in larger quantities, it is clear that the airbag pieces will likely become much more desired as time goes on. While impossible to predict with exact certainty what collectors in the future will be hawking, it isn't hard to see that brands such as Enfants Riches Deprimes, Visvim, Readymade, and others with the same air of exclusivity and style will be desired well into the future.

Kanghyuk Editorial by SHOWstudio, 2016.

No one knows how long the trend of archival clothing will continue, or even remain as popular as it is now. From the best Wall Street analysts to a person peering into a magic 8 ball, no one can truly predict the future. Unexpected events, trends, and disasters will happen, often with repercussions not fully understood until well into the future, and sometimes not until lifetimes later. Even with this in mind though, it's not hard to imagine that certain garments from certain brands will remain relevant and collected far into the future, whether they are called archive, vintage, or some other term. As Patti Smith said, “I don’t fuck much with the past, but I fuck plenty with the future,” and in general this is a pretty good outlook on life. Going forward, the archive community will almost certainly continue to fuck with the past, and the art held within, but it would behoove us to look towards the future as well.

FUTURE ARCHIVE is an ARCHIVE.pdf Series that will delve into brands and designers that could one day be considered as Archive Fashion. Stay up-to-date and sign up for our newsletter for new FUTURE ARCHIVE articles and more.


Did you enjoy this article?

Consider donating to support us for future articles, content, and more.


bottom of page