Who could forget the time when fashion and beauty influencer Chiara Ferragni strutted about Paris in a sheer Schiaparelli top with gold nipple covers during fashion week last October? Whether you loved or questioned her look, one thing’s for sure: The outfit, which garnered 580K likes on Instagram, was a huge hit.
A leading haute couture house in the 1930s, Schiaparelli is one of the many heritage luxury brands from decades past that are back in fashion. Courreges, known for iconic 1960s staples (think miniskirts and vinyl cropped jackets), is now embraced by the likes of pop star Ariana Grande and model-actor Lily-Rose Depp.
And what about Mugler and Paco Rabanne, two other seemingly lost-to-the-archives houses? Established in the ’60s and ’70s respectively, these French labels were recognised more for their fragrances in the last 20 years than the cutting-edge designs they were once celebrated for.
Today, Paco Rabanne is much more than a blip on our fashion radar. Its signature chain mail outfits – considered so revolutionary during the 1960s that founder Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo was dubbed an enfant terrible then – are back with a vengeance. The brand has also gained a Gen Z following for its ’90s-inspired slip dresses, a favourite of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian.
As for Mugler, the fashion house has turned its focus back to what it does best: provocative, avant-garde stage costumes that are nothing short of visionary.
In fact, some of the world’s biggest pop stars have donned pieces by its current creative director Casey Cadwallader during their recent world tours. Dua Lipa was seen in a custom sheer rhinestone bodysuit with opaque panels during her Future Nostalgia tour last February. Beyonce, who commissioned Casey to design her wardrobe for her On the Run II tour in 2018, continues to show her love for the brand by wearing a custom bodycon dress for the release of her 2022 Renaissance album.
So why are these 20th-century fashion heavyweights enjoying a sudden rebirth? This can perhaps be attributed to Gen Z’s obsession with vintage shopping and Tiktok. Indeed, the hashtag #courrages boasts over 39 million views on the social media platform, while Schiaparelli has amassed over 44 million views. Below, we examine how bright new talents in fashion have given these once “forgotten” brands a much-needed facelift through on-point designs and savvy marketing.
1930s fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli was ahead of her time – while brand and artist collaborations are integral to today’s marketing playbook, she was already forging collaborative friendships between photographer Man Ray, French poet and artist Jean Cocteau, and surrealist painter Salvador Dali back then.
At the height of her career, she had dressed Hollywood icons and royalty, from Greta Garbo to the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Her visionary pieces celebrated surrealism and a subversion of the conventional, and were known for her iconic use of trompe-l’oeil (a type of optical illusion) and shocking pink.
Unfortunately, the brand didn’t survive past 1954. It was acquired and given a new lease of life in 2007 by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, who is also the chairman of Tod’s. Texan-born designer Daniel Roseberry, who cut his teeth at New York fashion label Thom Browne, was named the new artistic director in 2019.
According to the 37-yearold, what sets Schiaparelli apart from the quiet elegance of her other couture peers like Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior was her larger-than-life personality, which he says, is her “greatest legacy”.
Daniel’s mission? To make Schiaparelli’s wonderful visual language more accessible to a wider audience. Under his vision, Schiaparelli now prides itself on relatability. The iconic surrealist signifiers from its couture collections have now been integrated into provocative accessories at a starting price point of $488, so you and I can also aspire to be a Schiaparelli collector.
When Julien Dossena took over the reins at Paco Rabanne in 2013, his mission was to try to reimagine the house’s archival pieces for a modern-day wardrobe.
Julien stuck to its futuristic aesthetic, but expanded his vision beyond the brand’s kitschy metallic looks to lower-priced clothing comprising T-shirts, wrap miniskirts, and crepe maxi dresses.
The former senior designer of Balenciaga, who trained under its creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere for four years, Julien experimented with a more “cost-effective” version by rendering the house’s signature futuristic look by way of paillettes, sequins and chain mail accents such as chain-embellished shoulder straps, trimmings on shorts, and metal accessories.
According to Net-a-porter’s senior market director Libby Page, the brand’s jewellery collection has been performing particularly well. Bestsellers include the goldtone link leather necklace and bracelet. “We have identified that accessories are the real statement makers, which is clearly resonating with the Paco Rabanne customers,” she says.
Mugler was once hailed as a brand that defined power dressing during the 1980s. But when the late Thierry Mugler – who passed away in 2022 – retired from fashion in 2002, the house remained muted. The Clarins Group, which owned the brand then, chose to shut its ready-to-wear line, retaining only its fragrances. Mugler attempted a brief resurgence in fashion in 2010, but struggled to re-establish itself. It was only when Casey Cadwallader joined as creative director in 2018 that it truly started to regain a coveted following.
The architecture-trained 43-year old brings a 21st-century update to the late fashion legend’s most iconic silhouettes, such as the inverted triangle, which championed an exuberant combination of sexuality, body positivity and diversity. While Casey stayed true to the house’s signature style, made up of exaggerated shoulders, cinched waists and body-forming fits, he made it actually wearable.
The new and refreshed Mugler emphasised clothing that you could actually wear and look fabulous in every day: cycling shorts made of a material that resembles Lycra (but is actually French satin) with reflector details, sculptural jackets with oversized sleeves, and jeans with the brand’s iconic spiral leather patches.
Once helmed by French fashion designer Andre Courreges, the brand is now led by artistic director Nicolas Di Felice, who worked under the tutelage of Nicholas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton.
Courreges has been gaining much traction among Gen Zs, who love the brand’s signature miniskirts and shrunken jackets. For the uninitiated, Courreges is known for its hugely popular Mod designs, such as stark white shift dresses, trouser suits and go-go boots.
The house may be synonymous with the space-age aesthetic, but Nicolas’ approach is very much down to earth. He once said in a Vogue British interview that “one of my first objectives is to talk to younger people. It doesn’t make sense to sell clothes that are too expensive for them… I’m producing new clothes, but I’m going to try to design clothes that won’t go out of fashion”.
In some ways, the Belgian designer is referencing a significant pillar of the house, which once targeted the “athletic, active young woman” of the ’60s. Ultimately, Nicolas stands for versatility and practicality. He designs clothes for women to wear every day – who will likely mix these pieces with other designer labels, and pair them with sneakers or jeans.
The “newest” brand on the block to gain new-found popularity is also ironically the oldest one in the lineup. Patou is a French maison with immense pedigree: Its founder and fashion designer Jean Patou was Gabrielle Chanel’s fiercest competitor back in the 1920s.
It was “who-did-what-first” when it came to these two bitter rivals. They were lauded as the first designers to liberate the female form with the introduction of dresses that could be worn without corsets, as well as innovations in sportswear during the early 20th century. Jean is widely regarded as the inventor of knit swimwear and the tennis skirt.
Eventually, Chanel succeeded in establishing its dominance over the fashion sphere, while Patou, which produced ready-to-wear, haute couture, and perfume, stayed dormant since 1987, before its revival in 2020.
At newly relaunched Patou, you can snag yourself a dress made in the house’s Parisian atelier for less than $2,000. Artistic director Guillaume Henry is more interested in making women clothes that they can just “throw in the washing machine”. Practical pea coats, ruffled silk dresses, Breton knits, whimsical detachable collars, and voluminous dresses in colourful prints are all part of his repertoire.
The 110-year-old house also saw a spike in demand on Net-a-porter when its gold plaque wicker basket was featured in Netflix’s Emily In Paris. Priced at $590, it is now available on the site in a wider variation of colours.
As for Guillaume, his goal is simply to make women happy – he wants his clothes to be lived in and enjoyed.