Revive to Survive

Labels being brought back from the dead is something of a popular bandwagon that sparks major news flashes on all of the WWD/Vogue/FWD etc saying ‘XXX is back!’ with us bloggers following up with a SHOCK SHOCK HORROR HORROR post at the news.  I’ll summarise with a Newsround-like factsheet….

Biba – Michael Pearce bought the global license for Biba and launched shoes and handbag for AW07-8.  Then the clothes were revived for SS07 by Bella Freud who followed up with another collection of disappointing stuff before handing over the reins to a creative team of five headed up by Hector Castro and includes Fashion East designer Louise Goldin for the SS08 collection.  No rave reviews as yet… and sales are still quite shaky… 

Vionnet – Bought by Arnaud de Lummen back in 1988, Sophia Kokosalaki took on the task of reviving this 20’s Parisian house for SS07 but after the next season bid farewell despite getting praise from the press for her collections.  Marc Audibet is now the artistic advisor for Vionnet and presented a small collection for SS08 in Paris.  Supremely select stockists (just Barney’s and its own store in Paris)      

Celia Birtwell – Commercial success in reviving a designer came by way of former print designer for Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell who has been in collaboration with Topshop for three collections now and looks to continue doing so.  Major crowd pleaser…
Halston – Millionnaire Harvey Weinstein bought Halston in 2006 and is preparing the resurrection of this legendary name having appointed Marco Zanini (was head designer of womenswear at Versace) to be the creative director.  Rachel Zoe is also on the creative team.  The collection will be presented at New York Fashion Week in Feb 2008.

Schiaparelli – The rights for the label was bought by Diego Della Valle earlier this year but it is unknown as to when it will launch and who the creative director will be.  Talks with Roland Mouret fell through and now it is rumoured that Giles Deacon may be taking this on…

Ossie Clarke – The latest in the label revival game has been instigated by WGSN founder Marc Worth who will be relaunching Ossie Clarke at London Fashion Week in Feb 2008.  The creative team includes Avsh Alom Gur who has previously worked at Chloe and Roberto Cavalli and has his own label as well.

Facts over but surely the doubts must creep in.  There’s a few issues attached to revivals of labels that I have to ponder…
Can they surpass the original?  If they do surpass the original (which hasn’t happened yet…), is that a disrespect to the original designer?   
If the aim is to re-interpret the original for the 21st century, then how much of an homage do you pay to the original?  Or do you go for a completely different direction instead to avoid people accusing you of watering down the original?  Biba seems to have gone for the watered down version with sky-high prices.     
With houses and labels having a very rich history how much should the creative teams of today use the archives as points of reference?  When Kokosalaki came onboard for Vionnet, I was punching the air with my fists but was then sorely disappointed because I thought it was a wasted opportunity with an archive like Vionnet’s.   

Then other questions arise… who exactly are these revivals aimed at?  The people who originally bought the labels back in their heyday?  To introduce these labels to a whole new generation?  In the case of Vionnet and Schiaparelli, there is definite room for redefinition and revamp as the labels are that much older.  However, with the 60’s-70’s labels, will everyone fall into the trap of making comparisons with the original?

These thoughts all spring to mind when I hear of labels being revived yet at the same time, I get all excited about the prospect of seeing a Schiaparelli 2008 collection or I was dying to see Vionnet’s collection in person (alas…. no UK stockists…).  Perhaps they need to be looking at the turnaround fortunes of the likes of Balenciaga, Balmain or Lanvin as they have set that ‘revival’ precedent…
In any case, I’ll be monitoring all this revival bandwagon activity with not too high an expectation as I’d much prefer to be pleasantly surprised.   

12 Replies to “Revive to Survive”

  1. I think you make a very good point about the resurrection of Lanvin, Balenciaga & Balmain but for the most part I look at all these label resurrections with a sceptical eye, a lot like I view a remake or a sequel of a really great film. It seems like people still feel so much nostalgia for vintage items from labels long gone that someone some where feels like they should jump at the opportunity and make maoney from it when really, it was the original designers’ vision and personality that made us love that label in the first place.

  2. Love Avsh Alom Gur, but am not the hugest Ossie Clark fan which kind of makes me excited to see what happens. To me, thats what revivals should be, a new take on an old idea. Thats why I’m not so excited (despite loving both designers) by the prospect of Giles at Schiaparelli.
    Isn’t Tamara Mellon also involved in Halston?

  3. Schiaparelli? i do love that spine & rib cage dress.
    and i remember a quote regarding ms. mellon on halston where she was saying something to the effect of: u dont mess with halston. i just want someone to look at the archives and just remake it.

  4. The Biba revival is awful. It’s a bad cover version of the original. They didn’t bring any new flavor. What’s the point? I am very excited by the Schiaparelli revival though.

  5. there’s undoubtedly a kind of Jurassic Park factor…can the original DNA still be extracted from this insect-in-amber?..that makes even the concept of reviving labels like Vionnet or Schiaparelli so exciting. Your question re possibility of surpassing and potentially disrespecting originals is very interesting! I love your historical take on this in addition to the contemporary view of benefits/pitfalls of such ventures. Seems like you’re very revved up since returning from the US..great posts. Is it the grey skies?

  6. I thin Balenciaga is a very good example of a successfully revived brand. Nicolas Ghesquiere manages to keep the spirit and philosophies of Cristobal Balenciaga, respecting the brand’s history, yet come out with completely new, amazing designs.
    I’m interested to see Schiaparelli’s revival too!

  7. I would be really wary of a Schiaparelli revival because more likely than not it would end up being weird for the sake of weird. They’d be too distracted in bringing in surrealist details and things like that and it would look forced and contrived. Vionnet and Halston have a better chance of surviving and reinventing themselves though I’m really upset Sophia Kokosolaki isn’t involved anymore. She was perfect for that job!

  8. One of the best things about Biba was that it was affordable by the masses, i.e. young girls and boys who looked great in the styles. I remember the high suede boots were around 7 pounds! It was 1969 and every kid and rockstar wore Biba tshirts in those soft, muddy colors.
    Biba should rest in peace.

  9. I was excited about Biba but it was definitely a mixed excited–because how could it be the same?
    And anything Rachel Zoe’s attached to can’t be good.

  10. I’m afraid my cynical chip is overloading at the moment. They may bleat on about wanting to recreate the magic, about being so inspired by the original designer….blah blah….but I’m afraid the only motivation is money. Cold, hard cash. They want vintage prices for their tacky new repros (at least in the case of Biba, where the quality was notoriously poor – poorer than their cheaper 70s counterparts).
    There’s no innovation, and it won’t enable people to get their Ossie fix any cheaper than they do buying vintage (and at least with a vintage one you KNOW it’s really his work).

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