Y2K fashion has taken over. And Gen Z loves it


Associated press

NEW YORK (AP) — First came the supposed death of skinny jeans. Then, the resurgence of cargo pants, halter tops and baby t-shirts.

If there’s one thing retailers can agree on, it’s that Gen Z is in for the fashion trends of the early 2000s, which are booming in popularity.

University interns and young workers put on wide pants in the office. The claw clip, a must-have for retro hair, is back; as are mesh tops, miniskirts and a host of colorful garments that can make consumers look like they’re stepping out of a Disney Channel show from 2004.

Fueled by social media platforms including TikTok, the so-called Y2K trend has resurfaced as consumers have started attending parties and going out after pandemic shutdowns. What started with hair accessories like butterfly clips and the comeback of straight-leg jeans has expanded to all-denim garments, cargo and flare pants and all things shiny, among other looks.

Casey Lewis, a trend analyst in New York, has noted so many micro-trends – often labeled with the suffix “core” – launched over the past few years that she created a newsletter about them.

Think “Barbiecore” and “mermaidcore,” which showcase hot pink reminiscent of Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll or sheer materials with oceanic hues and glitter. There’s also “coastal grandma,” the youthful update that evolved from the “coastal grandma” trend with oversized cardigans and linen ensembles.

“Gen Z isn’t even close to being done revisiting these old trends,” said Lewis, whose “After School” newsletter documents youth consumer behavior. “They’ll dig into all the weird trends for a long time and bring them back.”

Retailers, from high-end Nordstrom to discounters and fast fashion outlets, are pushing styles into campaigns and onto shelves. And consumers seem to be eating it.

Sales of women’s cargo pants jumped 81% from January to May, the latest month of available data, according to Circana, which tracks retail purchases. Discount fashion chains H&M and Zara say they are seeing success with biker jackets, denim wear and crop tops. And Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein, which caters to young women, said its sales of baby t-shirts tripled this year, making it by far the hottest style of t-shirt in the world. 2023.

The company is also seeing a surge in sales of flared pants, corsets, metallic-colored garments and tracksuits for women, which are often made from shiny velvet fabric reminiscent of some of the Paris Hilton socialite’s wardrobe choices. at the height of its popularity.

Style watchers classify it in the McBling era, which straddles the year 2000 but emphasizes flashier items personified by brands like Juicy Couture and Baby Phat, the TV personality’s iconic streetwear line and designer Kimora Lee Simmons, which was relaunched in 2019.

As always, trends are fueled by celebrities like model Bella Hadid, whose outfit choices are scrutinized by fashion magazines and other onlookers. The style is also springing directly from consumers via social media, challenging retailers accustomed to fashion shows setting the tone.

“It’s not a year ahead that these trends are going to reverberate,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, an analyst who covers fashion apparel for Circana.

Retailers, including Macy’s and Walmart, said they are paying more attention to what appears on social sites and analyzing what topics users search for. But it can be hard to recognize the difference between trends that just grab attention and those that shoppers will actually buy, said Jake Bjorseth, who runs trndsttrs, an agency that helps businesses reach young consumers.

Alison Hilzer, Walmart’s editorial director for fashion apparel, said she also sees a lot of micro-trends. Some have more longevity than others, making it hard to know when to jump on them.

The discounter, which markets Year 2000 and Barbiecore-inspired cargo pants, has accelerated development to bring trends to market faster, though the company declined to provide more specific details. Walmart also follows key influencers like Alix Earle, who has collaborated with the likes of Selena Gomez.

Although retailers cater to younger consumers, many don’t actually buy. Instead, they carry items from each other’s closets, helping fuel a resale market that has tripled since 2020, according to research by Boston Consulting Group and Vestiare Collective, a French luxury resale site. Affordability was the main driver, but shoppers also bought used items to be kinder to the planet.

Yasmeen Bekhit, a 22-year-old graduate student in Manheim, Pennsylvania, said she frequents a local thrift store almost every week and shops on resale sites like Depop, which offers heavyweight options for the year 2000 such as baguette bags and baggy jeans.

Bekhit usually gravitates toward loose, flowy pants, flared leg jeans, and tighter shirts like mesh tops, which help her stay cool in the summer while wearing a hijab. It’s inspired by the way former Disney Channel stars like Gomez and Hilary Duff used to style their hair, she said.

Popular TikTok influencer Aliyah Bah, who amassed over 2.5 million followers showcasing her 2000-inspired look known as “Aliyahcore,” also inspires Bekhit. The look is a bit more alternative, often with miniskirts or shorts paired with crop tops, fishnet stockings and furry knee-high boots.

“I really like the way she styles outfits,” Bekhit said.

But for everyday, Bekhit said she usually searches social media for outfit ideas and puts her own spin on it.

Retro hair also makes a splash. Tahlya Loveday, master stylist at The Drawing Room New York Salon, said she’s seen a lot more 90s and 2000s trends, like spiky chignons and space buns, bouncy looks and coloring en bloc, where sections of hair are colored in contrasting colors. Gen Z customers are embracing these looks more than millennials, she said.

“For Gen Z, this is all new to them,” Circana’s Classi-Zummo said. “They’re really not reliving it. So even though we can see it as something that’s cyclical and coming back, they’re kind of getting it for the first time.”

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