As late 90s babies are entering their 20s, early 2000s clothing has come back in a big way. “Y2k” was one of Pinterest’s most searched terms in 2020. This popularity was reflected on Depop, where top sellers such as Isabella Vrana have made impressive careers out of flipping deadstock apparel from bygone decades. This new millennium saturation on both social media streams and online marketplaces has led to and reinforced a resurgence of bedazzled, over-the-top styles within high-end and high-street fashion. But, is there a more entrenched meaning behind all these mini-pleated skirts and knee-high leather boots than simply gen Z nostalgia?
The cause behind never-ending fashion cycles is often boiled down to nostalgia, but no one usually takes this reasoning any further. Pan Lü—Urban Studies professor at the Harvard-Yenching Institute—notes that the Greek word literally “means a longing for a faraway home that no longer exists or has never existed.” This translates into a type of generational homesickness that crops up as various demographics enter new stages of life. Lü suggests that “nostalgia becomes a collective symptom beyond the individual level. It is […] a result of a new understanding of time and space.”
Beneath the low-rise dark-wash denim and mesh tops lays the urge to return to a simpler time and space. Not just to plushy, snack-punctuated youth, but one where the internet was an untraversed, private landscape, rather than a space where you have 24/7 access to a former president’s disturbing stream of consciousness in the palm of your hand.
This renaissance is deeply embedded within internet culture of the past and present. Claire Reidy—my 15-year-old sister—for instance, noted that in her age group “y2k style is much more common online than off.” She admits that because she “was so young when these clothes were originally trendy, I don’t get that same feeling that someone a little older may get” when engaging with the garments.
By dressing in the clothing of the early 2000s, the design of the early digital sphere has been resurrected. Its glitchy, clunky ease has become a symbol of a more straightforward, less polarised time. Many popular Instagram users edit their photos of Nicole Richie-inspired outfits to recreate images that seem like they were decorated with y2k ephemera rather than taken on a £900 smartphone. Forget rose-tinted glasses; gen Zers are looking at the world (or rather, their phone screens) through rimless Chanel ombré sunnies.
While the left hand jingles in a chunky charm bracelet, reaching for a pair of patchwork pants, the right hand is now retweeting AOC and flipping through reams of Instagram Stories all ardently supportive of their side. 20 years ago, that right hand would have been perfecting a Myspace playlist on the family’s computer, or quite possibly not on the web at all.
In Jia Tolentino’s essay titled The I in the Internet, the New Yorker writer states that “the everyday madness perpetuated by the internet is the madness of [its] architecture, which positions personal identity at the centre of the universe.” Through social media profiles, algorithmically targeted ads and cyber bubbles which catalyse and hyperextend our offline perspectives, the self has become the small prism through which we view the internet and, by extension, the world.
Some designers have chosen to co-opt this madness in updated reiterations of 2000s silhouettes and textures to remind consumers just how expansive the internet truly is. Caitlin Yates, for instance, has revamped the mesh, graphic-printed y2k top with pertinent social issues through her label C8Y8S. Low-fi, grainy footage taken from Google Earth satirically comments on our ever-vigilant technology, allowing buyers to wear images of truly candid moments.
In September 2020, Marc Jacobs’ Heaven launch also capitalised on the reemergence of y2k patterns and palettes. However, the clothing label amplified its adoption of the era by including ephemeral objects in its release. The collection showcased models standing with bored expressions in maximalist teenage bedrooms: baby tees and plaid pleats hovering ‘angstily’ above a 1999-edition DVD of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides or a VHS tape of Aphex Twin’s cult-classic Windowlicker. This time capsule full of analogue gems, however, reveals the desire to return to our insular spaces full of personal interests that weren’t perpetually infiltrated and subtly manipulated by the blinking, opinionated outside world.
For decades, nostalgia has reemerged prominently in cyclical fashion trends as a source of comfort rooted in the rising generation’s youth as well as a way to separate oneself from the current zeitgeist. Why wear fast fashion apparel when one can buy unique, secondhand Cop Copine tops from Berlin on Depop? Why stream The Virgin Suicides on your laptop—which simultaneously is now your office, television set, shopping portal and social space—when you can watch it, uninterrupted, on DVD?
These physical reiterations prompt not only a replication of the material culture of one’s youth, but also its actions and routines. The popularity of these previously obsolete trends lies in its invitation to reenact these old, mundane rituals of rewinding a VHS tape or pulling the rhinestone zipper of a velour tracksuit top.
That being said, next time you reach for a bejewelled thong or add a fuzzy bucket hat to your online shopping cart, consider whether or not you could be grasping for this larger, earlier context of relative ease and uncomplicated internet interactions as well.
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I would like to think that I had a good sense of style when I was younger. I remember having this tiny white rabbit fur coat that my mum had bought me age 5 that I had decided to customise with some pink fluorescent highlighter—I thought it was just the coolest thing ever, while my mum had a minor breakdown. Looking back now, I realise that, compared to today’s new generation of fashionistas, my early styling skills were borderline tacky.
Not only did Instagram create what we now know as influencers, it also introduced us to some very young fashion influencers. Standing out from the crowd of stylish little ones is Coco, also known as @Coco_PinkPrincess, the 9-year-old Japanese fashionista, and probably one of the trendiest and coolest young girls on Instagram. From her first post in 2015 to her most recent one from the beginning of February, not only did Coco share with her followers some serious fashion style, but she also showed the world what it means to be a kid-influencer.
Coco’s following really blew up globally after she was interviewed by Vice age 6. Shortly after, aged 7, she had already done a photoshoot for ELLE, for which she styled her own accessories. That same year, she spoke to Hypebae about her love of fashion. Today, with 675K followers (and counting), it is obvious that Coco is Insta famous, and for good reasons. Looking through her feed, there aren’t any styles that she can’t master—from streetwear and classic with a twist to kawaii and head-to-toe Gucci or Balenciaga, Coco looks amazing in everything.
In order to get some fashion tips from the Pink Princess herself, Screen Shot had an exclusive interview with the 9-year-old and her mum Misato, where we spoke about Coco’s style, her dreams for the future and her in-depth knowledge of Instagram’s algorithm. Here’s how it went:
What I love about your style is how eclectic and colourful it is. You always dare to take that extra step that most people wouldn’t. What is your process behind putting together one of those outfits?
Coco: When I make an outfit I sometimes choose the clothes I want to wear first or choose a theme, also my father teaches me a lot about fashion, so sometimes we make the outfit together or sometimes just by myself.
Misato: As she grew up in Harajuku she’s been surrounded by many colourful and stylish adults, so she’s been in an open environment when it comes to styling.
Do you have fashion icons or other influences on your style?
Coco: Not really but I sometimes check fashion feeds on Instagram.
With the help of her parents who run the vintage store Funktique in Harajuku, Tokyo, Coco styles her outfits depending on what kind of mood she is in on that specific day. But how did she start her Instagram and what exactly does it take to curate an account that has that much fashion influence?
You’ve been known as a fashion icon on social media for a few years. Is it still as much fun for you today as it was in the beginning? What encouraged you to open your account and share your fashion styles with the world?
Coco: Yes, I still really enjoy taking photos for Instagram.
Misato: Coco was brought up in Harajuku since she was 2 years old where we, her parents, run a vintage shop. Shop staff, influencers and people in the entertainment industry around her were all on Instagram, so Coco naturally imitated them and started posting on Instagram.
As a fashion influencer, Coco is one of the few who don’t post as regularly as the others—she posts monthly or twice a month, but never every few days. Speaking to Misato, we asked:
Is this done on purpose or are you both just posting whenever you have time and good pictures of Coco’s outfits?
Misato: It’s true that her frequency to post has lessened and there are 2 reasons for it. After analysing Instagram’s algorithm and taking her daily life into consideration, the posting pace we chose was the most efficient for her then. She also started to have a lot of work and projects, so it became harder to make time for posts on Instagram. However, the algorithm has recently changed and her work pace became calmer, which means that she started posting like before again.
When it comes to social media, and more specifically Instagram, kids are now growing up alongside it. Do you think one day Instagram will become old news, and, if so, what new app would you like to replace it?
Coco: There are new apps coming out one after another so it might change to something else.
Misato: This is a hard question. We don’t know what will happen to Instagram and which app will replace it, but for Coco’s generation, it will still be an essential part of their lives. So it will also be important to be able to make decisions flexibly, even if the platform changes.
Speaking about the future, do you know what you’d like to achieve next?
Coco: Lately I enjoy acting, so for now, I hope to be a great actress.
That would be great! And what about fashion, do you see yourself still doing what you do on Instagram? Would you like to stay in the fashion industry?
Coco: I like fashion so I hope to still be a part of it in the future.
To finish, give us a few of your tips, what is your favourite thing about fashion at the moment?
Coco: Lately, I’m into flowers and creating styles like natural flower combinations. I like pale colour tones, like what natural flowers have.
So, for those of you who are in need of some fashion inspo, you heard it here first; try to include more flowers and pastel colours in your Instagram feed to stand out. When it comes to fashion, Coco’s style and vision both seem to be a mix between classic and new innovations—something that we, at Screen Shot, are always trying to promote in a fun and engaging way.
It is unclear what the future holds for social media, new technologies or even for the fashion industry, but what is sure is that the new generation is showing an incredible amount of savviness and creativity. In the end, it will be people like Coco, ZaZa and others who will shape our future, at least as long as fashion is concerned. And when speaking to Coco and her mum, it almost feels like a reassurance to realise that a famous 9-year-old fashionista can be as grounded and lovely as her Instagram pictures depict her.