OUT OF FASHION
The return of Jordache jeans — called "one of the brands that defined the '80s" by NPR, found in the Rollback section of Walmart as recently as last year but now making a dramatic return at the 2019 New York Fashion Week — shows the caprices of fashion. One minute, a brand is so hot stores can barely keep them in stock. The next minute it's on the floor at a thrift shop, or at best on eBay. The biggest fashion brands symbolize their decade and their era, but tastes always change; these are the brands we may never wear again, but will always miss.
UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON
In the 1980s, Benetton was a hip, fresh, and uniquely Italian fashion powerhouse that was defined as much by its socially conscious, multicultural advertising as it was by its endlessly colorful knit sweaters. In 2015, America's last standing United Colors of Benetton location — its iconic flagship New York City location — closed its doors. As part of a sad comeback attempt, three Benetton stores have since reopened in the United States.
The Esprit brand was born in 1968, emerged in the 1970s and by the 1980s was a cultural phenomenon known across the world. By 1996, the iconic triple-bar "E" was familiar in 44 countries and Esprit ranked No. 28 on a list of the 100 most recognizable brands in the United States. By 2011, however, tastes had changed and Esprit reported a 98 percent drop in profits. The next year, the brand closed all 93 of its North American stores.
ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH
Genetically gifted and partially clothed young men greeting customers in stores. Outlets that felt more like night clubs than clothing shops. An iconic catalog that could make the careers of aspiring models. This is what characterized Abercrombie and Fitch during its reign of fashion supremacy. The company built its empire on tight-fitting, high-quality preppy chic clothing, but the fickle whims of an ever-changing industry changed all that. Today, A&F today is on the auction block and its stock trades at a 17-year low after losing 56 percent of its value in 2016 alone.
Anyone alive and paying attention to fashion in the late '70s and early '80s knew that Sasson Jeans was on the cutting edge of the era's reigning fad, which was dominated by high-priced designer clothing. The tides of change were cruel to Sasson, however, and in1986, the once-dominant brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
With megastars like Will Smith, Tupac Shakur, TLC, and Mark Wahlberg donning its unmistakeable threads,Cross Colours ruled the "urban wear" boom years of 1990-93. The brand's unique style was backed by a potent cultural message. Billed as "clothing without prejudice" for an inclusive and ethnically diverse customer base, Cross Colours fell victim to changing fashion sense in the mid-'90s — and a wave of counterfeiting.
In the 1980s, then-beloved television and comedy superstar Bill Cosby was so synonymous with wacky-patterned Coogi wool knits that they were affectionately dubbed "Cosby sweaters." 10 years later in the mid-'90s, Heathcliff Huxtable's cultural polar opposite, rap superstar Christopher Wallace – a.k.a. Biggie Smalls – endorsed the brand both in his style and lyrics. Fast-forward to 2017 and Bill Cosby is a reviled criminal defendant, it's been 20 years since the Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in a cross-coast rap beef, and the loud colors of Coogi are all but a distant memory.
GLORIA VANDERBILT JEANS
A socialite and heiress from one of America's most influential, wealthy, and powerful families, Gloria Vanderbilt launched a fashion empire. Thanks to her, women across the world were wearing jeans with her name and the trademark Gloria Vanderbilt swan emblazoned across their hips in the 1970s and '80s. As the designer jeans craze subsided, however, so did sales. Today, the once-glamorous Gloria Vanderbilt brand is exclusive to Kohl's, where you can get most items for less than $40 and many for less than $30.
In 1989, fashion legend Gianni Versace gave his kid sister, Donatella Versace, a gift: the Versace brand's first spin-off company, Versus Versace. The line, which debuted in Milan, launched Donatella's career and made a major impact on how the in-crowd dressed and the accessories that they wore. The 2000s, however, saw the brand's star power fade as a series of defections and takeovers battered the Versus image.
Wacky bands. Zany faces. That little rubber band that was supposed to protect the glass from impact damage. Swatch, which was the "it" watch for a brief time in the 1980s, was launched by legendary Swiss watchmakers whose market share was being gobbled up by cheap Asian imports. Artistic collaboration with a who's-who list of the era's biggest stars made Swatch the decade's hippest watch. Today, however — although you can still buy one if you want —Swatch is a relic from a bygone era.
Bongo cashed in on the '90s denim craze in a big way, thanks, in large part, to a string of memorable — but now horribly dated — ads featuring emerging star Liv Tyler. Today, however, the luster has worn off, and the only place you'll find a pair of Bongos is in the discount section of doomed yesteryear retailers like Sears and KMart.
You can still score a pair of L.E.I. jeans at Walmart for less than $20. A bizarre link to L.E.I.'s former website reminds us that the acronym stands for "Life, Energy, Intelligence," and alludes to L.E.I.'s heydey as a must-have brand of jeans for kids across the country. In 2002, the dream died when Jones Apparel bought the L.E.I. brand for $310 million.
In the early aughts, Bebe was a fashion standout for its chic women's clothing and lowercase logo T-shirts. While you won't find a Bebe store at the mall these days (the brand started closing all its retail locations in 2017) and overall sales are still slumping, you can find the brand on its website.
In the '90s, Nine West was the place to go in the mall for dressy footwear and solid-quality weekend kicks. The company filed for Chapter 11 in 2018 with debts of over $1 billion and sold the Nine West and Bandolino brands to Authentic Brands Group. ABG owns Juicy Couture and Aéropostale, among others. You can still buy Nine West shoes and boots on their website.
While Michael Kors seemed to be on the brink of collapse, announcing it would shutter 100 and 125 retail storesover the following two years in 2017, the brand had, if not a miraculous recovery, a better-than-expected 2018. While the once hugely popular brand expects sales to remain flat in the near future (hey, flat's not totally dead), revenue was up 26.3 percent to $1.20 billion in the first quarter of 2019, including a $172.7 million contribution from Jimmy Choo. Though the brand has heavily decreased its presence in department stores, you can still find it at Macy's.