The Velour Renaissance: Juicy Couture’s inclusive reworking of the Y2K aesthetic

It is around 1 am and owing to my boyfriend and I’s terrible lockdown-induced sleep schedule, we are wide awake, watching television. Our programme is buffering, as it does every night, my laptop practically huffing and puffing with the effort of trying to get things up and running. Our wifi isn’t terrible – not at all – I just have a hundred and one tabs open: dresses, mugs and homeware, nail polishes, well-reviewed mascaras and books, posters, jumpers and loungewear. They are all things I want to buy; my shopping addiction being one of the very few sources of joy during this difficult third lockdown. 

If you were to click on one such open tab, you’d be greeted by a pair of black velour jogging bottoms, the word ‘juicy’ in rhinestone lettering stretching cheekily across the bum. In the tab next to it you’d find, naturally, the matching top: a fitted, baby tee, this time with glimmering, diamante letters across the bust. 

The items are from the 2000s behemoth of athleisure Juicy Couture’s S/S 21 collection, which includes, besides the aforementioned black set, a mix of velvety zip-up jackets, runner shorts and flared joggers in a handful of garish colourways. The joggers are low-rise for those wanting to go full 2000s, thong poking out the top, and the t-shirts are tight and cropped, perfect for showing off your (also diamante) belly button piercing.

Since its collaboration with Urban Outfitters last year, Juicy Couture’s uber tacky, ultra gaudy, highly flammable wares have enjoyed something of a renaissance. Once the preserve of reality tv stars and 2000s socialites – your Parises, your Kims, your Britneys, your Lindsays – the brand has reworked its Cali-girl image in the wake of a more general renaissance of all things Y2K. In 2019, Missguided released the first of a series of collections with Playboy; bucket hats and tinted sunglasses are readily available at some of the biggest fashion retailers, and on TikTok, Gen Z has been getting nostalgic about the 2000s aesthetic for a while. The first lockdown saw many of us take cues from videos we’d seen on the platform by bleaching the front two strands of our hair, reminiscent of the streaky highlights of Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne or Christina Aguilera at the height of their fame in the mid-2000s. On the shopping app Depop, ‘Y2K’ has become a popular tag, used in descriptions of butterfly hair clips, tiny handbags, denim miniskirts and sleeveless crop tops. The 2000s aesthetic is well and truly back.

But Juicy Couture is not just peddling new collections to profit off current cultural nostalgia. With Amy Gibson at the helm (the designer behind Beyonce’s popular Ivy Park range), the brand has returned to the fashion scene with new values, representing “real women” beyond the size zero blondes with tiny dogs in tow which it had become synonymous with. Featuring WOC and models of different sizes, the latest campaign showcases this inclusive spirit. This doesn’t mean the brand is forgetting its heritage. Speaking to i-D, Gibson claimed “I never want to lose those strong values: comfort without compromise, bridging the gap between loungewear and ready-to-wear. For me, it’s just been about bringing those values up to date. Modernising the approach; design with a strong societal sensitivity”. 

For many Gen-Z-ers, the 2000s aesthetic is a comforting reminder of childhood. Just as millennials get nostalgic about the 90s, there is something joyous for Gen Z in the kitschy, tackiness of Y2K, even if they aren’t old enough to have watched The Simple Life when it was first broadcast. For a short while, I was a little disgusted, almost ashamed at myself for lusting after garments with such a trashy image. But Juicy Couture is no longer the tasteless brand it once was. As it reinvents itself for grown-up late nineties and early 2000s babies, it has become something that lovingly nods to its Y2K origins whilst reclaiming that tackiness as a bit of fun worth reimagining: still cheeky, still gaudy, it is now also inclusive and self-aware. It is the kind of loungewear brand worth investing in. 

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Imogen Carter De Jong

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September 2021
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