- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NEW YORK — Shoulder pads, leggings, studded shoe booties and power suits. When it comes to fashion this fall, it’s an ‘80s world, and we’re just living in it.

The best-known runway names are playing an ode to the decade that was known for its excess and then, toward the end, a stock-market slump. Maybe the tastemakers are hoping the style redo will help bring on the next step in today’s rather similar situation: recovery.

But no two eras are exactly the same, not even in retro-loving fashion. Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale’s fashion director, says that to create a modern look, take the key styles from the ‘80s and put them together in a way that says 2009.

“That power suit of the ‘80s? It should be worn not with the bow blouse. No ‘Working Girl.’ Go to a T-shirt department and find T-shirts that work as layering pieces, T-shirts that are cool and appropriate.”

Ms. Solomon uses the word “evolution” a lot in describing the season.

Popular brands need to do the same thing — build on heritage while looking firmly to the future. And they need to seem cool to the younger generation.

Here are three popular ‘80s brands aiming to do just that.

Candie’s. The perfect partner to the tight designer jeans was the Candie’s high-heel slide, which helped create a supersexy silhouette. The shoe, with its single strap of leather and flesh-tone heel, felt bare and a bit naughty.

Neil Cole, CEO of Iconix Brands, the parent company of Candie’s, says the stars aligned for the company in the disco days, putting the right shoe with the right fashion trend. “They just made a woman’s body look good. It was a rage — there were 14 million pairs of the one shoe… . It was the shoe to have,” he says.

Using that capital with consumers, Candie’s expanded into a full lifestyle brand, adding sportswear, nail polish, sneakers and hairdryers, among other items.

“Sales became $150 million by the mid ‘80s. We did what Calvin (Klein) did with five-pocket jeans and Ralph (Lauren) did with the polo shirt — we could make a brand that was known with one product,” Mr. Cole says.

The turn toward ‘80s-influenced style could only be a plus for a brand with this kind of heritage. Despite the recession, Mr. Cole expects big business in footwear, dresses and handbags, and swimwear did well earlier this year.

It’s likely that sexy slide shoe will make a return appearance in 2010, as it did in 1998.

Candie’s is currently exclusively available in Kohl’s and, according to Mr. Cole, is doing twice as much business now as it did 20 years ago. Britney Spears is the current spokeswoman, following in the footsteps of Kelly Clarkson, Destiny’s Child and Jenny McCarthy. There also have been partnerships with runway designers Vivienne Tam and Anna Sui.

Pop culture has always been an important link between Candie’s and its customers, and its a tool that keeps the brand young.

Story Continues →