Tomorrow, Stranger Things will debut its long-awaited second season, but it’s not just sci-fi fans who are excited. Since its Netflix arrival last year, the show has become cult viewing for the fashion industry who have been quick to jump on its popularity.
The evidence spans both the catwalks and the high street. At Louis Vuitton this season, Nicolas Ghesquiere showcased a Stranger Things merchandise-style T-shirt worn over a pretty pleated pink shirt. In fact, Ghesquiere was among the first luxury designers to truly get on board with the show, last September sharing Instagram pictures of himself with the cast inside Vuitton’s HQ in Paris. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven in the show, is now a regular on catwalk front rows and has recently been cast as Calvin Klein’s new campaign star. She’s 13.
Last week, Topshop announced that it would pay tribute to Stranger Things by creating immersive in-store installations, complete with a science lab, an arcade, the supernatural Upside Down and a wooded den inspired by lead character Will Byers. The high street giant has also launched a dedicated fashion collection, including merch T-shirts, baseball caps, retro lunchboxes and backpacks.
So what is it that’s made Stranger Things fashion catnip? The show taps into the industry’s current trend for merchandise initially sparked by Vetements in 2015. The past two years have seen editors and influencers abandon their cashmere for oversized hoodies and T-shirts featuring the faces of Justin Bieber and Kanye West – worn to show an, albeit sometimes ironic, allegiance to certain pop culture references. It shows you’re part of the conversation. If you wear a Stranger Things T-shirt it’s a visual indicator that you’ve watched it, that you get all the 80s TV references.
The show also offers an interesting lesson in translating catwalk looks into pop culture. There’s Eleven with her buzzcut, babydoll pink dress and denim jacket (very Molly Goddard meets Saint Laurent – in fact, Rihanna would wear Eleven’s look in full) and the boys in their logo T-shirts and retro, homespun knits which don’t look dissimilar to the outfits worn by current fashion influencers. Interestingly though, the most stylish character was taken from us too soon – reliable best friend Barb, who looked fresh out of a Gucci campaign. She wasn’t as cool, rail-thin or doe-eyed as Nancy, but that’s why we all loved her – Barb is a misfit. Most teenagers can relate to her awkwardness and her idiosyncratic style was pitch perfect geek chic – a pie-crust blouse, stone-washed high-waisted jeans, glasses and a puffa jacket.
Perhaps most importantly, Stranger Things plays into our love of nostalgia (and fashion loves nostalgia more than most) – the show riffs on Twin Peaks, ET, The Goonies, Pretty in Pink and Stand By Me. Even if you didn’t live through the 80s first hand, most millennials have experienced it – whether through music, fashion or film – because it’s a constant reference for designers, directors and musicians. Nostalgia about a certain period evokes certain feelings and memories and for many contemporary designers, the 80s was about youthfulness and optimism, a time when playing Space Invaders was the most important battle of the day. Remembering childhood and adolescence is comforting because we manage to romanticise our experiences. That, coupled with the supernatural element of the show, offers an escapist alternative to today’s somewhat murky reality.
Stranger Things has a broader cultural relevance that the fashion world has been inspired by. Let the second season binge-watching commence.
From: Harper’s Bazaar UK