Grunge is gearing up for a comeback. The musical genre that made flannel shirts, grandpa cardigans, dirty and destroyed denim, baby doll dresses and skate-inspired footwear the uniform of ’90s teenage angst is back in the zeitgeist.
Sparked by the Indie Sleaze aesthetic that launched basic tank tops and miniskirts onto the must-have lists of Gen Z shoppers, Aoife Byrne, Edited senior fashion and retail analyst, said designers are “turning back the clock” to the ’90s and powering a grunge rival.
Edited found a 28 percent year-over-year increase in apparel using the descriptor “grunge” in a sign of mounting interest.
Designers across all pricing tiers are finding their groove in grunge.
Shein dropped an extensive grunge collection in November. Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta revived the flannel shirt by dressing Kate Moss in a leather version for its Spring/summer 2023 runway show. Blumarine and Givenchy are betting on worn-in, yellow-tinted denim. R13’s recent collections have been dense with oversized, imperfect knits and destroyed denim.
Meanwhile, brands like Levi’s are showing signs of nostalgia for this era. The brand relaunched Levi’s SilverTab, the mid-’80s label that rose in popularity in the ’90s with loose, baggy fits.
Edited said retailers can get in on the action by positioning grunge wash jeans as a must-have denim update and leather outerwear as a “timeless, transeasonal buy.”
The trend is filtering into resale as well. Peer-to-peer resale platform Depop named “Grunge Sleaze,” a grunge-meets-bikercore aesthetic like the one Diesel has touted as of late, a trend to watch in 2023. Searches for the term on Depop increased 176 percent, while interest in oversized denim and baggy silhouettes is also climbing.
Grunge’s return to fashion, in large part, is the result of a confluence of pop culture milestones.
“In Utero,” the final studio album of the godfathers of grunge, Nirvana, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September, Edited noted. The musical milestone will likely shine a spotlight on Nirvana’s influence on Gen X while introducing its music and the significance of lead vocalist Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide to Gen Z.
Pop punk bands from the ’90s and early 2000s are getting a boost from a nostalgia-fueled revival as well. My Chemical Romance, Paramore and Blink-182 all kick off world tours this year, Edited said. The latter’s tour will likely be amplified on social media and reality TV if drummer Travis Barker’s other half, Kourtney Kardashian, hits the road with the band.
Online fast-fashion retailer Boohoo is already capitalizing on the trend, Edited noted, having paired up with the Kardashian-Barkers on several clothing collaborations and Blink-182 merch.
“These events serve as strong trend accelerators to springboard your collection off,” Byrne stated, adding that brands and retailers should be sure their “concert night and festival edits” are ready to go live in line with these tour dates.