the juicy sweatsuit revival is the pinnacle of our ironic 2000s obsession
Tracing the trashionista staple’s journey from suburban strip malls to couture week.
Paris Hilton in New York, 2017. Photography Marc Piasecki/GC Images.
For Halloween two years ago, photographer Petra Collins wore a low-slung powder blue Juicy Couture tracksuit, flat-ironed hair, and visible G-string underwear (she was dressed as Regina George). A year later, Collins shot Kim Kardashian as a stoic Juicy angel for the cover of Wonderland. Halloween costumes, generally speaking, are neither serious nor indicative of current fashion trends. But Collins's outfit was prescient, and there was nothing ironic about Kim clad in hot pink velour. The issue was intended to celebrate the star's return to social media following her terrifying hotel heist in Paris.
"We got a glimpse of Kim looking gorgeous on Khloe's Snapchat over the Christmas period but thankfully, our fave starlet logged back into her own Instagram, Snapchat, app and website on January 4th, where she shared pictures and videos alongside Kanye and super cute siblings North and Saint," the cover story proclaimed. "The two Insta pics have already racked up over six million likes, highlighting that the love for Kim K is still very much alive."
So is our appetite for what was once deemed the territory of supermarket checkout line gossip magazines. Fashion's new respect for tracksuits with bedazzled butts is likely linked to a wider populist trend in celebrity and fashion culture: pretentiousness is going out of fashion. The line between celebrities and fashion designers, for example, is increasingly less clear. Juicy Couture's new designer Jamie Mizrahi, who bought her first velour tracksuit from a roadside retail outlet in Livingston, New Jersey, has no formal training in fashion design. But her celebrity stylist resumé may be what makes her uniquely qualified to helm the velour revival.
The plush tracksuit isn't only the mid-aughts relic to have found new resonance in 2017 (see: Ugg boots), and Mizrahi's appointment the latest evidence supporting an incontrovertible truth: #TRACKISBACK, as Atlanta de Cadenet and Cipriana Quann proclaimed in Juicy's fall/winter 16 campaign.
That same season, Juicy Couture finally made it to actual couture week courtesy of Demna Gvasalia. "I love the comfort of it and the trashiness of [Juicy]," the Vetements mastermind said, "but then we wanted to do something elegant with it, so we made evening dresses." But the tracksuit's appeal isn't solely based in nostalgia. Days before Juicy staged a brilliantly garish New York Fashion Week blowout with Lil' Kim and Paris Hilton, Black-ish star Yara Shahidi reclaimed her time in a classic velour tracksuit emblazoned with a woke 2017 mantra: "What Would Maxine Waters Do?"
Auntie Maxine doesn't, at least publicly, dabble in plush stretch athleisurewear. The velour tracksuit's current reps are in fact many of the same loyal celebrities they were in 03. "I never stopped liking [Juicy]," Paris Hilton declared just two weeks after Mizrahi's new gig was announced. "I don't know how people didn't like them, but it's really cool to see that they're coming back in such a huge way!" Paris Hilton probably voted for Trump but she still, ironically, represents a more innocent time in celebrity culture, before the momentous collision of reality TV and politics.
"[Juicy Couture] was revolutionary at the time," said Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore, who co-wrote The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand with Juicy founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor. "There were a lot of factors: the rise of celebrity culture and the rise of celebrity magazines were two of the biggest."
Our appetite for celebrity culture never really went away, but by 2013, we seemed to be tiring of it. A pregnant Kim Kardashian's 2013 Met Gala "couch" look was mercilessly mocked by the internet, and BuzzFeed took delight in tracking Paris Hilton's repeated failed attempts at a comeback. A sample BuzzFeed headline four years on: "24 Paris Hilton Tweets That Fucking Belong In A Museum." Alongside her 04 Juicy sweats, perhaps? The rise of Instagram — offering stars the same visual exposure as gossip mags with less of the grossness — has made consuming celebrity culture far more enjoyable. Mizrahi uses the platform exceptionally well.
Juicy died in the mid-aughts because popularity has never equalled coolness. Once everybody wanted to be seen in velour tracksuits, nobody wanted to be seen in velour tracksuits. Can the look have longevity when it's simultaneously courting mallrat teens and the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode? Only time will tell, but until then, we'll take a Maxine Waters set in the hottest pink available.