This weekend, I visited the Grailed LA pop-up, the first physical presence of the infamous website for buying and selling clothes. Grailed allows users to sell a wide selection of clothes from hype, high end to vintage. However, it is most well known for its bias towards archival clothing.Though I wasn’t fully immersed in the world of archival fashion, Grailed LA was the perfect opportunity for me to check out the growing culture. The store opened at 12 PM, I arrived at the store at about 11 on its first day of opening. Soon after, I got in and started looking through the clothes.
I was mainly looking for pants (like usual) and browsed the store’s extensive selections. Pieces that stood out were a pair of Comme Des Garcons pleated trousers, an Issey Miyake sport varsity jacket, old Raf Simons sweatshirts, and many other fascinating items.
Archival clothing is one of the many niches and cultures in the fashion world, comparable to ‘hypebeast’ culture, but more underground and with more enthusiasts. So what exactly is Archival Fashion? Archival fashion, like the term suggests, deals with fashion within the ‘archives,’ which refers to clothing which dates back. However, archival isn’t simply vintage. While vintage clothing is widely accessible and encompasses a wide range of clothes, archival fashion refers to a small branch of vintage which deals with certain designers pieces of the past, with value. For example, a Helmut Lang painter jean from the year 1999 would be an archival piece, while a normal, used painter jean would be vintage. Helmut Lang is just one of the many designers under the branch of sought-after designers in the archival community.
Archival fashion encompasses a wide range of brands and designers such as Jean-Paul Gautier, Takahiro Miyashita’s Number (n)ine, Jun Takahashi’s Undercover, Comme des Garcons, and many more. Lately, archival fashion has significantly been increasing in popularity among menswear. It has even taken off in the womenswear world, with the advent of “Heroine,” a Grailed equivalent which deals with female pieces.
So what makes Archival fashion so captivating? One of the factors is of historical significance. Like anything else, fashion has a history. When you deal with archival fashion, every piece has its significance: a story. Wearing an archival piece is like wearing a historical artifact, and there is a certain excitement in being part of this unique history.
Additionally, the act of collecting archival pieces contributes to its growing craze. Many archival pieces are tough to come by, because of how old and rare they are. Some of the pieces date back to the 90s, 80s, and even the 70s, and the sheer difficulty to come across certain pieces almost makes collecting like a treasure hunt. When you finally come across a piece you’ve been looking for, the joy is indescribable. This is where Grailed comes into play.
Grailed is a New York-based online marketplace which allows enthusiasts to buy and sell archival pieces. However, not only do they offer a plethora of archival clothing, but the site also serves as a blog, providing content such as showing the best-dressed people in the streets of NYC, highlighting the outfits on Instagram, and featuring history and insight on certain brands. Their Instagram is also full of humor, where they occasionally share sarcastic memes on fashion. The website plays a significant role in archival fashion culture.
Towards the end of my visit, I was able to meet a few of the store owners, who came together to organize the event and sell their inventory. I recognized Fernando Rangel, the owner of an archival store called “Silver League,” and Jacob Wallace, who is also a YouTuber that I am a fan of. I complimented Jacob on his humorous videos, and he even complimented me on the pants I was wearing. I left the store with joy and planned on coming again. Overall, Grailed LA was an enjoyable experience.