Is “Heritage” the New “Vintage”?

Fashion’s favorite new word seems to be “heritage,” as in “Heritage Collection.”  So what is a heritage collection?  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, and studying the various collections has just left me with some serious head scratching.

To look at the above definition, you might think that a heritage collection is one based on what the company has produced in the past and has passed down to the present day, and in some companies this seems to be the case.  This involves going into the company archives and pulling out the successes of the past.

Some companies did not have to go very far.  Companies like LL Bean have always made “heritage” clothing like their Rubber Moccasin and the Boat and Tote Bag.  Sperry has been making the Top-sider since 1935, and Pendleton has been making the 49er since, well, 1949.  These companies are heritage companies; their clothing has lasted for generations.

Other, newer companies, are also sneaking heritage into their clothing lines and descriptions.  Some, like J.Crew, are starting to carry products from other companies like Levis and Red Wing boots while at the same time, sticking the h word in front of products like chinos.  Others are creating a heritage line, even though it has little to do with any company history.  For instance, Forever 21 has a new line called Heritage 1981.  Seriously, I think that is just funny. (As a side note, the clothes do not look like anything from 1981; they look like all the other stuff in Forever 21.)

Maybe the most puzzling use of the word is that by Banana Republic.  Considering that in their formative years of the 1980s they were heavily influenced by fashions of the past, their heritage collection clothes are the type can be found anywhere, in any department store in America.  If they wanted to do a “heritage collection,” why did they not look to their own unique heritage?  I say bring back the 1930s safari look!

So maybe now vintage sellers can have their word back.  That would be nice, and maybe the next generation of consumers might actually know what vintage really means.  Of course, they will think that heritage is an adjective that describes the clothes mom and dad like!

Some real heritage items, made in the USA by LL Bean, the famous Boat and Tote:

Yes, I do have three, as all the sizes are so super useful.

And from the 1977 catalog:


Posted by KeLLy Ann:

hahaha, I totally understand the Forever21 Heritage..I can’t stand those clothes!
I buy clothes from those kind of places when I just need something quick and casual and don’t really want to spend that much money. But for real important things, I look for the nicer stuff.
Levi’s is a great example of how Heritage turned into Horrage…What I call the “original levi’s” pre~mid 80s, were well made, long lasting, reasonably priced and just the coolest jeans there were. Then they became “fashionable” and went to crap. Cheaply made, over priced, designer.
Your bags are great. I too have several different bags for all different things.

Thursday, October 14th 2010 @ 7:04 PM

Posted by tom tuttle from tacoma:

great post. i too would think a ‘heritage’ collection should be culled from their ow, in line with their brand. i never owned anything F21 either, until recently i got a preloved top from a flea but it’s not flattering on me. but i got many queries for it than i did for my other vintage clothes. it’s really harder to wear vintage, i guess.

Thursday, October 14th 2010 @ 9:58 PM

Posted by tom tuttle from tacoma:

i meant “culled from their own”.the bags are adorable and they still look so pristine!

Thursday, October 14th 2010 @ 10:00 PM

Posted by Sarah:

Hey ho and away we go with another marketing buzzword that gets rendered progressively meaningless with misuse! Its happened with ‘vintage’ – and aren’t we all tired of contemporary fashion companies labelling their goods as ‘vintage’ without the essential qualifier ‘style’?There are heritage brands – the ones with a long history of making quality products with integrity – and I think its great when they revive items from their archives.

But those other companies, with a history stretching back to, ooh, the 1980s perhaps? Oh dear, that’s really tiresome, not to mention borderline dishonest.

I shouldn’t let it irritate me, but it really does – you’ve hit a nerve here!

Friday, October 15th 2010 @ 1:35 AM

Posted by Karen/SmallEarthVintage:

Hah! Great post. I suspect that in J. Crew’s case “heritage” simply means “ridiculously expensive”! No doubt J. Crew saw (like Nike did when they started reproducing their highly collectible Air Jordan basketball shoes in “Retro” editions) that there was a lot of money to be made off the market for popular vintage goods like Red Wing workboots and Izod Harrington jackets. Cha-ching!That is TOO funny about Forever 21. They’re creepy. Not a hard choice for me to choose not to shop there (not that it’s aimed at my demo, anyway).

Friday, October 15th 2010 @ 6:42 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’m glad that I’m not alone in letting this irritate me!I’ve been trying to remember where I first heard the phrase, “heritage collection,” and I’m thinking it was about three years ago when Ghesquière went into the Balenciaga archive and did a line based on what he found there. So from Balenciaga to Forever 21 in less than 3 years!!

Monday, October 18th 2010 @ 8:57 AM


Filed under Collecting, Made in the USA, Shopping, Viewpoint

2 responses to “Is “Heritage” the New “Vintage”?

  1. Pingback: Sperry Top-Sider Boat Shoes « thevintagetraveler

  2. Pingback: Heritage Collection: Why Iconic Brands Are Looking Backward | The Stylitics Report

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