Y2K Nostalgia Is Alive and Well in Accessories

Just as many of the early aughts style trends heralded by Paris Hilton and Britney Spears — think low-rise jeans and velour tracksuits — are back in vogue, so are many of the era’s accessories. For some, traditional fine jewelry has been put on the back burner in favor of pieces inspired by Ring Pops and summer camp.

“Nostalgia is always in, within reason, so now the next generation is looking back to the late 1990s, early 2000s for inspiration, especially since they are seeing it in the old TV shows they are watching,” said Beth Goldstein, executive director and industry analyst for fashion, footwear and accessories for the NPD Group.

Accessories are now supercharged with bright colors, kitschy patterns and beads galore, to stand in contrast to the pandemic’s new normal of masks and comfort clothing. “Now, consumers are looking for bolder ways to express themselves,” Ms. Goldstein said.

BonbonWhims, a jewelry line that has found fans in celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande, caught attention for its chunky, resin rings that feature flourishes like deadstock Swarovski crystals (found on the best-selling Iridescent Heart Gem Ring), flowers and gummy bears, and its Pop Drop Earrings, inspired by soda can tabs.

For founder Clare Ngai, the irony of mixing “cheaper materials” like acrylic, plastic and resin with enamel, precious metals and stones, is appealing. The combination of her upbringing in Hong Kong — a big manufacturing hub for plastics and acrylics — and her love of collecting trinkets from gumball machines at the mall influenced her brand.

“For me, this is the two worlds colliding and me reliving my childhood memories through my jewelry,” she said. Between January and March 2021, Ms. Ngai said BonbonWhims experienced “a solid 400 percent increase in sales within just two months.” That was even before its rings launched.

Funky hair clips and barrettes that could have lined the walls of Claire’s stores 20 years ago have also resurfaced. While Paige Harwell Samek coined the name Drainbowland for her nostalgic accessories brand in 2008, it wasn’t until the pandemic happened that she put all of her collections online.

The brand has swiftly built a following for its sporadic drops of vibrant daisy hair clips, which have been glittery or neon. Now, Ms. Harwell Samek is readying a collection of holographic butterfly clips that pay homage to the ones she sported in high school and is contemplating a candy-inspired line. She believes people began to discover her work during quarantine “because in such a dark time we were all looking for something colorful and nostalgic that we could kind of hold onto.”

Tiffany Ju, founder and designer of the hair accessories company Chunks, was also inspired by her own childhood. “I literally still love all the things that I liked when I was 10 years old,” she said.

Ms. Ju said Chunks, which sells playful, plastic jumbo claws and barrettes (the checkered ones are current best sellers), had its breakthrough year despite the pandemic. Though its wholesale business initially plummeted in March 2020, Chunks had its biggest e-commerce month in May 2020, generating $50,000 in revenue. She’s seen firsthand the “thirst” for fun accessories like hair clips ever since.

“It’s just been so maximalist lately,”Ms. Ju said. “I see a lot of people either just dressing to the max with color, prints and textures, or they’re just doing the super simple athleisure thing, but zhuzhing it up with accessories.”

Campy beaded necklaces have also been having a moment, with Los Angeles-based brand Ian Charms at the forefront. Spotted on Dua Lipa, Pete Davidson, Naomi Osaka and Olivia Rodrigo, Ian Charms has gained a massive following for taking the kitschy, tacky aspects of Y2K culture and refining them.

Through the brand, founder Lisa Sahakian has been able to fuse her love of pop culture with gleefully chaotic beading of steaks, stars, mushrooms and smiley faces. “The 2000s was really about standing out,” she said. “Think of the red carpet looks from then, they were just so insane.”

Today, throwing on one of her necklaces has the same effect. Accessories like Ian Charms necklaces, Ms. Sahakian said, are a way for people to stand out in the same kind of way but in 2021. “It’s a way for people to show so much personality with one accessory,” she said.

For Pina Jewels founder Courteney Krauss, the 2000s “it girls” like Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan have been the foundation of her jewelry line. “When I was young, those were the girls who set the trends, who didn’t really care and had this really fun, flamboyant attitude about it,” she said.

At the center of the brand are its brightly-hued acrylic daisy earrings that blur the line between glamour and gaudy. Ms. Krauss hopes anyone who wears them feels like they are “able to be their own ‘it girl.’”

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