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It’s a well-known fact that trends live on a cycle: they become popular and then eventually fall out of fashion. And the same goes for fashion brands. In fact, the most prominent fashion brands of the 2000s are now relics of the past. Today’s biggest fall trends could be the look we cringe at five years from now, and our favorite brands could become bankrupt and totally defunct. As evident by the once-beloved items stashed away in our closets awaiting their eventual resurgence, it’s clear that predicting what trends and brands become beloved by the cultural zeitgeist is a recurring challenge.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t look back from time to time. Given the resurgence of ’90s fashion trends over the past several seasons, it only makes sense to revisit the trends and brands that exemplified 2000s fashion. For better or worse, the ’00s set the stage for the fashion industry as we know it today, including the rise of paparazzi street style shots, airport style, athleisure, and so many other defining moments.
So, who better to speak to that than celebrity fashion stylist Nicole Chavez? Credited with styling ’00s pop-culture icons like Jessica Simpson and Rachel Bilson (both of whom she still works with today), Chavez was eager to take a stylish walk with us down memory lane. Ahead, we talked about her perspective on styling, trends, and the fashion brands that defined the 2000s. Buckle up, because this time machine is about to transport you back to the era of low-rise jeans.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What led you to become a celebrity stylist, and who were your first clients?
I started styling very early in the 2000s. I worked as a shopper and costumer on television shows and movies, and at the time, I was working on a show called The OC. That’s where I met Rachel Bilson, and she became my first client. She needed someone to help her with styling for the red carpet and other events, and she would ask me for advice, so it just happened organically. It was something I didn’t even really know existed as a career, but I fell in love with it. And then Rachel introduced me to Kristen Bell. We hit it off and started working together. Bell became my second client, which legitimized me becoming a stylist. I was still one foot in, one foot out. I was still working in costuming and working in TV and film. But once Kristin became a client, I left what I was doing and started my own styling business from scratch. I had never assisted anybody; I just made it up as I went; it was a fake until I made it kind of thing.
What was it like being a stylist during the 2000s? Was it any different from the industry now?
Well, back then, there were a lot fewer designers, so we saw this surge of young designers. There were many up-and-coming people that were being backed by Vogue like Zac Posen and Baby Phat. It was an exciting time, and everyone was eager to go to each other’s fashion shows, to support each other. It kind of just felt like a bunch of kids in art school. We all were there to help one another and everyone kind of grew up together at that time. It didn’t feel formal, like today, it feels formal and business and driven by marketing.
About 2000s Fashion
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How was the approach to fashion in the 2000s different than it is now?
Back then, it was much more creative; the styling felt more authentic. It was about the girls and the designers they liked. They were never forced to wear anything. People didn’t pay to dress anybody at that time; it was a time of self-discovery for all of us, and we all made mistakes. Don’t get me wrong—there was some really bad fashion at the time, but people weren’t afraid to express themselves. People now want to play it safe because they want to make sure they’re not being slammed in the tabloids for something, so there was a bit more freedom.
There was also a lot less pressure back then; pressure from publicists, pressure from designers, social media. We’d have to literally wait to see what celebrities were wearing to a premiere, or what was trending at that time. There wasn’t this instant gratification. You’d actually become excited to see what was happening then. And it’s in that space—that street style, paparazzi photographs, and coming and going shots of celebrities at clubs or the airport—that became popular.
It’s also worth noting that the actress was in one lane. Now, they’re brands, they’re businesswomen, they’ve got multiple lanes they’re working out of, and they’re promoting a lot of different things on their platforms, versus before when they were just promoting their art.
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Do you feel like how the styling industry has evolved has made creativity around styling less free?
Yes, because a lot of these companies now are very corporate, so you have to fit in that box if you’re representing that brand. It’s not just you’re representing yourself; you’re representing them, so you get strict, narrow guidelines regarding what they can wear. Sometimes it comes down to color or specific neckline they have to wear when promoting a particular brand. It’s very specific now.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in the ’90s nostalgia. Do you predict 2000s fashion will also make its comeback? Why or why not?
We’ve already seen the revival of the velour tracksuit. Skims just launched its velour collection. Suzie Kondi has been doing terry sweatsuits the past couple of years. There’s a lot. I work with Jessica Simpson, and she grew up in the ’00s in True Religion denim. And she’s still a big fan of the low-rise jean because it fits her body well. It’s great for specific body types, and I know people will freak out, but I think those are coming back.
Fashion Brands That Defined the 2000s
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What fashion brands that you feel were the most influential in the 2000s?
There were all these little budding brands, but most of them aren’t around anymore. If I were to name a few that are still recognizable today, I’d say…
It’s not my personal favorite look, but you have to admit that it is a quintessential 2000s style. After all, who could forget those bedazzled trucker hats? For better or for worse, Ed Hardy’s collections defined 2000s fashion.
Again, this fashion brand was super iconic in the 2000s. While there were many great budding streetwear brands like F.U.B.U., Sean John, and Baby Phat, this is one brand that’s still around, and it helped bring to life one of our favorite current trends: bucket hats.
Everyone back in the 2000s had to have a Kate Spade bag. It was a status symbol. In many ways, Kate’s Spade was a phenomenon. The Sam Satchel and that moment were the origins of the It bag. Of course, there was the Chloé Paddington bag, which was popular during the ’00s. But what made Kate Spade famous was that it wasn’t just for fashion insiders. The bag came from New York and was popularized by Gossip Girl, but it was worn by women everywhere.
Jenni Kayne, to me, is still that brand. Rachel Bilson and I went to her first fashion show at L.A. fashion week around 2003. And I still shop at Jenni Kayne today, you know. There’s been a significant evolution of her brand, but she’s still true to who she was when I look back.
Despite the fact that Juicy Couture folded in 2015, the brand still holds its weight in the fashion world and epitomized the 2000s. From the Velour tracksuit to the shoulder bag with charms to baby doll dresses, this fashion brand created some of the most iconic looks we remember to this day.
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When you think of celebrities that defined early 2000s fashion, who first comes to mind, and why? And are there any specific outfits or images that stick out in your mind?
I always gravitate towards the bohemian girls, so for me, it was Sienna Miller, big time. She was such a fashion icon at that time—she nailed the festival-wear vibe. Sarah Jessica Parker was another icon whose personal style I feel defined the 2000s. I like fashion that creates conversation, and SJP is someone that does that. And of course, that’s when Rachel Bilson and Jessica Simpson broke out. And then Mary Kate and Ashley’s style evolved as it went along. And Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie were icons in their own right too.
When you think about the 2000s fashion trends, is there one that comes to mind that you know is incredibly popular but most people probably didn’t realize the origins of the trend? What brand(s) did this well?
I mean there were so many, but the first that come to mind are…
Leather pants are by no means was new in Y2K, but the way in which they were styled casually was a fresh take that defined 2000s fashion. Think back to TLC or Destiny’s Child’s iconic red-carpet moments. It was all kind of happening at that point, and it was happening in leather pants.
Up until that point, no one had dressed that casual. You saw this Athleisure explosion in the 2000s. If you look at the old red carpet images, everybody was relaxed. They were wearing low-rise jeans and tube tops, or tracksuits and backward caps. The 2000s was like, “I’m not dressing up—I’m going to wear whatever I want.” It’s a precursor to the quarantine wardrobe. It was sort of like the breakdown of fashion.
2000s Fashion Trends Bound to Make a Comeback
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If 2000s fashion makes a comeback, what trends would you say we should revive, and which ones should we leave in the past?
There are so many trends that have already come back, but I’d say these are the trends we should revive, and leave in the past…
Bring it back: Low-rise (denim, hems, all the low-rise things)
I’m not into embellished jeans at all. If you think back to those embarrassing Ed Hardy jeans, it just feels dated. I’m sure there’s a chic way to embellish jeans, but I’m not into tattoo art.
However, I think instead of bringing back embellished jeans, it’s time to get into low-rise denim. I know that’s scary, but I think we’re going to see a lower rise in many things. Don’t be afraid of low-rise if you want to do the jeans super oversize. Oversize low-rise is a compromise. You don’t have to do the Apple Bottom jeans, the Britney spears version, or whatever. You can do oversize jeans that have a low rise. And remember that Mary Kate and Ashley always used to wear low-rise skirts? You can try that too. In general, low-rise is going to come back, so you can take that cut and you can incorporate it into other bottoms.
Everyone had a pashmina back in the 2000s. If you didn’t have a pashmina back then, I don’t know what you were doing. Which makes me wonder, “Where are all those pashminas now?” But despite them being everywhere, I doubt they’ll come back. Instead, I think you’ll see and have already seen shrugs and cropped cardigans come back. I feel like that will make a significant resurgence if it hasn’t already.
I hope long tunics over jeans never come back—they never look good on anyone. If anything should come back from the ’00s, it’s tube tops. You have to make sure the girls are in there, so it might not be a trend for everybody, but I prefer that over the tunics because you can always make a tube top look cool. Sarah Jessica Parker made tube tops a whole look, and we’ve seen a slight resurgence of it on newer celebrities like Bella Hadid.
Platform flip-flops… I just can’t. For me, it’s too iconic for that period. I’m sure it will come back as the platform clogs did, but I just can’t. I would say if you want to opt for a ’00s shoe, try kitten heels. Or if you’re going to make an ode to flip-flops, opt for flip-flop kitten heels that have been popular as of late.
Leave it in the past: Velour suits in bubble-gum hues
Revive It: Velour suits in nude tones
What’s modern about the velour suit now is the color choices. Back in the 2000s, it felt very bubble-gum candy vibes—hot pink, yellow, and blue. If you bring about this trend, I recommend opting for colors that are a little less junior and working on a nude palette. Picking interesting colors will help modernize that trend. Also, playing with the shape—like a Suzie Kondi harem-pant sweatsuit—and adding a different silhouette element to it will make it feel modern and current.
If you were going to describe the trends and fashion of the 2000s in one sentence, what would you say?
It was just an enjoyable time. It felt creative, exciting, and never dull.