Fashion for the new millennium? Why, it's the Seventies, re-re- revisited. JAMES SHERWOOD despairs
No more, I can't take it. Fashion has finally taken recycling over the edge. After 10 years of shamelessly pillaging the history books, designers have chosen the reference to take us into Y2K and - guess what? It's the Seventies! Yes, kids, it's time to get down and boogie in flares, crochet beanie hats and platform boots. Sound familiar? It should do - the Seventies have had more Nineties revivals than John Travolta.

In his new autumn/ winter collection, American designer Marc Jacobs presented a homage to Ali MacGraw in Love Story: sloppy sweaters, knitted beanie hats and 6ft striped cashmere scarves, all lovingly recreated in Vogue. British style magazine i-D meanwhile chose an afro wigged-out Marsha Hunt doppelganger as its covergirl for August. Last year's Seventies style icons - Bianca Jagger and Cher - have been replaced with different, ropier ones - Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow and Barbra Streisand.

Is this the best fashion can do? Are we to understand that after a thousand years of fashion history, the ultimate style icon is Barbra Streisand? Barbra had her style-diva day way before she got a bubble perm for 1976's A Star is Born. And while I've got nothing against Ali MacGraw, her stripey knitted scarf in Love Story - longer than the M25 - is more Dr Who than millennial muse.

"We can't seem to let the Seventies go," says a cheerful Suzanne Costas, designer of Seventies-inspired boot-cut denim collection Earl Jeans (currently selling out in Harvey Nichols, Whistles and funky Soho boutique Shop). "I think we hold on to the Seventies as a reference because it was the time most of us grew up."

Certainly Chloe designer Stella McCartney repeatedly names her mother Linda as an inspiration. One of her earliest memories is seeing Linda McCartney wearing Chloe originals in the Seventies, and the result is the hippy rock chick look all over her collection. We all love Linda of course, but as a fashion icon? Not likely.

Stateside muses also lose a little in translation when US designers are inspired by unlikely Seventies references. When Isaac Mizrahi ceased trading in 1998, a critic at the New York Times said, "Frankly, American women don't want to dress like Mary Tyler Moore". Neither do British twenty- somethings want to dress like our answer to MTM - Wendy Craig in Butterflies. America may remember the Seventies as disco, Cher and Halston but we British are more inclined to remember Lambrusco, Demis Roussos and Jeff Banks.

It's the difference between memory, which looks backwards, and imagination, which creates its own futuristic space. The basic problem is that the designers who are pushing Seventies retro - McCartney, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford - are the peer group of their core market: fashion is taking them back to their Seventies childhood in a bizarre form of sartorial regression therapy. Normal people - the ones who wear the clothes - just remember fags behind the bike sheds, getting pissed on cider and smoking their first Silk Cut. Revamping the ravamp of the Seventies is all very ironic, but it's also inherently sad - like trying to re-release "Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap" for 2000 - and lazy, as Paco Rabanne pointed out last week (see Why Are They Famous?, right).

It's also frustrating for the punters, many of whom have lost patience. "I've had enough of dressing like my mother," says Karen Wilder, 29. "Why can't we move on? The utility look has tried hard, but we always end up going back to hippy chic. Fashion magazines these days look generic. I've seen the images a thousand times before."

What fashion needs is some new style icons. Granted, August Vogue put Nathalie Portman on the cover, but touted as the "new" Audrey Hepburn. Audrey is eternal but it's time new stars are allowed to just "be" without being compared to dead fashion divas.

Fashion needs a new identity. But none of the magazines are going to help by saying that this latest Seventies revival stinks. Prada's autumn/ winter 2000) show was an ugly and extreme take on the Seventies, and ill- received. But as an anonymous London fashion source says, "Prada is one of the major magazine advertisers. Every international fashion magazine will get behind the Seventies re-revival whether they like it or not."

Fashion needs its references. Designers need their inspiration. But why so literal? When references are too obvious, the punter will call the designer's bluff and find her own alternative. Such is the hype surrounding the big houses that doubtless Marc Jacobs' cashmere scarves will be coiled around the most fashionable necks. But fashion deja vu is an underwhelming and, yes, disappointing response to where design is going in the Y2K.