Brands and marketers have recognized the impact a trip down memory lane has on consumers and the opportunity to cash in is more apparent than ever. This year was full of throw-back-Thursday moments with leopard print on the prowl and hypebeasts making “ugly dad sneakers” cool again. Even zines made a comeback, while New Coke had a brief moment to shine on the silver screen. Who, or what, could have predicted such a resurgence of longing for the past?
Back in January, Shutterstock predicted the sudden rise of nostalgia in its 2019 Creative Trends and one thing is for sure, the data does not lie. The report combines data from Shutterstock customer search and download behavior with expert analysis to determine the visual styles, sounds, and cultural phenomenons that will guide the look and feel of the creative industry for the year ahead.
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Here are some ways in which we saw throwbacks thrive this year:
The Eighties are back and ready to party
Shutterstock’s billions of data points from year-over-year searches and download behavior found that the keyword search for leopard print increased 176 percent. Over the next few months, we saw why. Coined as the cult garment of the summer, the midi leopard skirt took everyone’s summer wardrobe by storm. Rilka Noel, a 23-year-old e-commerce planner for a streetwear label in Manhattan, started the Instagram account @leopardmidiskirt, chronicling the trend itself. According to Rilka, she receives more than 50 submissions per day from users all around the world, with entries ranging from photos of others wearing the skirt in public to mirror selfies.
Other Eighties-inspired designs that were hugely popular this year surrounded the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Its third season, set in the summer of 1985, premiered in July. The show includes mentions of “Back to the Future” and “The Karate Kid,” as well as actress Phoebe Cates — best known for her roles in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Gremlins.” And as the ultimate blast from the past, Coca-Cola decided to resurrect its ill-fated beverage, New Coke, for the series and produced only 500,000 12-ounce cans of New Coke for the new generation of consumers.
Aside from product placements within the series, a handful of brands hijacked the trend and incorporated it into their products this year. Nike produced an entire “Stranger Things” line of merchandise, including Cortez sneakers detailed with the branding of the show on them. H&M also launched a line of “Stranger Things” clothing, and the romper that Millie Bobby Brown’s character Eleven wears on the show was sold out at Target.
Nineties fashion comeback
The Eighties isn’t the only influential era we’ve seen this year. In 2019, Gen-Xers also turned to the Nineties for inspiration, leading to the revival of trends and companies that were thought to be pronounced dead long ago. Simultaneously, artists and the fashion industry channeled the icons from the past, influencing brands to dig up pieces from the archives for new releases.
Love them or hate them, the chunky-soled shoe referred to as the “dad sneaker” reigned supreme this year. Nike gave its classic Monarch sneaker a revamp by releasing an updated version for Father’s Day, while its rival Adidas tested the dad trend with a series of Yeezys released this year. On the note of shoes, chunky platform sneakers also hit the streets in a huge way. Recently, Spanish artist Rosalía performed at the 2019 MTV VMAs in a pair of black platform sneakers reminiscent of shoes worn by the Spice Girls back in the day.
Along with shoes, the Nineties also gave birth to some of the most notable style icons. Earlier this year Cardi B paid homage to supermodel Linda Evangelista during her performance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The rap artist not only featured a blonde wig, but a latex bustier and plenty of gold buckles, chains and hardware, similar to the look Evangelista wore in her 1995 Harper’s Bazaar spread. Hailey Bieber, however, chose to channel Princess Diana’s love for crewnecks and bike shorts in a recent Vogue photoshoot.
The resurgence of zine culture
Shutterstock’s trend report also forecasted that the homemade aesthetic of zine culture would undergo a digital update and the fashion world has embraced its DIY side. While the history of zines can be traced back to the Thirties, the technology company observed a 1,376 percent increase in searches for “contemporary art collage.”
Zine culture continues to thrive and inspire creatives and brands alike. Singer-songwriter FKA Twigs experimented with the ‘contemporary art collage’ approach in the fifth issue of her digital zine Avantgarden — a project created specifically to highlight the app’s slideshow feature. While Nike flipped through its favorite indie zines and gave its classic Air Force 1 sneaker a magazine-inspired makeover. Nike’s new edition, which is slated to be a part of a larger “Zine” pack, features off-register printing, a gridded backdrop, a loud typeface graphic and pink Swooshes for a bright touch.
While recognizable for its collages and paper cutouts, zines entered the zeitgeist to voice an opinion that others might deem unimportant, or to cover a topic where one could openly express oneself. Fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul is doing just that with the launch of his new zine HommeGirls. Created in response to the Panichgul’s personal frustration over the current lack of “real clothes,” the zine tackles the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry fueled by social media and suggesting an alternative: a return to classic silhouettes.
A nostalgic return to the past drove creativity in 2019 as predicted by Shutterstock. Consumers have been on a trip down memory lane on the big screen, on the runway, in major ad campaigns, in stores, and everywhere in between. And it’s not showing any signs of slowing down soon.
Maggie McKosky is vice president of UX & Product Design at Shutterstock.