Back to basics Missing the past
“Vintage is usually considered as a loss of faith in the future. Contrary to the dreams brought by science fiction of the 60s and 70s, we are more centered on ourselves, our past, our land.” Philothée Gaymard, Le Vintage expliqué aux vieux (10-18, 2011)
Despite the relative proximity of their childhood years, Millennials remain a surprisingly nostalgic generation. Consumers find reassurance and comfort in things they have known in the past as protection against the uncertainty of the future. These reminders of one’s roots and priorities are important anchors in times of stress or change.
According to a survey by research institute Ipsos, in 2010 46% of the French considered that “it was better before” against 33% in 2006.
They consequently seek a refuge in idyllic fantasies and manifest a positive emotional response to things and contexts they experienced in prior times. They glorify products, activities and places that were prevalent before; anchor their emotions to a time and/or place when people were seemingly happier and life was simpler. According to a survey by research institute Ipsos, in 2010 46% of the French considered that “it was better before” against 33% in 2006. Harking back to better times is a way to bring wholesomeness, peace and romance back into today’s lives. Their tendency to look longingly backward shows no signs of slackening as new tools aid them in their quest for on-demand connection with the past. What’s more, Millennials are also giving value to things from the past that they didn’t experience themselves – that is also called ‘retrophilia’. Hence a paradox: they are living with ultra-contemporary technologies building the world of tomorrow, while embracing things of a time they haven’t known. First, it allows them to try new things, explore other cultures, learn and grow. Second, it can also be a route for personal discovery and an outlet for creative expression. Third, digging in the past can answer genealogical and societal questions, bring further context to the current collective culture and thus create new perspectives into the future.
Vintage defines itself as the aesthetic of old things, essentially from the postwar time until the 90s, and relates back to our childhood memories. The trend is marked by a sort of cult for clothes, accessories, furniture and cultural productions dated from the second half of the 20th century – from clothing stores to major festivals, international fairs, farmers’ markets and microbrews. Popular American TV shows such as Mad Men feature the iconic 60s. In the music industry, the youth is celebrating artists like Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Serge Gainsbourg, while Jean Paulin and Eames’s furniture are in high demand. In the U.S., former TV star Betty White hosted The Saturday Night Live TV Show following her appearance on a Snickers chocolate bar commercial, while elderly actors like White and Ed Asner have featured again in commercials and TV screens, and U.S. network ABC Family has brought back stars from the 80s and 90s. From a brand perspective, the momentum around “memory marketing” is translating into a vintage look and feel of goods. The word “vintage” is used everywhere as marketers are tapping into past models that remind values of quality, authenticity and reliability, much appreciated by today’s consumers. Communication campaigns are harnessing old days in order to take a nostalgic trip through time, recycle stuff of our collective past while consumer brands are going “retro,” packaging design is adopting regressive formats, often in limited-edition marketing efforts.
From a brand perspective, the momentum around “memory marketing” is translating into a vintage look and feel of goods. The word “vintage” is used everywhere as marketers are tapping into past models that remind values of quality, authenticity and reliability, much appreciated by today’s consumers.
The plethora of companies relaunching old products, showing old adverts, and reviving previous straplines illustrates the potential and relevancy of the trend.
Brand heritage & reedition
Past revival is also occurring through brand heritage, commemorative events and reedition packaging. Whether through store, packaging design or marketing initiatives such as branded content, businesses are focusing on their unique ‘timelines’ and heritage associations in order to add brand depth and credibility.
Marketers increasingly raid brand archives to exploit valuable heritage, revamp old logos and launch limited-edition collector-worthy packaging.
A spectacular number of consumer brands are displaying their date of creation in order to legitimate their savoir-faire and bring more credibility to the quality of their products and services. Marketers increasingly raid brand archives to exploit valuable heritage, revamp old logos and launch limited-edition collector-worthy packaging. While brand anniversaries are the most common source of commemorative packaging, wider historical moments and cultural events can also deliver opportunities for celebration. Limited editions and collectible items are used to trigger consumers’ desire for acquiring rare and exclusive products. Often, these special collections imply collaborative designs that trade on credible partnerships and that aim to boost worth.
Prāna Custom Cycles
Prāṇa Custom Cycles is a London-based shop selling bicycles that not only have a vintage Indian look but are also customisable according to each consumer’s desire. The founders, two young and dynamic entrepreneurs, have developed a double concept around style and affordability. The name ‘Prāna’ refers to the movement of life and energy, as is the role of the bicycle in India. Beautifully handcrafted, the bikes come straight from the streets of India, offer simplicity and style without the high price tag – each bike is sold at £285. Not surprisingly, legendary fashion designer Paul Smith himself is one of the brand’s biggest fans.
United Kingdom, January 2014
Timehop is a free app has been designed for nostalgic blasts from the past as the service takes users on a trip down social-media memory lane, every day. Timehoppers enjoy reminiscing about what they did on a particular day last year — or two years ago, three years ago, etc. — by viewing posts, pictures, videos and life events that are synced to their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.
United States, March 2014
The Soundbox Desk
Based in Seoul, industrial designer Jina U has developed The Soundbox Desk, a vintage desk that incorporates a speakerphone that works without electricity. The desk is actually equipped with a built-listening station that naturally amplifies the sound from people’s smartphone. In addition, The Soundbox Desk provides the home a vintage look, with speakers that look like a real phonograph. An eccentric blend of materials including mesh and polished metalwork mixed with patchwork wood give the desk its great retro look.
South Korea, October 2014
Vintage is on the rise for French household cleaning brands. Both Starwax The Fabulous and Jacques Briochin have reedited household product lines full of colours and joy, referring back to the 50s. With its retro look & feel and the 50s-like style of its irresistible muse, Starwax’s latest product line refers to the brand’s origins, as the maintenance products specialist brand since 1954. They also promote old cleaning methods and products such as black soap, antique wax, white vinegar, Sommières terracotta etc. Such traditional products have proved good results in the past decades and now seduce modern housewives with their well established effectiveness.
France, February 2012
Speakeasy-style bars opening in major cities are another evidence of the nostalgia wave, an infatuation with the good old days of Prohibition. Following the Candelaria, Glass, Eclair or Ballroom that opened in Paris in the past few years, the Moonshiner is one of the latest of this kind. The bar is hidden behind a traditional pizzeria and customers have to open the heavy metal door of the cold room to get into the dark and mysterious atmosphere.
France, June 2013
RetroFutur is an audio and multimedia accessories boutique situated in Paris, that has decided to sell a selection of high-end audio products with retro/vintage style. For instance, customers can find retro speakers from Ellipson, the Frenchy 60s brand that is now making a great come-back, design sound accessories from La Boîte Concept as well as British-style hi-fi from Cambridge or Braven. In addition, there is a helmet bar equipped with vintage style speakers that come in many different colors.
France, November 2013
Business & Marketing guidelines
|Capitalize on your rich history and heritage to bring reassurance to your consumers about your brand’s savoir-faire and product quality.|
|Be careful: the nostalgia card only provides marketing currency if there is actually something to be wistful for in the first place.|
|Focus on brand heritage – or someone else’s you can appropriately affiliate with – to add value to your designs. Heritage provides a wealth of storytelling and visual collateral, both of which are hugely effective in the development of a unique brand identity.|
|Celebrate anniversaries and historical events. Indeed, they both provide a ready-made platform from which to leverage new creative concepts.|
- Consumers find reassurance and comfort in things they already know as protection against the uncertainty of the future.
- Millennials face a paradox: they live with ultra-contemporary technologies building the world of tomorrow, while embracing things of a time they haven’t known.
- According to a survey by research institute Ipsos, in 2010 46% of the French consider that “it was better before” against 33% in 2006.
- Brands are sending consumers back to their childhood and youth memories and “vintage” has become a marketed word that is flourishing everywhere as a synonym of quality, authenticity and reliability.
- Past revival is also occurring through brand heritage, commemorative events and reedition packaging. Businesses are focusing on their unique ‘timelines’ and heritage associations in order to add brand depth and credibility.
Experts that we recommend
French journalist at Usbek & Rica & author of book Le vintage (10/18, 2011)
British music critic & author of book Retromania (Faber & Faber, 2014)
French rock critic, musician, singer and writer
Creator of fair Le Salon du vintage & author of book Vintage Passion (La Martinière, 2012)