How ought to manufacturers faucet into the Indie Sleaze revival?

Our latest cultural nostalgia dive offers lessons for brands in how to navigate the merging worlds of digital and IRL, says designer Henry Holland (who was of course there first time around)

As our nation’s obsession with nostalgia continues, Indie Sleaze has become the latest cultural excavation for Gen-Z. This is a phenomenon from the early aughts that I know only too well.

An aesthetic focused on indie rock style, it was pioneered by a rag tag of bands and cultural icons, from Kate Moss and Pete Doherty to Alexa Chung and Agyness Dean. Vogue recently called it a “messy amalgam of 90s grunge and 80s opulence with a slightly erotic undertone, topped off with an almost pretentious take on retro style”. For most of us living it at the time though it was the costume to our freedom and fun at the turn of the century. It doesn’t seem that long ago since we were just wearing it, not debating it.

Looking at this trend, both as a designer and through my work with Science Magic, I am struck by the fact that this nostalgic connection, bolstered by a popular Instagram account and a new playlist from Spotify, is more about what it represented and what that time was about than aesthetics.

Looking backward for creative inspiration is certainly nothing new, seesawing from the culture smashing futuristic visions of the 1960s to the conservative fishbowl of the digital 21st century. When we look back for inspiration it’s often because we are afraid to look forward — and perhaps afraid of what we might see. For Gen Z then, it’s unsurprising that a trend which represents fun, freedom and a carefree attitude should be increasingly attractive to a generation dealing with rising anxiety levels, global uncertainty, and climate meltdown.

Top: Camden Lock in 2007, image courtesy Shutterstock; Above: Henry Holland and Agyness Deyn on the cover of Dazed and Confused Japan, 2007

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