the argument against nostalgia: let's push things forward
The world is going to hell in a hand basket, but you were too busy reblogging old pics of Kate Moss to notice. Nathalie Olah argues it’s time to put a stop to nostalgia and turn your eyes firmly on the future instead…
When most of our lives revolve around a routine of hangovers, insufficient bus fare and two-for-one supermarket tortellini, it's easy to see why we'd be prone to nostalgia. Thanks to the growing number of blogging, micro-blogging, video and image-sharing platforms (Instagram have just launched a new one, Hyperlapse) the culture of looking back has never been more rampant. Scroll through the feeds of fashion bloggers, stylists, designers, and everyone who follows them and all you'll find is an endless stream of Kate Moss #TBTs.
Don't get me wrong, I love to gawp at pictures of Kate Moss, but perhaps we are the least optimistic and most sentimental generation to have ever existed. Constantly reminiscing, not just about the 90s and the heyday of 'Cool Britannia' (when a band as musically challenged as Dodgy could sign a million dollar record deal) but for our own childhoods. The halcyon days when a hairstyle required a thousand bull-dog hairclips and multiple shades of mascara; when the measure of maturity wasn't positive credit rating, but simply owning a lava lamp and you could walk out the house in a flower garland, hair in bunches and staring at everyone with bunny eyes like it wasn't even a thing.
While the world is facing some of the biggest crises in its history, the young, creative minds of the Western world are busy regramming scans of The Face and writing think pieces on the cultural significance of Winona Ryder in Mermaids.
Like all of you (yes, all of you), I have often stared at my tax return or electricity bill hoping it would reveal to me the secrets of time travel. It never does and I end up making coffee and realising that time is hurtling ahead of us and responsibilities are piling up. But going on the number of floral slips and chokers gliding past me on a daily basis, it seems many still need to face up to this realisation. To mis-quote a writer (marginally) better known than myself: I watched the best minds of my generation destroyed by Tumblr, reblogging vintage pics of Kate Moss ad infinintum and dragging themselves through the godless streets of Instagram in blind pursuit of likes. While the world is facing some of the biggest crises in its history, the young, creative minds of the Western world are busy regramming scans of The Face and writing think pieces on the cultural significance of Winona Ryder in Mermaids. It has to stop. For your sake, if not just mine.
Whole websites are now dedicated to sharing pics of good looking people in the past: 90s supermodels wearing Adidas Originals; the unlikely couplings of Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr, Bjork and Goldie, Madonna and Tupac; pre-surgery Donatella; pre-rehab Drew Barrymore and post-Kurt Courtney Love. Images that are found and reposted to a reception of OMG's, screen-grabbed and re-shared to a reception of more even OMG's… and so on and so on. Why are these images shocking, funny or interesting exactly? Because SJP, Bjork, Madonna, Tupac etc. are now immovable stone relics in the pantheon of old-world celebrity and they couldn't possibly be prone to inconsistencies of character?
Like virtual archaeologists, we are ploughing the sediment beneath us for remnants of a previous civilisation and then proudly wielding them for the entire world to see. When we post a picture of Victoria Beckham's wedding, what we're actually doing is saying, "Hey world, look at me. I remembered something…" and as everyone else remembers that VB wasn't always about the clean-lines and minimal make-up, those all important likes start to roll in.
When there still hasn't been a proper reform since the 2013 Rana Plaza factory disaster and workers lives are being compromised to accommodate our fleeting trends, the fashion world hasn't the time to be wistfully staring into the distance and praying for the heyday of Kate and Naomi to return.
I'm not saying that posting the odd loved up pic of JT and Brit is a crime (far from it), but the trickle-down effect of fashion innovators being complicit in this kind of nostalgia is undoubtedly negative. When you follow someone, you are investing a certain amount of trust in his or her judgement. The constant barrage of nostalgia from those in authority has led to the regression of young people in their fetishisation of the VHS cam aesthetic over new technologies, for instance. Or the slew of questionable RnB and Hip Hop pretenders, from Rita Ora to Iggy Azalea. It has undoubtedly prevented the emergence of new, groundbreaking talent and potentially stunted the growth of would-be innovators.
When the clothing industry is at crisis point, when the environment is being put under unbearable strain to accommodate our need for a different style of trainer every season; when there still hasn't been a proper reform since the 2013 Rana Plaza factory disaster and workers lives are being compromised to accommodate our fleeting trends, the fashion world hasn't the time to be wistfully staring into the distance and praying for the heyday of Kate and Naomi to return. It should be taking more responsibility. Stylists and fashion bloggers should be using their influence to raise awareness of these issues and gathering support for initiatives seeking to improve them.
It's time to put a stop to nostalgia, or at least minimise its influence on present trends. You don't have to trade in your indigos and varsity T-shirts for full-length pleather and a Google Glass, this isn't the Matrix, but by educating ourselves and reading up on the obstacles that we are all faced with, we will begin to create work that is vital and necessary. From the environment to the growing instability of relationships between nation states, it has never been more important for us to engage with our surroundings. The world might have more problems than ever before, but it is all the more interesting for that reason.
The 90s and 00s changed our culture irrevocably. There's nothing wrong with being aware of that or even celebrating it. Knock yourself out on Shola Ama and re-runs of The Simple Life, but when it comes to work, keep your eyes fixed firmly on the future.
Text Nathalie Olah
Image via your90s.com