The Emergence Of ‘Nowstalgia’ Is Bringing The Aesthetics Of The Past Into The Present

The Emergence Of ‘Nowstalgia’ Is Bringing The Aesthetics Of The Past Into The Present
Salama - Pinterest, East Delhi Comic Con, 1997 - Prateek Arora

The trending aesthetics on the internet right now contain expressions of a whole range of subcultures from goth, grunge, indie and cyberpunk to cottage-core, pop, hippie movement, space age and hip-hop. For a while there it felt like fashion, architecture, interior design, music, and visual art were collectively bringing back the 80s and 90s and even Y2K, but then futurism kicked in giving rise to a whole new amalgamated, hybrid culture that broke all timelines. The result is a zeitgeist which is a mix of every era happening everywhere all at once called 'Nowstalgia'.

As you can tell, Nowstalgia refers to a blend of 'nostalgia' and 'now' embracing the inspirations from every decade but with a futuristic spin that feels unique to the current times. This also means doing away historical accuracy and looking at the past as tools to build a new present. So it's less like a revival of trends and more like a cultural explosion that's creating something unique through a fusion of different times and styles. Since there can be no revival of trends because they exist altogether now, Nowstalgia has officially ended the traditional '20-year cycle'.

Kanishk Anand, Diya Basu
Kanishk Anand, Diya BasuKanishk Anand, Diya Basu

The 'fit check' videos and street interviews on Instagram will tell you that the fashion trends today are influenced by no particular era but all of them — the cargo and denims of the 90s, the bell bottoms, gauchos, and colourful patterns of the 70s, hell, even the corsets of the Victorian era are now a part of Gen Z's closet and yet, none of the fits feel dated because they're not a replica of these eras, in fact, they look like outfits someone from the future might wear. The popularity of thrifting and vintage fashion in India along with homegrown brands like Dhruv Kapoor, Cord and KoAi with their eclectic and oversized silhouettes that merge past and future also point to the emergence of Nowstalgia.

The Singhal Villa, The Window music studio
The Singhal Villa, The Window music studioThe Purple Ink Studio, RAD Co + Lab

The same goes with interior design. It used to be that if your house was built and decorated in the 70s, within a decade it would start feeling old-fashioned because now the 80s were here. But if you just waited 20 more years, by the 90s trends of the 70s would circle back again. I know it's confusing but at least we don't have to worry about this merry-go-round anymore because of Nowstalgia (refer to the previously mentioned death of this cycle). Most spaces now are eclectic; instead of a saturated style, they have elements from movements all over creating ultra-modern or even avant-garde designs.

Art by Prateek Arora and Akanksha Jain
Art by Prateek Arora and Akanksha JainPrateek Arora, Akanksha Jain

3D and digital art in India has been at it for a while when it comes to bending timelines. Artists like Vabyvel and Akanksha Jain do so through their work that combine nostalgic South Asian themes with futurism. The AI wave also became a subset of Nowstalgia through retrofuturism with programs like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion that gave Indian artists a way to explore sci-fi with Indian characters. I mean if you haven't seen an AI-generated photograph of an old Indian man from the 70s chilling with aliens in the streets of Delhi by now, you need to catch up.

The sentiment behind Nowstalgia lies in the comfort and simplicity of older times but without the limitations of them. Looking back is also an aspect of self reflection that cultivate the narratives of who we were and what we are heading towards as a species. The internet, of course, is at the core of this whirlpool we call Nowstalgia. How else would you find that Louis Poulsen Panthella lamp for your alternative indie sci-fi short film or get that Mohammad Rafi sample for your lo-fi hip-hop mixtape?