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New wave prints are the latest trend

Now is not the time to be subtle

A contemporary take on 70s prints is on trend this autumn. Dubbed new wave by the trend forecasting company WGSN, these bright and bold designs have been spotted across women’s and men’s catwalks, such as Diesel’s SS22 Womens collection, which featured an array of ombre optical geometrics.

Sustainable brands such as House of Sunny are also key trend drivers. The London brand’s  On The Road Again collection features whimsical waves and bright geometrics. The resurgence of retro demonstrates the longevity of these trippy prints. But what is driving our forever obsession with retro aesthetics?

The retro aesthetic appeals to our obsession with nostalgia. Thrift shopping continues to be popular among Gen Z with many turning to Depop to rework timeless pieces into a contemporary take on the trend.

“The psychedelic print is timeless and recyclable. Vintage or present day crafted, retro is the new modern”, says Kathia Bailey, founder of vintage fashion and homewares brand Psychedelic Threads. “For the past 20 years these designs have remained relevant yet nostalgic. Things that were cool to my grandma, were old and out of style to my mom. Those same designs my grandma loved are now super cool.”

Bailey repurposes vintage fabrics into her own “funky and psychedelic visions”. Through thrifting and repurposing, the retro style remains sustainable and timeless. 

Image courtesy of Psychedelic Threads

It is clear that Gen Z consumers are driving the trend, not just with their love of thrifting, but through online platforms including TikTok. Popular hashtags #nostalgia and #70sfashion allow people to tap into their love for the trend.

“Right now on Instagram, Tiktok and other visual platforms people are seeking joy and adventure,” says Asli Ida, founder of the sustainable brand and collaborative platform Vatka. “Bright colours and prints are very popular and they bring more exposure and likes. They are more attractive than anything else, because they are daring, they are striking, they are bold and fun. We feel like the Swinging Sixties’ trend is back and here to stay.”

Istanbul-based brand Vatka is one to watch for its bold collections comprised of geometric prints mixed with vintage colours. Sustainability is a core ethos for the brand, creating pieces that go against the fast-paced nature of fashion. “We don’t follow fashion seasons and trends, we create based on a story. When you love something, it never goes out of fashion and often the pieces we love have a story behind them,” says Ida. When following the retro style, it is important to stick with brands that value sustainability. “It can be only sustainable, if the brands follow the sustainable production methods and the customers shop more from sustainable and environment friendly brands”, adds Ida.

Image courtesy of Vatka

Due to the popularity of these new wave prints through online thrifting and TikTok, fast-fashion brands have adapted the trend, which goes against its sustainable ethos. “Why have high street when you can have history?” says Sally Ayres, circular fashion campaigner and founder of vintage brand Pretty Flamingo. When sourcing vintage pieces, the story behind them is vital for Ayres. “I love to know where each piece has come from, who owned it first, where it’s been worn,” adds Ayres. 

From this it is clear that appreciating the historical aspect of the trend is vital. “When you look at the high street, everything is inspired by something of the past. People buy into the idea of previous generations and eras and what those moments in time stood for. People buy into the whole aesthetic of an era,” says Danielle Kendry, founder of vintage brand Porcelain & Red. “A forever returning trend associated with the 1970s is the idea of freedom, and I think today’s younger generations want to create that same statement by buying into these timeless retro aesthetics.” It is apparent that the newfound freedom of post-lockdown is another factor in the resurgence of retro prints. According to WGSN, “a post-pandemic, cheerful atmosphere is pivotal, translated in a range of prints that go from wavy to checkerboard.”

“Prints coincide with political change and always have,” says Ayres. “The Woodstock era is when we saw the biggest change in print patterns because this was the time of the second women’s liberation movement. Then rock and pop turned into psychedelic rock and roll. People were taking interest in politics more than ever because of things such as the Vietnam War, the gay rights movement and of course women’s liberation. People wanted to express themselves and their views through clothing and through their choice of music, which always goes hand in hand.”

From this, we know that prints can be a subtle way to rebel. “Currently we are in a time of unrest and politically people are looking to rebel once more. Fashion helps you do this, in a subtle way it can show where you stand.” It is clear that prints can have power, and reminds us of the many ways fashion can make a political statement.  

Image courtesy of Porcelain & Red

This retro aesthetic seems limitless, from marbling techniques to using digital filters to create trippy distortions. Items such as the knitted vest and oversized cardigan are popular with the trend and can go beyond one season, further reinstating the sustainable aspect of retro aesthetics. 

But what is the defining factor of the new wave print trend? According to Bailey, it’s colour. “Colouring is key to a psychedelic print as I tend to use a lot of rainbow and neon in my tufted designs. I am heavily inspired by the groovy patterns of the 60s and 70s”.

The importance of bright and bold colours in the trend shows how these prints are about standing out. “It’s whimsical, and fun and that’s just what we need right now after two years of loungewear and boring colours. Now is the time to shine and be bold,” adds Ayres.

However you look at it, the retro resurgence in full swing.

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