A cultural revolution has exploded in 2016 - in the face of beautiful souls passed on to the big disco in the sky and a terra firma divided by a bubble-wrapped generation and a folk looking back for the future. And it is this dichotomy that has ushered back the vibrant renaissance of style and sound that is the retro era. Glitter ball-flecked dance floors, neon-lit hedonism, flaunting fashion, vinyl elements, Audrey Hepburn élan, the Hippie Chic of the 70s the Greased Lightning, scarf-tied up dos, and a flair for the dramatic; have all stepped out of the pages of the past to come alive in a boisterous cataclysm that is shaking things up in a snazzy, classy, and sassy way.


From the 40s to the 90s, each decade had its own defining sense of identity. With prevalent cuts and colours of the past five years being locked firmly in the jaws of an established fashion industry, retro designs have erupted in an exultant riot of hue and technique. From the 1967 505™ Jean that came of age in the 70s New York punk scene to the 501® Jean, the world’s first-ever blue jean featuring the signature button fly, fashion has seen a major return to vintage Levi’s – both on catwalks and on the streets. Adidas too has rebooted their old school Originals in a new avatar, making for some very happy feet. “The charismatic fashion trends of the retro decades were soulful, and their magical spell has been cast through fashion and art globally,’ elucidates Kristy De Cunha, designer and grooming expert. “Short, fringed dresses in loose fitting, sensuous fabrics, silhouetting willowy, boyish bodies with androgynous profiles from the 30s to tea length dresses and skirts from the 40s, high empire cuts of the 50s with its saucy pinup girl style and its preppy nautical design, to the florals and the blast of colours and prints of the 60s, all have mapped their way into the trends of today.” What makes this fashion so immensely enchanting and captivating is the integration of two worlds, the old and the new, magically woven together to form a more contemporary style.


The heartbeat and the battering ram for most emerging styles eager to shake out the last vestiges of the previous type and assert their individuality, is the beauty industry. And at the center of their retro revolution stands full heads of hair coiffured in classic bobs or bouffants, eyes accentuated by winged eyeliner and red lipstick smiles that spread like red tint on ripening tomatoes. These trends are timeless, asserts Anjali Noronha, hair and makeup artist and proprietor, Li’l Red Door. “What seals the deal, however is that it’s an easy, go-to, DIY, quick fix that one knows will work. For someone with fine hair, who's only wish is to make it look fuller and styled, the bob is a great solution. If you have five minutes to get dressed and look like you didn’t just roll out of bed, red lipstick or even a bold eyeliner suddenly makes you look all dressed up.” Of course, these trends are associated with women whom we consider eternal beauties, like Bridget Bardot, Grace Kelly, and Diana Ross. Closer to home, kajal became an integral part of every Indian girl's make up kit thanks to Hema Malini and Rekha. “The top bun, loose waves, twists and braids are all thus making their way back. Gone are the super-styled, straight, sleek hair, and sprayed-to-death styles.”


Between the fading of the millennial glow and the emergence of its second decade, retro as a style has afforded a privileged place for itself within the interiors of many a home. After all, design has always referenced the past, whether in form, colour or spirit! There are some iconic images, influences or events in each decade that have captured our imagination, and that of many generations, reiterates Sandhya Gorthi, founder of Sanctum, the furniture and lifestyle store. “The 40s were about war and its aftermath. People crave this era’s delicacy in form, smooth lines, and an almost spiritual outlook. Old war posters and memorabilia feature in our decor and design sensibility even today. The 50s and 60s saw the emergence of pop art, an almost satirical take on consumerism. Kitsch, space age, and de-constructivism of the 80s and 90s endure, and the new millennium is a wonderful smorgasbord of these past movements. Our design stories dip into these periods, as they're very much in demand and will continue to be so.”


The retro age created icons and imagery that has etched an image of a world that was, and even while generations have moved on, will continue to remain. So much so that even the events, experiences, and activations industry hasn’t gone untouched by its relevance. Michelle Sanghvi, head, client servicing, Toast Events, that specialises in luxury and lifestyle events, speaks about classic elements and how they’ve found their way into this industry. “If you notice the iconography that's used even for modern day objects, which no longer look like they did back in the day, everyone knows what they refer to, even though they may have never seen anything like a dial up telephone, an antenna TV, floppy disks, radio, etc. The retro period created long lasting visual connections and while we've moved on from the times of flower power, people wearing hipsters, and donning afros, it does connect us to a great time that was full of fun and will never go away. History hasn't been able to create a time as iconic as the retro period and brands love bringing this spell back to life through the events and experiences that they provide.”


From the Naughty Forties to the Nifty Fifties, the Swinging Sixties to the Super Seventies and the Big Eighties, everyone’s lives were sound tracked. Think retro and one equates the term with music. Today, as musicians, disc jockeys, music connoisseurs, collectors, and more bring back the pure sound and music of the yesteryears, one can’t help but wonder if they are in on some secret. Because they seem to be echoing Grateful Dead’s sentiment that ‘it’s been a long strange trip. And the journey is far from over yet. Welcome Aboard!’

For India’s number one retro/pop band The Other People, some of the best music ever was created in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. “These songs have evergreen lyrics and melodies and due to their strong nature, they've become favourites of generations and have stood the test of time. As a result, if you walk into any club or pub playing retro music, you'll be sure to see almost everyone boogieing to these tunes.”

The defining sounds of the retro era brought versatility to the center stage, feels DJ Russel, a veteran disc jockey of over 20 years and the current winner of the MyFav Award 2015-2016 in the Rock/ Retro Category. “From Swing to Rock N Roll and RnB, to Classic Rock, to funk and Reggae to Disco, Hip Hop and 80s digital synth tunes, there was so much on offer and to emulate. There was this collective consciousness and this bridging of a generation, colour, and age gap that appeals to so many today.” Retro music thus has this vanguard audience that is always ready to groove and get down to a beat.

The whisper of vinyl is now a shout, as sales of albums on vinyl in the UK equaled £2.4 million in the first week of December 2016, outperforming digital downloads, which were at £2.1 million! Homes in India are no stranger to stacks of records being a part of many a household but have now once again gained momentum in terms of collection and sales. “Vinyl never really left,” elaborates Parth Pandya, co-founder, The Revolver Club, an audiophile’s sanctuary. “Vinyl started receiving more coverage since 2008 (Record Store Day), which helped make it popular and widespread in the hip-stream. Labels today are just catering to the demand that is increasing with every new release or reissue.” Also, one needs to understand that vinyl isn't just about the music, it's a lifestyle. Retro things are making a comeback because good art was always practised with more of a manual and human touch and less digitisation. “This applies to the recording industry as well,” believes Parth. “Every band/artist now tries to be as analog as they can in their mixes for spectrum superiority. The old never really gets old, it's just gets more expensive!”


Retro, unlike most other genres is an ecstatic feeling of nostalgia, so if you think of it; such a strong emotion never goes away. It simply lingers in your sub-conscious and pops up every time you’re having a good time. While many music spaces have been catering to the retro crowd once a month or once a week, some have come to realise that there is a large crowd that has been left unfed and loves to consume retro seven days a week. Mihir Bijur, co-owner of Door No.1, Mumbai’s ‘retro-only’ bar reminds us that no party is complete till you have listened to music that makes you relive your years growing up. In fact, it is their love for retro music that got Mihir and his partner Vishesh Khanna to start ‘Door No.1’. At all the parties we have attended, we always noticed how this feeling of nostalgia brought people closer, got strangers to converse, and took everyone to their happy place. Door No.1 is that ‘Happy Place’, where people walk into the present and leave breathing their memorable past. Everything, from the vibe to the conversations to the emotions is high on nostalgia. It’s something you can only experience to understand.”


While everyone’s adding the flavor of retro to their lives, photography too seems to be passing through a retro/vintage filter. Social media sites have been flooded with photographs that have that sense, as many feel they create a nostalgic atmosphere, and awaken special memories. Artist and filmmaker Shawn Lewis is of the school of thought that vintage photography wasn't ever vintage, it was contemporary. “The outcome of lomography or cameras like the Diana coexisted with other art movements simultaneously. 'Vintage' photography done by photographers today might be able to create a sense of retro aesthetically and somewhere in that process justify an imitation of bygone days. But people back in the day were creating imagery of their today. We're only imitating what never existed!” It's as Lennon once responded to the press asking him about 'How they felt about teenagers imitating them with Beatles wigs?' To which he replied, 'They're not imitating us, cause we don't wear Beatles wigs'.


We’ve now got Indian radio channels that belt out only retro hits, a rebirth on television of a lot of the old TV greats like Fuller House, Lethal Weapon, MacGyver, etc, programmes being created with a very 70s/80s vibe and story like The Get Down, Stranger Things, etc, jukeboxes and gramophones and so much more. In a 2016 filled with a balancing act between demonetisation, the weather, the start of a new year, and calendars filled until the summer hits, there’s something calming about the fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same and this fun retro revival has hit our lives and is here to stay.   

About the Author
A fiercely independent freelance writer, she has been published regularly since age 13, including 6 years at the Express Group. When she isn't putting pen to paper, she is an artist manager and a curator.

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