Newstalgia: Why we look back to go forward

From Burberry to Babycham the collision of past with present is creating the future.

Alixanne Hucker

Strategist Missouri Creative


In categories creaking at the seams with new players, brands that can weave in the endearingly familiar with modern twists and tweaks, stand to gain a huge advantage.

This digest covers why brands are getting Newstalgic in 2023, how different categories are taking different approaches, and what we can learn from them. 

What is Newstalgia?

Newstalgia is the concept of colliding the past with the present. Taking references from history and reworking them with modern updates and culturally contextual modifications. From entire subcultures, to an aesthetic detail on a piece of furniture or clothing, it’s a way to harmoniously join the classic and contemporary to create a unique and ownable look.

Why does it happen?

The political, economic, social and environmental climate of our times have us looking to the past for references to navigate, embrace or even escape from it. This plays out in a number of ways…

Escape Today

In a world of unrest and instability, back-to-back unprecedented events and the constant hum of concerning headlines available from our pockets, taking a journey back to a time when the problems didn’t exist, or even when we were too carefree to acknowledge them, is a quick fix of comfort. Newstalgia can act as a psychosomatic comfort blanket, a magnet to good memories and better vibes.


Using the latest AR tech in a purpose-built stadium, Abba voyage transports audiences back to the hey-day concerts of the Swedish superstars. The uniquely immersive experience captivates fans new and old with a sense of larger-than-life nostalgia.

Embrace the old ways

The era of mobile optimisation created a glut of minimalist, mobile-optimised brands, that in their simplicity began to merge into a sea of sameness. Naturally, the pendulum has swung the other way and a desire-space has been created for the ornate, intricate and meaning-imbued design. Burberry’s redesign at the hand of new chief creative officer Daniel Lee provoked sighs of relief from designers the world over, for whom minimalism felt like a necessary evil as opposed to a thoughtful decision. The fully serifed and symbol-dense brand world speaks to a historic Britishness perfectly in juxtaposition with its contemporary photography and modern-day British icons as campaign stars.


Taking it back to the future, Burberry’s Newstalgic rebrand has been the subject of much commentary from the design world.

The visual codes and design cues of past eras are metaphysical shortcuts to conjure the mood and feelings synonymous with the time period. They’re so effective that even new players are calling on the evocative powers of the past to create faux-retro brands that speak to a certain mindset, that lives beyond being clearly read on a mobile screen.


VacationInc. The neo-80’s sunscreen and skin brand, which is even designed to smell like the summers of yesteryear, immerses the wearer in a nostalgic mix of coconut, banana, pool water, pool toy and swimsuit lycra.

Navigate the world

Clothes, tech, even a coffee cup, are all signallers to show our beliefs to the world without saying a word. When people come together over established brands of the past those values have already had time to root and grow into culture in meaningful ways.

These nostalgic and well-established brands can act as an organic algorithm to find more community and subculture (as well as other brands) that align with the original values. And thus heritage brands which choose to revisit the archive of design reviving iconic work and seminal products, are presented with an opportunity to come back to original beliefs, values and founding ideas of the business.


For better or worse, Fred Perry has always been a symbol of sticking it to the proverbial man.

What do we have to gain by being newstalgic?

When new products and brands enter a category, legacy players with rooted historic identities have a clear opportunity. Going back to the future for design allows them to tap back into what made them beloved in the first place.


The impending relaunch of Babycham might see us back drinking the coupes of cut-price sophistication.

New brands alike have the opportunity to transcend demographics and speak to an abundance of shared mindsets, whose visual codes and design cues have been written and established over the ages.

Newstalgia represents a unique intersection of nostalgia and modernity, offering a bridge between what has been and what is still to come. In an era where change is constant, and the pace of life can be overwhelming, the allure of newstalgia lies in its ability to provide a sense of grounding and continuity.

By embracing and reinterpreting elements from the past, we can tap into our collective cultural memories, celebrate our shared heritage, and find inspiration for the future. As technology continues to evolve, newstalgia will undoubtedly remain a dynamic force, shaping the way we experience and interact with the world around us.

Out with the old, in with the Newstalgia.


Alixanne is Missouri’s resident strategist, hailing from a background in brand design and Challenger positioning, alongside copywriting for brands and publications in a multitude of sectors – Food & Beverage, Entertainment, Tech, Tourism, Retail, NFP and Beauty.

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