Design of a decade: How the 1990s is having a licensing moment

The last decade of the 20th century was a pivotal period in pop culture. From Brit Pop to New Labour, the rise of the supermodels to Dolly the sheep, the 1990s was a decade which ushered in new technology, new leadership and a host of entertainment brands which are still hugely popular in 2021.

While the retro vibe of the 1980s is still with us, it’s the 1990s which is now the go-to decade for fashion inspiration, TV and movie nostalgia and trend-led creativity.

“90s themed product has really been performing well for us for the past few years,” Lucy Cornish, buyer at TruffleShuffle, tells us. “Our customers love a bit of nostalgia, even more so over this past year. Disney movies such as Hercules, Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, bands such as Oasis and Nirvana, along with films like Jurassic Park and Clueless have been selling well for us. Also toy brands like Care Bears and My Little Pony.”

Popular products have been directly related to the lockdowns we have all experienced, with Lucy confirming that loungewear and nightwear, along with bags, t-shirts and sweats are all selling well.

Lucy continues: “We have a strong and engaged following in their 20s, right through to well into their 40s. Many of this demographic will remember the 90s licences first hand and will always appreciate their nostalgic appeal, plus the re-runs and new movies/series launches targeting the younger customers spreads the reach. Therefore, we definitely intend to launch plenty more 90s/00s product over the coming months. There is a sizable and broad market out there, already keen, ready and waiting to see the next new and unique offering for these 90s brands.”

The Groovy Chick organic cotton t-shirt range from Daisy Street landed on Asos in September 2020, with the launch trending on Twitter.
The Groovy Chick organic cotton t-shirt range from Daisy Street landed on Asos in September 2020, with the launch trending on Twitter.

For Groovy Chick – the brand introduced on hand printed t-shirts in the early part of the decade from Bang on The Door – the arrival of a new organic cotton t-shirt range on Asos from Daisy Street last September, catapulted it back into the spotlight, with the launch trending on Twitter.

“Original fans were genuinely delighted to see Groovy Chick again and it started a lot of nostalgic conversations between old friends,” says Andrew Levy at Licensingpages, the licensing agent for the brand. The bright, bold prints were made with bleach-free cotton and printed with water-based inks, and Andrew says the company has gone back to that ethos and is working with licensees to ensure product is as eco-conscious as possible.

Misirli has produced Groovy Chick socks in organic cotton with FSC-approved cardboard headers, while Aykroyds TDP will be selling organic cotton pyjamas and casual wear. A new range of toiletries is also due to launch later this year.

Andrew continues: “Everyone is looking for an element of calm and security in their lives and remembering brands they loved when they were younger is part of that process. You know what you are going to get with a Groovy Chick range. I think it is the hand drawing, humour and bright, bold colours. She’s always been considered wholesome, safe and evokes happy memories. The designs somehow remain fresh and appealing. Those equities endure.”

Beavis and Butt-Head are one of the 1990s brands included in the Tommy Hilfiger ‘Blast from the Past’ capsule.
Beavis and Butt-Head are one of the 1990s brands included in the Tommy Hilfiger ‘Blast from the Past’ capsule.

One of the most high profile pop culture collaborations this year has been between fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger and ViacomCBS Consumer Products. The ‘Blast from the Past’ capsule features iconic characters and logos from Nickelodeon and MTV including Beavis and Butt-Head, MTV and Ren & Stimpy.

“We’re always looking to partner with some of the brands that have made the biggest impact through a nostalgic lens, and Tommy Hilfiger has undoubtedly been a force in the fashion business for decades,” explains Jose Castro, svp licensing collaborations and specialty retail at ViacomCBS.

“Nostalgia isn’t a trend, it’s here to stay, not just in fashion but in our everyday lives. With everything especially heightened this past year, there is a sense of security and comfort we feel from remembering simpler times. When people look at these trends – fashion, home décor, movies, reboots – all of this is about having a moment of innocence and fun.”

Classics 1990s sitcom Seinfeld has been celebrated with a LEGO Ideas set.
Classics 1990s sitcom Seinfeld has been celebrated with a LEGO Ideas set.

Big in the Nineties

At the cinema: From Fight Club to Pulp Fiction, charismatic Chianti drinking serial killers to loveable slackers, the 1990s was a golden time at the box office. Just some of the big name blockbusters we flocked to watch on the big screen included Casino, Titanic, Swingers, The Shawshank Redemption, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, There’s Something About Mary, Schindler’s List, Wayne’s World, Jurassic Park, Clueless, Scream, Seven, Toy Story, The Matrix and The Silence of the Lambs.

On the small screen: It was the decade that we fell in love with Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld, introduced us to Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, aliens became cool thanks to Mulder and Scully and vampires were slayed by Buffy. Saturday nights were given over to Baywatch, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Gladiators, while ER gave us George Clooney and Blossom introduced us to Mayim Bialik.

In the charts: Singles boomed in the 90s, with every style of music represented in the charts at any given time in the decade. From Brit Pop to boy bands, grunge to girl groups, reggae to Euro pop, with even Teletubbies getting in on the action. Thank you for the music Oasis, Spice Girls, Blur, Take That, Pulp, Nirvana, Shaggy, Celine Dion, Mariah, All Saints, Boyzone, Hanson and many more.

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