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How ’90s nostalgia is helping brands boost sales and get through to Gen Z: ‘The reaction to the aesthetic and graphics was wild’

How ’90s nostalgia is helping brands boost sales and get through to Gen Z: ‘The reaction to the aesthetic and graphics was wild’

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In a way, the ’90s never really left us. But for fashion and beauty brands in 2024, the decade—and the women who helped define it—are undeniably back.

In March, Monica Lewinsky was revealed as the face of a campaign for clothing brand Reformation and Fran Drescher starred in fashion brand AMI Paris’s spring 2024 campaign. In the last year, Pamela Anderson has starred in campaigns for brands like Proenza SchoulerSmashbox, and Artizia, while Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra modeled for Skims.

Alicia Silverstone, who reprised her role from Clueless in a campaign for Rakuten in last year’s Super Bowl, was one of the celebrities included in skin-care brand Osea Malibu’s Leap Day campaign outreach last month, along with other celebs who were big in the ’90s, like Alyson Hannigan, Busy Philipps, and Drew Barrymore, Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Osea Malibu, told us. The campaign also included a temporarily ’90s-looking website and ’90s-inspired merchandise in celebration of its founding leap year, 1996.

Palmer said the Leap Day campaign was the “highest-performing campaign [Osea has] had in the history of the company” across both conversions and influencer posts. She said the positive response to the gifted merch, which included a vintage-looking sweatshirt, only demonstrated to her that the ’90s enthusiasm is real.

As more brands start capitalizing on this decade-specific trend, we looked into what’s making these throwbacks resonate.

It’s in the history

For Osea Malibu, the ’90s homage boils down to honoring its heritage and getting the message out about its 28-year history of “living the exact same truth” as a clean beauty brand, even though the term hadn’t been coined at the time of the brand’s founding, Palmer said.

Since 2016, the brand has run a Leap Day promotion where products are priced as they were in 1996, but this marked the first year it went all-in on the ’90s look. According to Palmer, “the reaction to the aesthetic and graphics was wild.”

The sweatshirt in particular was “such a strong tool visually for influencers,” she said, and has given her hope for long-term impact as people continue wearing them.

Timeless appeal

As Skims, which was founded just five years ago, has shown, a brand doesn’t have to have been born in the ’90s to embrace the decade and its stars. The brand has leaned into the aesthetics of different decades, including 

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