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Published: 17 Nov 2017

Beijing Design Week 2017

Beijing Design Week (September 23 to October 7) has become a cultural highlight for China’s bustling capital city since launching in 2009. This year’s theme was Design+, with designers and tech companies collaborating to investigate the future of urban planning, transport and public activity.

Studio HVN
  • Evoking the Natural World: Designers embraced the natural world’s association with ancient Chinese mythology, drawing on solar spectacles and natural phenomenon to create works with an embedded sense of wonder.

    The eclipse has been recorded by Chinese astrologers for more than 4,000 years, with ancient folklore describing a dragon eating the sun/moon. The astronomical event is celebrated in a rug collection by Dutch Beijing-based Studio Henny van Nistelrooy for Chinese manufacturer Tan.

    The rugs feature tessellating shapes in varying tonal shades, giving the impression of two different pieces of material layered on top of one another, mimicking the interaction of shadow and light in a solar and lunar eclipse.
  • New Thinking with Traditional Materials: The use of traditional and typically Chinese materials exuded a strong sense of national identity, with designers paying homage to local resources and techniques.

    Chinese designer Jeff Dayu Shi, founder of Dragonfly studio, presented his Yin Xian collection of bamboo timber furniture. It references traditional archetypes, with throne-like emperor seats realised in vertical and horizontal slats. This construction method creates interesting shadow play as a modern interpretation of the traditional Chinese screen.
Studio HVN
Studio HVN
  • Space-Saving Technology: The renovation of Hutongs – narrow alleyways of traditional Chinese courtyard homes – was a persistent theme. Designers used these historic dwellings as a platform to vividly contrast between old and contemporary China.

    Chinese studio Dot Architects was inspired by this theme, revealing the Baitasi House of the Future developed for Chinese tech company Whaley. The concept home integrates Internet of Things technology in movable wall and furniture modules that are controlled via a smart television, allowing for the interior to be reconfigured in multiple ways.

    Similarly, international creative project consultancy About Asia hosted one-day workshop The Best 50m2. Designers, artists and performers led a group of eight participants to transform a 50 sq m plot into a useful public space – resulting in a bamboo structure and children’s maze erected on-site.
Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
Dot Architects and Whaley Technology
  • Mapping Out an Urban Future: Designers harnessed advanced 3D printing technology to create realistic models and better anticipate the needs of growing urban centres.

    Chinese firm Mars Architects and Dutch-Chinese research institute the Dynamic City Foundation collaborated on The Node//Multimodal City – a detailed, 3D-printed model of a futuristic metropolitan landscape. The project helps visitors to visualise a hyper-dense urban environment and proposes a vertical infrastructure, whereby the city is segmented into varying strata layers for maximum public mobility.
  • Accessing Escapism: Concern for social and mental wellbeing in the face of large-scale urban development was manifested in projects that offered a rejuvenating mental and physical escape.

    Aranya is a coastal development in northern China, and a popular destination for the country’s politicians and social elite. Beijing architectural firm ReMix Studio designed BaitaSea as a spatial installation, employing morning-like mist, ambient wave audio, purple lighting (mapping the gradient of the shifting sky) and sand transported directly from Aranya’s beaches to create a soothing escape from the city.

Read Apac Mentality for more on how consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are returning to home-grown brands. For more on the changing values and perspectives of China’s emerging consumer tribes, see China’s Youth: Challenger Consumers.

MARS Architects
MARS Architects
ReMix Studio
ReMix Studio
ReMix Studio
Published: 16 Nov 2017

Hims: Reframing Male Hair Loss


Boldly reframing the traditional approach to male hair loss, American men’s grooming and wellness start-up Hims offers hair-loss products aimed at millennials.

Founded by entrepreneur Andrew Dudum, the range presents a complete hair kit of effective ingredients. Finasteride pills treat male-pattern baldness at the crown and in the middle of the scalp, while a DHT-blocking shampoo reduces the hormone that causes hair loss, and minoxidil drops claim to aid new growth.

Engaging with The Male Groom Boom in the US, the packaging boasts millennial pink tones and a minimal, contemporary feel compared to the medicinal, aggressively masculine styles typically adopted by the male grooming sector. The beauty industry is evolving and embracing new notions of masculinity by rejecting these traditional aesthetics – see Instagangs: Femboys. A similar trend is also occurring in the fashion industry – see Fashioning a New Masculinity and Soft Vs. Hard Masculinity.

While hair loss is a common problem for older men, Dudum’s recognition of hair loss as a burgeoning concern among millennials is plugging a lucrative gap in the market – which is worth $4bn in the US alone (Ibis World, 2016). In an interview with online fashion and beauty news source Glossy, Dudum said: “We were all suffering in silence, because none of us had the courage to recognise that we were in it together and could help each other.”

For more on masculinity and male grooming, see The Barbershop Boom.

Published: 16 Nov 2017

Western Brands Cash In on China’s Singles’ Day

Singles' Day 'The Arrivals'

Perhaps not surprisingly in the era of globalisation, Western retailers have finally added China’s Singles’ Day (the biggest money-spinner on earth in terms of retail ‘events’) to their list of ‘holidays’ to target.

Invented eight years ago by Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba as an antidote to the disenfranchisement of Valentine’s Day, Singles’ Day – November 11 – now generates more instant sales than any other global shopping day. Alibaba took an astounding $25.3bn of sales this year (up 40% from 2016), while Chinese e-tail competitor amassed an impressive $19bn (90% of all transactions made on Alibaba were made via mobiles, Alibaba, 2017). In comparison, combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US amounted to $6.79bn in 2016 (Forbes, 2017).

Buoyed by these successes, Western brands are beginning to wade in on the event, including US fashion store Opening Ceremony, German luggage brand Rimowa, L’Oreal and Unilever. All collaborated with Alibaba on appearances during its shoppable See-Now-Buy-Now fashion gala (broadcast on seven platforms including local TV, reaching 100 million viewers), or by launching limited editions in 60 pop-ups in 12 Chinese cities.

Several independent Western brands hijacked the holiday to present global e-shoppers with another reason for pre-Christmas spending. Outerwear brand The Arrivals and lifestyle store Need Supply in the US as well as British fashion concept store LNCC all ran marketing campaigns, largely e-newsletters, containing promos anchored in being single – plus 11% discount codes. See also China & Beyond: Singles’ Day Goes Omni-Channel.

“With over 225 countries taking part in the festival this year, it’s clear that the world is paying attention from a shopping perspective,” says Gareth Ellen, chief operating officer and regional planning director of China at marketing agency Geometry Global. “Clearly there are some western brands ‘getting it right’ and winning big during this retail extravaganza. Three of the top 10 selling brands in this year’s Global Shopping Festival were Western; Nike, Uniqlo, and Adidas, while in the cosmetics category six of the top 10 brands were from outside China – including L’Oreal, Estee Lauder and Lancome.”

For more on rethinking retail’s shopping ‘holidays’, see Renegade Retail

Published: 15 Nov 2017

Beer for Menopausal Women

Portsmouth Brewery

New Hampshire-based craft brewer Portsmouth Brewery has launched a new beer that claims to reduce the symptoms of menopause.

The beer, named Libeeration, is a gruit-style ale that contains ingredients known to calm menopausal symptoms, including motherwort and mugwort (to reduce hot flushes and night sweats), lemon balm (for better sleep), chamomile (to help with anxiety) and damiana (for balancing hormone levels). It also includes saphir hops, which offer a hint of tangerine flavour and are said to help promote restful sleep.

The beer was created in consultation with women's health practitioners and herbalists, spending six years in development.

For a broader look at the incorporation of alcohol into healthier and more conscientious lifestyles, see Alcohol's Healthy Future and Alcohol Trends 2017. See also Alcohol's New Female Focus for more on how the industry is including women in order to broaden its traditionally male-focused marketing reach.

For other brands looking to ease symptoms of the menopause, see Grace: Relieving Menopausal Hot Flushes and Mature Beauty. For other female-centric product positioning, see Natal Nutrition.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Oak Packaging Ages Alcohol in the Bottle


Designed for distilled alcoholic spirits such as rum and whiskey, Brum is a packaging concept that incorporates oak timber into the bottle, allowing the maturation process to continue at home. 

Brum was conceived by Bram van Oostenbruggen, a Dutch designer and recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Inspired by his experience of distilling spirits as a hobby, van Oostenbruggen sought to invent an alternative for storing and ageing alcohol that encourages the drinker to form a deeper appreciation of the maturation process. 

Brum’s design features a cut-glass bottle that’s attached to a panel of oak timber and secured with a silicone seal to prevent leakages. The inclusion of oak timber in the packaging allows the spirit to continue maturing after it has been transferred into its individual bottle, just as it would in an oak barrel.

The use of Brum packaging also speeds up the ageing process. With smaller batches, the alcohol comes into closer and more consistent contact with the oak timber. In just a few months, the spirit contained within is able to reach a level of maturation usually achieved after several years.

Alcohol stored in Brum packaging continues to mellow even after the bottle has been opened and while it is consumed. As a result, the drinker is able to experience the influence of the oak on the spirit’s colour, flavour and aroma – a process usually concealed within the distiller’s cellar. 

Read Packaging Futures and Luxury Packaging Trends: Luxe Pack Monaco 2017 for more brands using inventive packaging to enhance product.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Inc.redible: Insta Beauty

Campaign by Inc.redible

Thea Green, British entrepreneur and founder of cult nail empire Nails Inc. has launched a colour cosmetics line that takes inspiration from Instagram – banking on the social-media platform’s catalytic turnover of beauty and product trends.

Using Instagram as a primary resource for Inc.redible’s vision, Green understands the importance of social media’s influence on millennials and Gen Z: 80% of Gen Z and 74% of millennials’ purchases are influenced by social media (Retail Dive, 2017). In an interview with British Vogue, Green said: “The idea is for the brand to tap into those social-media trends like foil lips, strobe lips, things like that, but to offer wearability as well as creating great swatchability.”

The line encompasses 54 lip products, from matte liquid lipsticks to lip primers. Altogether, the range offers high-gloss textures, pigmented metallic finishes and vibrant colours, as seen on Instagram – a platform that’s emerging as key for a new era of make-up artists (see Instagangs: Make-Up Experimentalists). 

This fast-acting brand follows in the footsteps of London-based 3INA, which releases new products every month based on catwalk beauty trends.

For its campaign, Inc.redible enlisted four ethnically diverse international YouTube beauty bloggers including Nyané Lebajoa from Germany and US-based Vivian Vo-Farmer. It shrewdly uses the hashtag #BeYourIncredibleSelf to promote messages of self-love and empowerment – an incredibly important strategy for connecting with young consumers (see Empowering Beauty).

For more on youth-targeting beauty brands and strategies, see Teen-Targeted Beauty: Product, The Rise of Teen Make-Up and Next-Gen Beauty Marketing.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Wedding Dept. Store Taps Soaring Spending on Nuptials

The Wedding Gallery

British concept store The Wedding Gallery has opened in London’s affluent Marylebone district, capitalising on soaring spending on nuptials. US wedding-planning website The Knot’s 2016 annual survey revealed that the average cost of an American wedding is now $35,329 – an increase of over $2,500 compared to the previous year and, notably, a larger year-on-year hike than any previous period.

Conceived as a one-stop department-store-meets-trade-show for all things wedding related, the 20,000 sq ft space offers dresses and suits (from prestige brands including Temperley London, Oscar de la Renta, Thom Sweeney and Gieves & Hawkes), cakes, perfume, jewellery, wedding gifts, floristry and expert-led hair and make-up advice. Visitors must book £50 ($65) 75-minute ‘tour’ appointments, which begin in a dedicated area showcasing the latest wedding trends. On finishing the tour, participants are handed a list of everything that has caught their eye on the way through.

Acknowledging The Knot’s findings that “total personalisation” is driving the US spend on celebrations, visitors can also begin working on bespoke projects with in-house wedding planners.

While UK wedding spending doesn’t yet match the US – average costs are £15,000 ($19,000) (Confetti, 2017) – savvy British high-street fashion brands are already getting a slice of the action. French Connection is the latest to launch a bridal range. Its inaugural range will hit stores in February 2018 – following Asos, Topshop and Whistles (all British).

See also Rebooting Wedding Retail. For more on the commercial creep of retail/trade show hybrids, see The B2C Retail Trade Show Trend

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Octopus Skin Inspires Shape-Shifting Material

A team of researchers in the US have developed a 2D material that can transform into a complex 3D structure when inflated. It’s inspired by octopus skin – the sea creatures can create bumps and ridges on the surface of their skin as a form of camouflage.

Developed by researchers at Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and the Marine Biological Laboratory, the material is made from silicone rubber embedded with a fibre mesh. The mesh – which is placed in ring formations – can pull the rubber into various shapes when inflated, changing the appearance and texture of the surface.

Initial testing has enabled the team to create a material that can take on the appearance of relatively simple forms, such as round stones and a bulbous succulent plant. However, they believe that more complex and delicate configurations could also be possible.

As in nature, the innovative material could be used to improve camouflage for military purposes and scientific research. The team also predict that it could find applications in architecture and the automotive industry, too – particularly if it can be developed to morph into a variety of forms.

For more insight into how dynamic and responsive materials are driving innovation across the consumer industries, see our Materials Focus report Shape-Shifting Materials. See Sci-Bio for further examples of scientific researchers and designers taking inspiration from natural phenomenon to create intelligent materials that blend our perceptions of natural and manmade.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Digital Soul Seekers: Spiritual & Moderate Youth

Three-quarters of US pivotals agree that it’s cool to be sober

Digital soul seekers are a group within US pivotals (aged 13 to 34) who are pursuing deeper consciousness via cosmic connectedness, personal healing and radical self-care – according to November 2017 research from US online content company Beautycon Media.

Other highlights from the study of 1,000 participants include:

  • Moderate & Mindful: Many pivotals today are choosing to live more consciously. One-third (31%) have made a self-improving lifestyle change within the last six months, while three-quarters (76%) of this moderation-seeking subset agree that for young people today, it's cool to be sober. For more on their increasingly conservative habits, see Moderate Millennials: Generation Staid
  • Embracing Mysticism: Over two-thirds (69%) of pivotals believe in the non-physical realm. This group refuses to follow a prescribed path when it comes to spirituality, preferring to carve out their own spiritual niche to make sense of the out-of-control world they inhabit. See Modern Mysticism for more on how young people are navigating today's turbulent times with magic.
  • Positive & Open-Minded: Pivotals selected 'truth-seeking' and 'positive' as the words that most accurately represent them, from more than 15 options. Two-thirds (66%) said they want to learn about ancient beauty and health practices from other countries. Our Positive Realists report offers more on how good intentions and conscious actions are set to create a new-world reality.

The youngest generations are revealing themselves to be tough customers. To understand how to reach them, see Gen Z: Smart Kids Take Control and Youth in Flux: Millennial 20/20 Summit.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

Marriott Introduces Slack Hotel Bookings


Members of global hotel chain Marriott's Reward loyalty scheme can now book group travel through California-based business messaging app Slack.

To book, members open up Marriott's extension page in the Slack app and type in the city and dates of travel, with the app then providing a few different hotel options to choose from. Should this be a group trip, everyone involved in the chat can vote using the 'thumbs up' emoji. Accommodation can be booked immediately through the Slack app at the best possible rate, according to Marriott.

This is a further example of Marriott's savvy adoption of booking technologies. Earlier in 2017, its Aloft hotel brand introduced a text-based chatbot called ChatBotlr that allowed guests to request basic hotel services such as wake-up calls and laundry fulfilments. It also launched hotel-booking bots for Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Google Assistant, as well as an original Snapchat video series earlier this year that informs guests about updates across the travel industry.

These flexible booking innovations reflect a wider trend for increased autonomy and malleability when it comes to travel and hospitality experiences – as discussed in great depth in our report The Empowered Customer Journey, part of our Industry Trend The Future Guest.

See also Expedia's VR Booking Technology and Expedia Partners with Amazon Alexa for other recent examples of tech-enabled booking innovations.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

Salon64: Luxury Design Meets Social


A new salon concept and luxury destination in London, Salon64 marries bold, contemporary design with social cues that encourage patrons to “meet, work, greet and retreat” while receiving hair styling and treatments. The launch confirms a growing trend for multisensory and multidisciplinary hubs catering to the creative middle class.

Salon64 joins the likes of Les Dada East in Paris and Hues Hair in Melbourne in boasting an unprecedented aesthetic. Designed by award-winning London-based architect Jak Studio and creative branding agency Brash Brands, the space is styled in concrete, opulent marble, golden details and printed tapestries – a nod to the entertainment and fashion history of Soho, where the salon is based. A fire pit is flanked by styling chairs with workstations that open up like a jewellery box, revealing a mirror and space for clients to place drinks or work equipment such as a laptop or tablet. 

Set up by top London hair stylist Ricky Walters, the salon encourages socialising and aims to highlight the conversational exchange between client and hairdresser. This is further pushed by the in-salon Style Bar, serving coffee, alcoholic drinks and bar snacks. This element borrows from barbershop culture (see The Barbershop Boom), where the growing synergy between service, retail and social is being harnessed in more dynamic and profitable destinations for consumers (especially men).

For more on new, progressive hair salons and beauty concept stores that are led by design as much as expert service, see Instagangs: Design Salons.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

Amazon Explores Asian Alcohol Opportunity Via Tokyo Pop-Up

Getty Images

Understanding that even the most powerful e-tailers can benefit from physical touchpoints to retain consumer hearts and minds, Amazon is re-exploring the pop-up scene with a premium bar in Tokyo.

Based in Ginza – Tokyo’s most upscale shopping, dining and entertainment district – Amazon Bar aims to both familiarise Japanese drinkers with the brand’s online offer and push a more premium perception of itself (see Amazon Repositions Via Dazed Mag for more on how it’s tackling this with fashion).

Showcasing 5,000+ bottles of liquor, wine, beer and sake, the 78-seat bar offers an intimate opportunity to explore the expansive portfolio of alcoholic products sold on Amazon’s Japanese e-commerce site. Subtly underscoring the digital/physical overlap, visitors use tablets at the bar to obtain drinks. Rather than ordering from a menu, they receive recommendations based on questions concerning their alcoholic preferences and mood (for more on ‘mood’ retailing, see Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand).

It’s not the first time Amazon has targeted Japanese drinkers. In 2016, it launched a free sommelier phone-call service delivering speedy wine suggestions to suit both budget and food. As the sixth largest consumer of alcohol in the world (Statista, 2017), Japan represents a major opportunity for brands – especially with wine drinking among Japanese women rising 4.5% in the past six years (Euromonitor, 2017).

US payment-processing tech company Square has also opened a store to help communicate its relatively intangible services – see Square’s Support-Centric Store for more.

See also Dexterous Store Design, Pop-Ups Evolve: Tech & Social Media and Alcohol Trends 2017: Imbibe Live.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

JWT’s The New Adulthood: Understanding Xennials

New Adults only see themselves represented in ads less than half of the time

An in-between generation of consumers called New Adults – or Xennials – are growing up, settling down, and subverting the status quo, according to an October 2017 report presented by global advertising agency JWT.

The New Adulthood report explores the motivations and values of this tribe of consumers, who straddle the millennial and Gen X generations and are between 30 and 45 years old. The research includes analysis of views from a survey of 1,755 consumers in the US and 1,768 in the UK. Key highlights include:

  • Feeling Misunderstood: Xennials don't identify with traits associated with either Gen Xers or millennials. In fact, three-quarters of New Adults think that the stereotypes attributed to their generation don't reflect them. Some 72% of these consumers in the UK agree that there isn't a name that reflects their generation adequately. 
  • Working for Themselves: This cohort is keen to earn a living on their own terms, with 59% of New Adults in the US and 40% in the UK aspiring to be entrepreneurs. The rise of tech that allows for self-employment is helping them with this desire and 64% in the US consider themselves to be digital natives. 
  • Advertising Fail: New Adults don't recognise themselves among people most often featured in brand campaigns. They only identify with similar characters or see themselves represented in ads less than half of the time.

For more on these savvy, sceptical and self-reliant consumers, as well as strategies focusing on how best to tap into this influential group, see Gen X: Midults Move Up.

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Free the Bid: HP Supports Female Directors

Free the Bid – an American advertising industry initiative aiming to level the playing field for female directors – just celebrated its first anniversary by expanding into Australia.

The campaign calls on ad agencies, brands, production companies and broadcasters to consider at least one female director for every ad project they realise. Directors' bids (or applications to work on a project) are assembled during pre-production, and it's common not to see any female directors included in the selection. Currently, only 9% of ads are directed by women.

US tech company HP became one of the first brand sponsors of the initiative in September 2016, when it sent a letter to its creative agencies tasking them with increasing the number of women and people of colour on their teams. In tune with this, HP has just released Reinvent Giving – the 2017 holiday contribution to its ongoing Keep Reinventing campaign. The two-minute short film was conceived by BBDO San Francisco and directed by Sara Dunlop, who was selected through Free the Bid.

Levi's, LinkedIn and Twitter are the latest brands to commit to the initiative. Michael Fassnacht, chief executive and president of Chicago-based ad agency FCB, said that taking part in the scheme had led to 95% of its productions including female bids, compared to just 40% before taking the pledge.

An inclusive workforce is beneficial to any organisation, but marketers and advertisers especially need to ensure that their creative teams are as diverse as the audience they're hoping to reach. For more on what companies can gain through inclusivity, see Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff – part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Glass Building Blocks Generate Solar Energy

Build Solar

Solar Squared is a glass block with in-built solar cells that allow a building to generate electricity from within its own architecture.

Solar Squared was created initially at the University of Exeter in the UK as part of a research project looking into new applications for solar technology. However, recognising its potential for residential and commercial use, Dr. Hasan Baig – one of the university professors overseeing the project – decided to found start-up company Build Solar to further develop the product’s technology.

Solar Squared blocks feature intelligent optics that focus incoming solar radiation into multiple small cells, storing it before turning it into energy for the building. By integrating solar technology into the structural architecture, Solar Squared has the potential to transform an entire building or façade into a mechanism for generating solar energy. The blocks have the same dimensions as standard architectural glass blocks, allowing Solar Squared to easily replace existing building material in renovations as well as new projects.

According to research conducted by the Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, part of the United Nations Environment Programme, buildings consume 40% of the total electricity produced worldwide. The use of Solar Squared blocks would enable a building to become self-sufficient by creating its own electricity on-site, separating itself from main power lines and reducing overall costs.

Read Luxury Design Recalibrated for more on how consumers are seeking self-supporting lifestyles and off-grid abodes to escape from an uncertain exterior. For more on the brands creating closed-loop office spaces to reduce consumption and attract eco-conscious employees, see Blueprint for a Better Workplace.