British airline Virgin Atlantic has just become the first European carrier to offer transatlantic wi-fi across its entire fleet. To promote this new amenity, Virgin will reverse the flow of on-board entertainment: instead of packaging content from the outside world for its passengers, the carrier will host and broadcast live comedy shows taking place on airborne planes.
On September 28, six US comedians will take off from London Heathrow on six separate US-bound flights. Abbi Jacobs, co-creator of broadcaster Comedy Central's show Broad City, is headliner and curator of the #LiveFromVirgin Comedy Festival. Rather than perching on a wooden stool in the aisle, the comedians will use Virgin Atlantic's on-board wi-fi to broadcast their sets in Instagram Stories and tweets.
"There have been airlines that have done movie screenings and live music, but those are all for a very small audience, for the people flying," explained Scott Vitrone, partner and chief creative officer at Figliulo & Partners, the agency behind the festival. "We want to broadcast it to the world." The #LiveFromVirgin Comedy Festival ties into an existing hashtag the brand already uses to share moments from its passengers and staff in the air.
For more on sharing live experiences on digital channels, see Retail's VR Future: Communal Digital and Rebuilding Consumer Trust: Advertising Week Europe 2017. For the latest industry insights on social engagement, look out for our coverage of Social Media Week London 2017, publishing this week.
Spotlighting the growing importance of live, conversational and more intuitive forms of real-time commerce, UK trade publication Retail Week’s inaugural Tech conference took place in London last week (September 13-14). Tackling both here-and-now and futuristic concepts driven by artificial intelligence (AI), key developments include the prospect of brain-controlled interfaces and robots. Here are the highlights.
A collaboration between British furniture designer and maker Sebastian Cox and design strategist Ninela Ivanova has resulted in a range of stools and lights ‘grown’ from mushroom mycelium and waste timber.
The Mycelium + Timber collection is formed as the mycelium grows around purpose-built wooden frames, binding the pieces together. Scrap coppiced hazelwood and goat willow (two British species with no economic value) are combined with the mycelium species fomes fomentarius – a pairing identified as the most effective following the duo’s extensive research.
The mycelium is grown in vats, creating a malleable material that can be moulded into shape by the designers before being dried out. Once dried, the furniture is incredibly strong, sturdy and lightweight. A suede-like texture occurs naturally on the surface, adding an interesting and domestic quality, and the pieces are also completely compostable.
This process of biofacture – where biological organisms are used to manufacture new materials – is used across multiple applications, with bacteria, algae and protein fibres providing sustainable material alternatives. By taking advantage of the symbiotic relationship between wood and fungus, this collection explores the potential of mycelium as a material in commercial furniture design.
Mycelium + Timber was presented at the Design Frontiers exhibition at Somerset House in London (September 18-24), which coincided with London Design Festival 2017. Look out for more coverage of this event. For more on natural composites, see New Naturals and Home Ground: Materials.
A strong S/S showing from Miuccia Prada, dedicated to the power of women and their strength in the face of adversity. That message was delivered in everything on the runway, from the masculine tailoring, to the rock-studded accessories.
Celebrating the strength of sisterhood has been an ongoing preoccupation of the designer over the past few seasons, and the influence manifested itself for S/S 18 with a play on masculine/feminine, boy-meets-girl silhouettes, colour and fabrication.
Think masculine tweeds and feminine brocades, sassy skin prints and small-scale geos, boyish shorts and full 50s circle skirts, neat buttoned-up shirts and sexy back-slit pencil skirts. These played out in a palette of boardroom blacks and greys with pops of girly pastels and juicy brights.
Powerful shoulder lines and pushed-up sleeves informed the mannish coats and jackets that ran through the collection. Some garments were printed to celebrate crease lines, while other pieces bristled with customised studs, beads and paillettes. The season’s emerging plastic mac was present and correct too, here in glossy spot-printed patent.
Pastel-hued kitsch cartoon graphics and an all-over comic-book print were key standouts, mirroring the blow-up cartoons that provided the backdrop to the show. Think cute Manga-girl motifs, 30s and 60s comic-strip heroines and cartoon imagery of Angela Davis, the celebrated 70s US revolutionary. Her famous quote – “To understand how any society functions, you must understand the relationship between the men and the women” – could have been the mantra of the show.
Offsetting the brocade dresses were asymmetric knitted tanks and thrift-shop-styled coats, a raft of iconic nylon Prada satchels, studded sandals and kitten-heeled stilettos, hardware-trimmed brogues, and luxe croc handheld bags.
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US payment processing tech company Square is strengthening its relationship with growing businesses by giving its relatively intangible services a physical touchpoint: a support-centric showroom in SoHo, New York.
Called Square Showroom, the ‘store’ lets customers test new hardware and software products in an intimate setting alongside company representatives. Additionally, it provides on-site training, demonstrations and troubleshooting for specific products, plus one-on-one brand consultations to help prospective clients determine which payment solutions (both online and offline) best suit their needs.
It will also host sponsored events and business workshops to witness first-hand how retailers use its products, facilitating more comprehensive R&D (for more on this, see Intimate, Democratic & Inclusive and our forthcoming report Beta Blends: Dynamic & Dexterous Design, publishing September 25), while testing the waters for further showrooms.
Adding contextual weight to the concept, the flagship also carries a curated selection of products from eight partnered businesses – brands presently using Square, such as independent jewellery makers and product designers – which will be updated monthly. It’s open by appointment only on weekdays, and to the public on weekends.
It’s not the only concept to translate an entirely online experience into the physical realm this month. Japanese messaging app Line has opened a toy store called Line Friends in New York’s Times Square to promote the brand’s emoji-like characters and establish its presence in the US market.
For more on the value of brands providing greater support systems for consumers, see Purchasing Peace of Mind in The Supportive Sell.
Milan Fashion Week got off to a rip-roaring start with Gucci’s ode to all things glitzy and retro-inspired. Designer Alessandro Michele gave us 70s Princess Diana tweeds, 80s Dynasty shoulders and the razzle-dazzle of Elton John’s vintage costume box, via the overblown excesses of Farrah Fawcett hair.
Vintage influences are nothing new from Michele, who has magically revamped the Gucci label with his references from the past. This season, the designer did nothing more than evolve his signature maximalist style, delivering looks that will resonate in a big way with the fast-to-market end of the high street.
Many of the looks on display confirmed messages seen elsewhere this season, albeit done with all of Michele’s customary panache –sequins, tick; satin, tick; metallics, tick. But running alongside were strong-shouldered tweed blazers and demure, ladylike pleated skirts, exaggerated blousons (emerging as a key trend here in Milan) and starry red-carpet 70s maxi dresses, along with a classic brown mink coat – the signature uniform of Milanese matrons and ‘Park Avenue princesses’ back in the 80s.
Flame-like jewelled trims were the motif du jour, seen on everything from the shoulders of 80s-style leather jackets to boldly coloured knitwear. These were worked in Michele’s incongruous style, featuring delicate 18th-century sprigged florals. Branding was everywhere – from the Gucci slogan sweats to the double GGs embedded in plush velvet, or worked as a fine jacquard on linear knit separates and all-over micro repeat prints.
As ever, the collection was the sum of its parts. The influence of items like those jewelled blousons and 70s shellsuits, plus the myriad accessories – from the chunky jewelled double-G pendants to the padded hairbands – will be the high-street’s takeaways for S/S 18.
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Lifestyle marketing and time-tailored solutions are key drivers for a new wave of beauty products, touting month-long skincare programmes and special-occasion regimes that cater to consumers looking for guaranteed results.
“There is mass appeal and a lot of promise in the merging of needs-based solutions and lifestyle marketing. This idea will grow,” Deanna Utroske, senior correspondent at industry news source CosmeticsDesign.com, told Stylus. Two new launches are capitalising on the concept of time-dedicated beauty regimes:
For more on time-based beauty solutions, see Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke.
Nike has partnered with UK-based eco leather brand E-Leather to develop a new “super material” called Flyleather.
The textile innovation was created after the sportswear giant found the production of leather – its 10th most used upper fabric – was disproportionately unsustainable compared to its other materials.
The fabric is made by mixing loose fibres and recycled leather offcuts with a polyester blend to create a paste, which is then rolled out into sheets of “new” leather. Any waste goes back into the production process, creating a closed-loop cycle.
The flexible textile is five times stronger and 40% lighter than full-grain leather. It also uses 90% less water to produce and creates a carbon footprint 80% lower than traditional leather.
The eco-friendly material was appropriately launched to coincide with New York’s Climate Week (September 18-24) and forms part of Nike’s pledge to reduce its environmental footprint by 50% by 2020.
Sleek MakeUp has launched a global campaign called My Face. My Rules in a bid to tackle make-up shaming. Touching on themes of empowerment, individualism and uniqueness, it aims to positively acknowledge everyone’s right to define their own beauty.
The British brand’s comprehensive range of inclusive and accessible colour cosmetics cater to those often ignored by the mainstream beauty industry. The campaign encapsulates its core values of diversity and individuality, with images and videos featuring its own consumers, who were cast via social media. It showcases their make-up skills and inspiring responses to negative personal experiences.
The brand worked with international anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label to commission a corresponding survey. It found that 75% of people think women look better with no or less make-up, while more than a quarter of respondents had felt judged for wearing it. “We hope this research will contribute to the growing discussion against make-up shaming, and will bring us a step closer to our vision of a world that is fair, equal and free from all types of bullying,” said Liam Hackett, the charity’s founder.
Sleek MakeUp has also released a manifesto alongside the campaign that aims to encourage conversation around the representation of make-up lovers in society. It pledges to challenge beauty industry norms and continue supporting its consumers’ passion for cosmetics.
US jewellery brand Tiffany & Co. has jumped into the growing pool of brands taking a socially active stance by launching an international artists support programme Outset, which is kicking off in London.
Seven London artists (all MA graduates from major London colleges) will receive rent-free studio space and may get an opportunity to work with Tiffany on pieces for its London stores. The move responds to London becoming prohibitively expensive for young artists to live and work in, despite its heritage as a hub for experimental creative talent.
“London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. There’s a big disconnect between the cost of living and being an artist here,” said Richard Moore, Tiffany’s British-born vice-president and creative director of store design and visual merchandising.
Moore inferred that more arts-backing initiatives are to come, continuing a core brand legacy. Louis Comfort Tiffany, the brand’s inaugural design director (1902), was a leader of the Art Nouveau movement, while in the 1950s its head of design, Gene Moore, commissioned then-fledgling artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to create window displays. Tiffany also sponsored the 2017 Whitney Biennial, spotlighting contemporary American artists.
Beyond illustrating brand generosity and artistic legacy, Outset also highlights Tiffany’s ongoing rebrand, from stalwart of the traditional jewellery scene to modern label. See Tiffany & Co. Rebrands Via Pop-Up and Same-Sex Tiffany Ad Fuels Rebrand.
See also Jewellery Retail’s New Horizons.
Unilever's tech incubator Foundry launched a report on global collaboration between brands and start-ups at marketing conference Dmexco this month. The State of Innovation predicts that corporates and start-ups will work side by side in the same physical space by 2025, with four out of five (80%) businesses saying that start-ups can have a positive impact on a large company's approach to innovation.
The report emphasises that "tech tourism" – where brands make a short-term investment in start-up-driven initiatives as a kind of box-ticking innovation exercise – is of little worth. "Collaboration can no longer be viewed as an optional extra – it's a strategic imperative," said Aline Santos, Unilever's European vice-president of global marketing. "Start-ups are now widely recognised as invaluable sources of innovation, fuelling growth and providing pioneering business solutions."
The Unilever Foundry has successfully helped scale up 48% of its pilots in the past three years. One of its latest projects is a direct-to-consumer ingredients app for Hellman's in collaboration with on-demand delivery app Quiqup. See Rapid Retail: Hellmann's Trials Impulse Groceries App for more.
Incorporating start-up strategies into your business is something we discuss in Marketing Like a Start-Up, and will be exploring in even more detail in our upcoming Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution.
Preen delivered one of the season’s most delectably pretty collections, with cobweb-light silhouettes and a delicate colour palette delivering an escapist dream in today’s troubled times.
Simple cottons and washed linens spoke of a more secure, homely past, worked into languid, deconstructed shapes with the tiniest accent of vivid red dressmaker embroidery.
That same homespun dressmaker feel ran through the collection’s delicate ruching and pin-tucked details, mousetail-thin rouleau ties, patchwork-effect sweaters and ‘Sunday best’ Puritan collars. Deconstructed looks were another recurring theme, best seen in boudoir-style satin and lace pieces, layered with a seductive insouciance.
Soft, unstructured linen trench coats and slouchy pants added a covered-up feel to contrast with romantically wispy slip dresses worked in feather-light Chantilly lace, light-as-air silk organzas and crystal-studded cobweb lace. Meanwhile, colour reinforced the romantic escapist vibe, with a palette of barely there tinted pales and faux nude tones, shot through with flashes of vivid scarlet, black and white.
Ruffled asymmetric hems, lace edging, floral sequin motifs and off-kilter drawstring effects were just some of the details that defined the look, alongside childlike knee-high socks, deconstructed organza bonnets and simple slipper flats.
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A new exhibition by London-based artist and textile designer Caitlin Hinshelwood presents a series of strikingly coloured textile banners inspired by the folk practices of the UK’s historic weaving communities.
Kissing the Shuttle explores ideas of protest and resistance inherent among the industrial workforces of north-west England and Northern Ireland, as well as their camaraderie and traditional songs. Research drawn from various British institutions resulted in imagery influenced by the symbolism, speech and customs of the textile trades during and after the Industrial Revolution.
Referencing union banners, the large-scale textile pieces are screen-printed on silk in brilliant shades of orange, purple and green. Embellishments of rosettes, ribbons and fringing are reminiscent of folk costumes and historic trade union regalia.
Hinshelwood’s refreshing use of colour leads to unexpected pairings. “I always try to dye a few [base fabrics] in colours I don't like or know what to do with,” she told Stylus. “It forces me to embrace new combinations and challenge my perception of colours I ‘like’.”
Her perception is also influenced by colour-blindness. “People find it surprising… but I don't really think about it,” she says. “I just make the colours as I see them or want them to be. Sometimes I realise the colour I think I've made is different to the way someone else sees it, but I don't think that really matters.”
Held at London’s Cecil Sharp House, the exhibition runs from September 26 to January 28 2018. For more on colour perception, see Breathing Colour Exhibition.
American Latinas (Hispanic women) are increasingly well-educated, progressing financially and influencing mainstream buying behaviour, according to a new report from global market research company Nielsen. Highlights include:
Simone Rocha delivered one of the prettiest collections of the season so far, tapping into the emerging mood for escapism with silhouettes straight from the Victorian nursery.
The look was the culmination of the Victorian/Edwardian influences that have underpinned the high street in recent seasons, with frou-frou ruffles and flounces adding volume to swingy, smock-shaped dresses.
Pouffed bubble hemlines added to the babydoll look, highlighted with a palette of crisp white and palest balletic pinks, along with the quirky, homespun embroidered doll motifs tracing the edges of soft, undulating frills. Rocha delivered a darker Victoriana mood in the collection’s black taffetas, jet beading and funereal satins, alleviated by sprigged rosebud florals and simplistic sequined daisy flowers on sheers.
Crisp cottons, broderie anglaise, organza and ethereal tulle were offset with the more sculptural appeal of moire taffetas and the rustic touch of rose-patterned, homespun tweeds, with their tufted floral trims. Meanwhile, elegantly worked bias satin dresses straight from a 30s boudoir delivered a change of tack.
It may not have been the season’s most commercial collection, but it perfectly encapsulated the emerging mood for a return to simpler, childlike-times. There were plenty of influences to inspire party developments, along with covetable accessories like the squishy clutch bag, cellophane-look sandals and red velvet Mary Janes.
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