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Published: 24 Sep 2018

Could 3D-Printed Liquid Enable Shapeshifting Electronics?

Researchers in the US have discovered a way to print 3D structures made entirely of liquid. The all-liquid material could be used to construct electronics that power flexible, stretchable devices – potentially unlocking fresh opportunities for industries including wearable design and healthcare.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California are using a modified 3D printer to ‘print’ lines of water into a vat of hydrophobic liquid silicone oil. To stop the water from splitting into droplets, a tubular vessel of “nanoparticle supersoap” surrounds the water to stabilise it and keep it contained. The threads of water are finer than a human hair and several metres long, and can be manipulated into elliptical or round cross-sections that remain stable for months. 

Although the research is a long way from incorporation into commercial products, it has the potential to redefine how designers use liquid materials. The team, led by Tom Russell, suggests that this innovation could also be used to aid chemical synthesis, and serve as a transport and delivery system for nanoscale particles to build components.

According to the research published in Advanced Materials: “Fully exploiting all‐liquid systems that are structured by their interfaces would create a new class of biomimetic, reconfigurable, and responsive materials.” 

On a larger scale, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a breakthrough 3D printing technology which can rapidly produce objects using a robot and a tank of gel. The process improves on the speed, scale and quality of existing 3D printing methods. See examples of liquid printed products in Democratised Design.

Published: 24 Sep 2018

Vice Media Stretches Into the Food Hall Space

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Vice

In 2018, the popularity of Asian-style food halls is booming in the West. Far from the outdated mall food courts of the 90s, these hubs house independent vendors and communal eating spaces. Tapping into this trend, US digital media giant Vice is opening a food hall in New Jersey next year.

The Munchies will be one of two food halls in the new 3m sq ft American Dream shopping and entertainment complex. It will house space for 18 independent vendors, as well as a stage area for chef demos and video shoots.

This is the latest in a series of non-digital food ventures for the media brand, which have included a meal-kit partnership with US brand Chef'd and its first cookbook, which launched in July. For more on how digital brands are stretching their foodie remit, see BuzzFeed's Bluetooth Cooktop and Brand Stretch: Elastic Food & Drink Development.

Food halls are set to be the next move on from street-food concepts – giving the idea a more structured, luxe angle while retaining its independent edge. Other notable developments include London's Market Hall, located inside a disused tube station building (the first three are set to open in the next year), and the Big Apple's Fête New York, a 12,000 sq ft space dedicated to nine up-and-coming chefs, set to open in spring 2019.

See also our New York and London retail guides for more key openings in this space.

Published: 21 Sep 2018

USA Today’s Augmented Reality Model is a Huge Pile of Trash

On September 24, newspaper USA Today will release an interactive augmented reality (AR) model to expose how local government, the mob and the FBI all worked together to continue dumping refuse on a Chicago neighbourhood.

A companion piece to The City – an investigative storytelling podcast – the experience illustrates the corruption surrounding an illegal dump spanning several city blocks in the US metropolis. While listening to the story through the USA Today app, a 3D tabletop AR model of the North Lawndale neighbourhood shows how the dump grew over time, while detailed animations reflect residents' experiences of unfolding events.

Currently, AR experiences need powerful mobile devices, commonly take up large amounts of hard-drive space, and require users to install individual content providers' apps. However, as the number of AR-capable mobile devices is expected to grow to 3.5 billion by 2022 (Digi-Capital, 2018), creators from across the media sector are working to make big experiences more readily available on small machines.

The gaming industry is executing a big push in this direction. On September 13, Nintendo announced that gamers in Japan would be able to play the latest title in the blockbuster game series Assassin's Creed on their Switch consoles. This is extraordinary, as the console itself isn't powerful enough to run the game. Instead, Nintendo will make the entire game available as an interactive stream via the cloud – a groundbreaking direction for universal access to high-end gaming.

Microsoft and Sony, the other two gaming hardware giants, are similarly focused on developing cloud-based gaming. These efforts to make elaborate, interactive storytelling available on any connected screen, will have a knock-on effect for the entire digital entertainment and communications industry.

For more on the latest developments in interactive experiences, check out our coverage of Gamescom 2018.

Published: 21 Sep 2018

S/S 19 Influencer Show: Prada

Other designers may have been combining the mood for empowered women with a return to romantically feminine dressing this season, but Miuccia Prada bucked the trend and looked back to the era of true sexual revolution – the 60s – to inspire her S/S 19 show.

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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19

The 60s gave us the miniskirt, the simple shift and gamine baby-doll dresses – all of which were revived and reworked under Prada’s strict auspices. Silhouettes may have looked demure, but under the sleek duchesse satins, short A-line shapes and souped-up butter-wouldn’t-melt hairbands, there was more than a defiant hint of “don’t mess with me”.

Sixties-style detailing added a playful retro feel, in the form of dressmaker-inspired rouleau bows that trimmed crisp satin shifts, or self-covered buttons on boxy three-quarter-length coat shapes. But there was a more subversive, knowing look in the close-fitting knee-length shorts and plunging swimsuit-style tops, or in the sheer shirtdresses layered over big pants and the strategic cut-outs framing classic cashmere knits and business-like gold studded white shirts.

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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19

The collection’s sleek satins and patterned jerseys were complemented by a typically Prada-esque mismatched palette of vivid lime and vermillion, soft shell pink and spiced browns, along with a focus on black for kick-ass leather dresses and swingy coats, or the liquorice sheen of pailettes.

The simplicity of the silhouettes was elevated by archival all-over Nouveau-like patterns, placements tie-dyes, jewelled trims and photoreal border prints that mixed muted landscapes with bright florals and barely-there images of gamine girls.

Hand-held bags had an overtly ladylike feel, offset with the appeal of sheer knee-high socks and pointed Mary-Janes, while scuba-style sock-sandals brought an unexpected sportswear look into play.

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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19
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Prada S/S 19

NEED TO KNOW:

  • Boxy A-line silhouettes with a mid-60s feel
  • Knee-length shorts and swimsuit tops
  • Sleek duchesse satins, provocative sheers and spongy jersey
  • Placement prints and jewelled trims
  • Dressmaker details like rouleau bows, covered buttons and self-fabric straps
  • Knee-high socks and elevated hairbands, ladylike hand-held bags
Published: 20 Sep 2018

Rebooting Lifestyles: A Self-Care & Makeover Revolution

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Pinterest

September is a pivotal month for consumers seeking rejuvenation and a fresh start post-summer, offering beauty and wellbeing brands a ‘New Year, New Me’ marketing opportunity mid-year.

Online social scrapbooking and discovery platform Pinterest has unveiled its Back to Life report, which rebrands September as a time for new beginnings.

The August 2018 survey analysed British consumer behaviours and found that 38% of respondents believe the end of summer provides a fresh start – a time to make small changes to their routines.

We spotlight two key opportunities for brands in the health and beauty industries.

  • Celebrating Self-Care: Modern consumers are seeking total wellbeing, as they focus on creating a sense of life balance: approximately 37% of survey participants wanted more ‘me time’ following the end of summer.

    Pinterest has identified a pivotal market opportunity – the consumer desire for rejuvenation during the post-summer slump. The appetite for routines that physically and mentally prepare consumers for the days ahead are currently soaring in popularity. In the US, Google searches for the term “self-care Sunday” increased by 850% from 2017 to 2018 (Google, 2018).

    Brands should capitalise on this by rebranding relaxation-promoting products for the ‘Back to Life’ season. A good example of a product that could exist in this new category is American indie beauty brand Aquarian Soul’s Flower Moon Bath Soak. The formula harnesses the power of aromatherapy, using rose, chamomile and jasmine to boost mental and emotional wellbeing.   
  • New Season, New Me: Extreme and subtle makeovers alike are expected to gain popularity after the summer season: according to Pinterest, 18% of Brits would like to make changes to their personal style post-summer (including hair and beauty hacks).

    Consumers’ desire to change their appearances at this time of year could prompt hair salons or other service-led spaces, such as in-store makeover counters, to offer discounted prices as part of a September deal.

    In addition, integrating augmented reality digitally or in retail spaces could encourage this cohort to experiment with new looks in real time. For instance, Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Mirror presents consumers of all skin tones with a selection of signature looks for a quick makeover fix.
Published: 20 Sep 2018

US Supermarket Taps AI to Better Serve the Visually Impaired

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Wegmans has partnered with Aira to help blind shopppers

American supermarket chain Wegmans has partnered with Aira (artificial intelligence remote assistance) to provide blind and visually impaired customers with a substantially improved shopping experience.

The new service uses Aira's app to connect consumers to a remote agent when they arrive in-store, verbally navigating the user around the store and helping them to locate items via live streaming on the shopper's phone camera. The Aira technology also uses GPS, maps and information sourced from the web to help the customer. Free to download, the service is available across all Wegman stores.

Users also have the option of paying for a subscription plan for a pair of smart glasses with an in-built camera, enabling the remote agent to 'see' the store from the user's perspective.

The number of people in the US with visual impairments or blindness is expected to double to more than eight million by 2050 (US Department of Health & Human Services, 2016). Services like Aira are becoming increasingly important in aiding consumer mobility, providing reassurance and offering a more sensorial experience. See our Spotlight Trend The Sensory Opportunity for a deep dive into leveraging the senses to engage consumers on a deeper level.

Roger Tredre, acting head of Retail at Stylus, says: "This move reflects a growing emphasis from retailers on empathetic engagement strategies – in particular, acknowledging the needs of consumers beyond the mainstream."

Other projects to explore include: Assured Living by Best Buy, which helps families take care of their elderly relatives, and lifestyle website Wolf + Friends, which aids parents in designing spaces for their autistic children.

See our report Empathetic Brand Engagement for more on this strategy.

Published: 20 Sep 2018

India's New Market: Homosexual Relationships Legalised

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India has legalised homosexual sex

In an historic ruling, consensual homosexual sex was decriminalised in India on September 6. As the country with the second largest population in the world, this development allows a huge demographic to live their lives as they choose, without fear of legal repercussions (US Census Bureau, 2018).

Now that consensual homosexual sex has been removed from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, it is thought that so-called Pink Capitalism will be a huge boost to India's economy.

The legalisation of same-sex relationships will encourage tourism from the global LGBTQ+ travel market, which is valued at $211bn annually (Peter Tatchell Foundation, 2018). Products and services catering to the particular needs of India's LGBTQ+ community will now also be legally permitted. So it's no surprise that a recent report demonstrates a strong correlation between LGBTQ+ inclusion and economic development (Open for Business, 2018).

The legalisation of homosexual relationships in India opens a new market to businesses and companies that seek to support the interests and requirements of those in the LGBTQ+ community. However, while the law may have changed, India remains a largely conservative society.

To ensure due sensitivity when addressing this topic, see our reports Speak the Language of Now and How to Talk About Sex & Sexuality.

Published: 19 Sep 2018

FIT Pushes for Pink’s Gender-Neutral Future

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Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Colour at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), traces the history of this divisive colour, and argues for a nuanced view. Rather than symbolising girliness, FIT prompts visitors to regard pink as being as versatile as black.

Given evolving notions of gender and masculinity (see Redressing Femininity and Fashioning a New Masculinity), FIT has chosen an apt time to stage this exhibit. It traces how pink came to symbolise femininity in Western cultures, and analyses how non-Western communities and global style subcultures offer an alternative perspective on this representation.

The show is filled with garments that illuminate the mutability of gender stereotypes. Pieces such as an Indian man’s dusty-rose sherwani, a punk-inspired suit from Japan, and a magenta hooded Mexican poncho demonstrate how cultural context can render pink a masculine colour. While adopting it as a unisex hue might seem unconventional for contemporary Western attitudes, FIT lobbies for pink as a gender-neutral colour when considered in a wider cultural context.

The range of featured hues bolsters the idea that pink’s meaning is not fixed. A purple-tinged punk ensemble from British designer Zandra Rhodes triggers a completely different response to a peachy Dior dress from the 60s. This multifaceted approach to pink reflects contemporary preferences, with hues such as Pink Dahlia and Retro Pink highlighted in our  S/S 20 Colour Spectrum.

Although the fashion industry is starting to embrace gender fluidity, the exhibit’s sometimes surprising garments underline a continued need for brands to employ pink in less stereotypical ways. Millennial pink may have gone mainstream, but there’s still commercial opportunity for more hues to become standard.

Published: 19 Sep 2018

Kaja Beauty Brings Asian Beauty to Consumers of Colour

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Kaja Beauty

US-based Korean beauty and tech company Memebox has launched a multitonal make-up brand called Kaja Beauty – capitalising on Asian beauty innovations for the Western market.

Kaja Beauty is set to debut in cult American beauty retailer Sephora’s stores from September 2018. The brand’s aim is to introduce Korean make-up offerings to people of colour via a total of 47 shade-inclusive products, including brow gels, blushers and highlighters. 

“This is an innovative initiative – it takes learnings from Korean beauty while disregarding elements such as ‘whitening’ effects that have made much of this beauty market inaccessible to consumers of colour, until now,” said Stylus’ senior Beauty editor Lisa Payne.

The launch also feeds into millennials and Gen Zers’ enthusiasm for time-saving solutions: 18% of US personal care users wish their routine was less time consuming (Mintel, 2016). For example, Kaja’s Bento product offers a simple approach to eye make-up for users on the go. The curated eyeshadow trio is housed in a compact container and can be applied with fingers to create an array of daytime and evening looks in a few swipes.

In addition, the formulas’ textures deliver a unique sensorial experience for Western consumers – a key learning from Asian beauty. Mochi Pop, for instance, is a buildable cream-to-powder blush. When applied to the desired area, the smooth, velvety consistency of the product dries instantly.

For deeper cross-category insights into Asian beauty, see our Spotlight Trend Asian Beauty Now. To read more about sensorial beauty innovations, see Selling Sensorial Beauty and Revamped & Reclassified: Shiseido’s Bold New Make-Up Range

The launch also taps into the beauty industry’s need for more diverse and inclusive offerings. For more on this, see Revlon’s Inclusive Beauty Brand Targets Millennials and Women of Colour: Breaking Beauty Barriers.

Published: 19 Sep 2018

Carry-Case Kitchen for Space-Poor Millennials

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Assembly by Yu Li

As urban dwellers become ever more space-deprived, kitchen brands and designers are finding creative ways to develop multifunctional and compact space-saving devices. The latest to adopt this thinking is London's Royal College of Art graduate Yu Li, with her portable kitchen.

The designer's seven-in-one Assembly set includes an induction hob, a chopping board, a pot, a pan, a wrap for utensils and cutlery and a dish rack – all of which fits neatly inside a compact box.

According to Li, it's designed for students and young people sharing limited kitchen space, and also offers an alternative to the standard kitchen set-up for nuclear families. "The idea is to trim the original kitchen space down to a few minimal elements so the space can be simpler, neater, and transformed [for] other purposes to increase the space utilisation," she explained.

The nifty, kitchenless kitchen has great potential beyond the student house share. It offers those in co-living spaces a personal option for when they want to cook alone, as well as flexibility for those living in larger abodes, where residents may want to play with space and have a convenient appliance to hand away from the kitchen. For more on this thinking, see New Food Roles & Rituals.

For more clever kitchen design tools for millennial at-home cooks, see Activating At-Home Foodies, as well as Compact Kitchen-Top Dishwasher and KitchenAid's Future Kitchen Concepts.

Published: 18 Sep 2018

S/S 19 Influencer Show: Burberry

Riccardo Tisci’s much-anticipated debut collection for Burberry was the highlight of the penultimate day of London Fashion Week (LFW), and saw him sweep away any trace of its beloved ex-creative director, Christopher Bailey.

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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19

It might have been the week’s hottest ticket, but the usual excitement and romantic frisson of recent Burberry shows under Bailey’s leadership was missing. Maybe it was the rows of boxy leather armchairs and the backdrop of sliding screens which helped create a slick, no-nonsense atmosphere for a collection that was the sum of many parts – from coolly luxe and elegant, to street-inspired looks which carried the hard-edged signature of Tisci’s days at Givenchy.

An opening sequence of muted café-au-lait tones set the scene for beautifully tailored classics, with multiple variations on the trench, swingy knee-length pleat skirts or tapered pants, feminine blouses and ladylike knits. The looks ticked several of this week’s emerging trend boxes – from the flashes of eau de nil and vermillion, to spots and skin prints, while the iconic house check appeared as a ribbon tweed, or redefined as striped blouse weights.

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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19

That quietly refined sense of luxe dressing gave way to something altogether more hardcore and emblematic of Tisci’s signature goth-meets-punk take on badass girls. Here, the silhouette embraced bodycon and casual with a battery of zips and buckled straps, coupled with thigh-high hemlines and leather, slick PVC, pony skin, and a throwback ‘Who Killed Bambi’ logo. And while the opening passage was accessorised with low-key belt bags and grown-up ankle-strap shoes, the more youthful looks were teamed with chunky, childlike patent sandals.

The collection was designed to be all-inclusive, supposedly to draw every age group into the Burberry family. But with 134 looks, the message got slightly lost.

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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19
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Burberry S/S 19

NEED TO KNOW:

  • The sum of two parts: elegant and refined updated classics versus hard-edged and luxe-punk street looks
  • Luxurious neutral café crème tones versus black and white
  • Trending highlights of eau de nil and vermillion
  • Feminine blouses, demure pleat skirts, no-fuss tapered pants
  • Youthful casualwear with inspiration from the street
  • A finale of elegant LBDs could be the go-to dresses for upcoming red-carpet events.
Published: 18 Sep 2018

Coty & Boots: AI Boost for Online Fragrance Sales

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UK retailer Boots now offers a Fragrance Finder for online shoppers

Consumers can't smell perfumes online. But an AI-powered fragrance finder, created by beauty giant Coty for UK retailer Boots, is finding a way around the problem – and reporting very promising results.

Multinational Coty has unveiled initial feedback on its artificially intelligent Fragrance Finder, launched on Boots.com in early 2018. Coty's e-commerce director Jamie Parker recently spoke at Tech., the new retail technology show staged in London (September 12-13).

Coty began with a question, said Parker: "How do we connect people with the fragrances they love?" Interviews with 5,000 people provided the core data for the tool, improved through machine learning.

By asking a series of questions of the online shopper, the company has created an effective solution. Intriguingly, as Parker highlights, the most predictive questions are not about preferred olfactive families (consumers often don't know what they want) – but about colour, architecture or lifestyle.

The Fragrance Finder represents a new take on the Scent Finder pioneered by San Francisco start-up Pinrose in 2014. This was based on a special algorithm developed as a result of a collaboration between Christine Luby, who studied the psychology of scent at college, and US olfactory expert Alan Hirsch from the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

Since a low-key launch with no media support, the Boots.com finder has logged 200,000 sessions, with consumers guided through a seven-stage process. Seventy-five per cent of all sessions have been completed, with 94% undertaken for self-purchase. Details of the uptick in sales were not revealed, but Coty believes it has developed a tool that has potential right across the fragrance category.

Also developed by Coty is an AI CoverGirl 'shop the look' feature for Walmart in the US which, unlike most other similar tools, does not require the consumer to download an app – it's offered in-browser. Coty says traffic has doubled, with sales enjoying a very significant spike. Next up for early 2019: a virtual make-up artist.


For more on personalised beauty, see our report Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke.

Published: 18 Sep 2018

AI Algorithm Identifies How City Structure Affects Health

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Open spaces in cities correlate with lower obesity rates

A machine-learning algorithm has been developed to estimate obesity levels in US cities without directly assessing the medical data of inhabitants. The researchers hope their findings can help future cities improve the health and wellbeing of their residents.

Researchers from the University of Washington studied satellite and Google Maps Street View imagery of city infrastructure and building placement, correlating it with obesity rates in individual cities. They also included 'points of interest' such as food and pet shops, which encourage activity within a district. For example, in areas with shops, people are more likely to walk around and socialise compared to less-frequented industrial districts.

Their initial research has found, unsurprisingly, that green urban areas with widely spaced buildings correlated with lower obesity rates, as these features facilitate physical activity. Despite wealthy areas typically including these elements, validation tests demonstrated that income was only one contributing factor to inhabitants' health; a city's infrastructure also affected its obesity rates.

The algorithm has only been applied to US cities so far, but could be rolled out further afield if adapted to account for differences in city planning and lifestyle across other cultures.

Obesity affects almost 40% of US adults (CDC, 2018). Dynamic approaches to health management in cities is a wise move, as less than 20% of the US population live in rural areas (Census Bureau, 2016). The University of Washington's research will be helpful in planning future urban infrastructure and offers a novel solution to concerns over healthcare.

Our recent blog on Norwegian town Lyseparken illustrates how cities of the future can be built with the wellbeing of inhabitants in mind. For more on the future of urban spaces, see our Smart Cities Spotlight Trend.

Published: 18 Sep 2018

The Macro Problem of Microfibres: Planet Care's Solution

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Planet Care

A typical 6kg washing machine cycle of synthetics releases hundreds of thousands of microfibres into the water stream, according to Slovenian start-up Planet Care. To tackle the problem, the company has developed a filtration solution that aims to provide cleaner water.

Microfibre fleece, polyester blends and acrylic yarn shed fibres into the water stream when washed, which can end up in our drinking water, oceans, lakes and rivers, impacting the health of our ecosystem. When ingested, microfibres can cause problems including infertility, poisoning and genetic disruption, the start-up explains.

Planet Care’s filter works by attracting stray fibres ranging from 0.2-1,000 microns in length into a cartridge, using the electrostatic charge that naturally builds up in synthetics. Once full, the cartridges can be sent back to the manufacturer for recycling.

The company is working with appliance manufacturers to build the solution into washing machines, while add-on filters allow keen consumers to retrofit the solution into their existing appliances. An industrial version is also in development, which can be incorporated into the plumbing of commercial cleaners, hotels, hospitals and other high-volume washing facilities.

A number of home electronics launches at IFA Berlin 2018 focused on washing machine health and sustainable living solutions – for more, see our IFA 2018: Home Electronics report.

And to read about products made from harvested plastic waste, see Evolving Plastics.

Published: 17 Sep 2018

S/S 19 Influencer Show: Matty Bovan

After eight days of mundane shows in New York, Matty Bovan’s outlandish S/S 19 collection blew in like a breath of fresh air on the opening day of London Fashion Week (LFW), neatly summing up the eccentric creativity the city is famous for.

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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19

The designer’s signature ragbag layering is all in place – but this season sees it coupled with an almost polished elegance. Bovan’s experiments with multiple textures and haphazard print and pattern are less creative club kids, more crazy couture.

Extravagant, pastel-coloured tulle crinolines were swathed in luxe tweeds, or trimmed with a cornucopia of handcrafted crochet flowers and trailing scrolls of plastic wire. These were topped with strict corsets and towering headpieces by British milliner Stephen Jones, concocted from household objects.  

A patterned boiler suit, slim-knitted tube dresses, Lycra tops and panne sheaths offer a directional change of silhouette. Worked in a palette of eye-searing neons with graffiti-style prints or intarsia motifs and flashes of Lurex sparkle, all hint at a new sense of luxurious wearability for Bovan.

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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19

This also comes through in the printed bags developed in collaboration with Stuart Vevers, creative director of Coach – a sure sign that this designer is on the brink of taking the next step off the London runway and onto the global stage.

The feeling for the artisanal and creative mash-up ran throughout the collection, coupled with playful fantasy and a punk sensibility. All melded into a wonderfully irreverent look that marks Bovan out as one of LFW’s most creative talents.

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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19
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Matty Bovan S/S 19

NEED TO KNOW:

  • Historical reference points, coupled with punk sensibility
  • Crazy couture meets creative club kids
  • Hourglass crinolines versus elongated tube silhouettes
  • Tulle, tweed, Lycra, knit and jersey mash-ups
  • Graffiti prints and handcrafted trims = artisanal appeal
  • Sugared pastels and eye-searing neons
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