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Published: 24 May 2018

InterContinental Launches Audio-Book Service


nterContinental Hotels has collaborated with Amazon's digital story service Audible to create an audio-book library for its guests.

The library, dubbed Stories of the InterContinental Life, was curated by Brendan Francis Newnam, executive producer of literary podcast The Paris Review. The collection pairs works of literature with iconic travel destinations – for example, Brick Lane by Monica Ali for London, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote for New York, and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah for Paris.

Guests sign up to InterContinental's Novel Nights package, which gives them access to the library and allows them to download any one of the audio books for free using an Audible download card. The package also includes late checkout to allow guests to read later into the morning. If guests wish to listen to more than one book, they pay for it as normal.

Newnam will also host a podcast for guests that explores the stories of local people – including artists, chefs, musicians and designers – based in the hotel brand's various cities.

This new collaboration demonstrates how hotel chains are offering guests services that stretch beyond basic room service and tap into a deeper, more experience-led consumer need. For more on this shift, see Luxury Travel Developments: ILTM Cannes 2017 and Rebooting Room Service: Food, Fashion & Beyond.

Published: 24 May 2018

Resort 19 Influencer Show: Valentino

A highly wearable collection of tightly edited silhouettes, a marine-inspired palette and more than a touch of 70s inspiration created a strong commercial template for Pierpaolo Piccioli’s 2019 Resort showing for Valentino.

Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19

The designer tapped into the zeitgeist for all things 70s-themed, with his crisp fit-and-flare silhouettes, giant eyewear and scarf-wrapped heads conjuring up images of Antonio Lopez’s iconic illustrations of the era. Boxy Rockstud shoulder bags and tasselled, block-heeled loafers provided the perfect accoutrements to the gamine girl-about-town looks.

A strongly defined palette of red, white and navy was used in clean colour-blocked mixes or as graphic archival prints. These add a new dimension to the ongoing trend for luxury branding – here reworked as all-over scrolling Nouveau-esque patterns, sharp ‘V’ motifs, graphic scale-mixed typographical slogans and beaded trims. For a softer, more feminine look, think sprays of springtime mimosa and delicate poppies or mixed herbaceous all-overs and hibiscus florals on pretty tinted grounds of lemon, pistachio, lilac and sky blue.

Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19

Strong linear silhouettes featured crisp pleated skirts and waisted A-line shirt dresses, gold buttoned blazers, classic trench coats and logo-driven V-neck knits, complemented by 70s-style denim flares and micro miniskirts – all accented with topstitching or contrast collar detailing. The house’s signature tiers and ruffles came into play too, with flared floral midi-dresses and chocolate-box broderie maxis, while sequins and floral appliqués added to the more decorative appeal.

It’s not just those colour-blocked tasselled loafers that will have impact on the high street next season. Watch for beaded or sequined western-style shooties hitting the sweet spot, along with printed head wraps and giant hoop earrings.

Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19
Valentino Resort 19


  • 70s gamine influences
  • Chocolate-box frills and tiers on midi and maxi silhouettes
  • Crisply styled A-lines and fit-and-flare silhouettes
  • Luxe silk twills, snakeskin, leather and denim
  • Logo-driven prints
  • Pretty florals
  • A graphic palette contrasted with sweet pastels
  • Tasselled loafers, western-style shooties and logo-patterned sock boots
Published: 24 May 2018

Thrill of Exploration: The Shop at Bluebird’s Flagship

The Shop at Bluebird, London

British luxury concept store The Shop at Bluebird has opened a hybrid retail emporium based around the idea of exploration in London's buzzing Covent Garden district.

Previously located on King's Road, it has now taken over the 19th-century Grade-II-listed Carriage Hall on Floral Street. Three floors (15,000 sq ft) of fashion, art and beauty devised as worlds-within-worlds create a sense of multiple experiences that echoes the retailer's eclectic multi-brand offering – ranging from Chloe to fresh talent like Italian label Forte Forte.

The store was created by London agency Dalziel & Pow, which worked to a "Playground of Wonders" theme and gave each department a different design. Yellow zinc dominates the bag and jewellery shop-in-shop, while the fashion department uses a mix of projections and light installations that distort the space, and the beauty area boasts apothecary-style display cabinets in a natural, earthy colour palette.

Hidden behind an understated shop front is the grand light-filled atrium, which features cobblestone flooring (a nod to the building's equestrian past), living plants, a geometric mirror installation and a reflective staircase that plays with the visitor's perception of space. Adaptable rails allow the space to be transformed for events and seasonal displays. See also Shape-Shifting Spaces.

Art curated by the local Fashion Illustration Gallery is on display on the first floor, alongside an eyebrow styling space by threading specialist Blink Brow Bar and a variety of pop-up spaces (currently occupied by Italian lifestyle brand Fornasetti). A rooftop terrace and restaurant are scheduled to open in summer 2018.

For more on experiential retail design, see Rise of the Exploratorium and Beta Blends.

Published: 22 May 2018

Recess Launches Portable Active Beauty


New US personal care start-up Recess is tapping into demand for on-the-go beauty solutions in the active category by tackling a pet peeve among gym-goers: queuing up for showers.

The company is launching portable unisex products that aim to eliminate sweat in a few swipes – condensing a lengthy post-gym ritual into three steps. The range includes Face 101: Cleansing Wipes, Body 101: Deodorant Wipes and Hair 101: Hair Blotters.

With a tagline of “no sink, no shower, no problem”, the products require no water to activate the hero ingredients. For example, the Body 101: Deodorant Wipes combine tea tree oil and acai extract to fight off bacteria, eliminate odour and hydrate the skin.  

Users are encouraged to forgo bulky bottle packaging and use the brand’s biodegradable wipes and blotting paper instead. Another active beauty range that has successfully implemented this compact packaging strategy is Clinique’s Clinique Fit. The Post Workout Face + Body Cleansing Swipes remove excess dirt and oil after exercise, while priming the skin for make-up and bodycare products.

This launch feeds into modern consumers’ enthusiasm for time-saving solutions (as explored in Sports Beauty Steps Up), with 18% of US personal care users wishing their routine was less time consuming (Mintel, 2016). For deeper insights into time-saving beauty and portable packaging solutions see, Agile Beauty and Packaging Futures: In-Transit.

For more cross-category strategies that target fitness enthusiasts, see our Macro Trend Active Lives, as well as BrewDog Launches Cycle Club and Elevating Active.

Published: 22 May 2018

Samsung’s Predictive Text Improves Depression Support

Samsung has partnered with global creative agency BBDO to develop a predictive texting tool that helps users communicate with people suffering from depression.

Words that may seem harmless or encouraging to most can trigger a spiral of self-doubt and hatred in a person with depression. Texting is especially fraught, as it lacks the reassuring social cues of face-to-face communication – such as tone of voice, facial expressions or body language.

Predict to Prevent spots potentially harmful messages and suggests more unambiguously supportive phrases with the same sentiment from a database of more than 100,000 in English and Thai. For instance, 'You will be fine' becomes 'We'll make it through together'.

By recognising this problem, Samsung's project fixes an issue many consumers don't even know exists, neutralises harmful miscommunication before it happens, and helps increase awareness of mental disorders.

An estimated 322 million people worldwide are battling depression (WHO, 2017). With small everyday interventions like these, brands can demonstrate that they take their consumers' experiences into consideration, and supply invaluable tools to shield them from unintentional harm.

For more on how to respectfully address and support mental health issues, see Nurturing Mental Health, Compassion Culture: Embracing Empathy, and our April 2017 Pop Culture Round-Up focus on mental health.

Published: 22 May 2018

Puma x MIT: Biodesign for Sports Products

Puma x MIT Design Lab: Puma Biodesign

A research project led by Puma and the MIT Design Lab in the US explores how biological design could be used to produce the next generation of sports apparel, footwear and wearables. It investigates how living materials such as algae or bacteria can respond in real time to enhance the performance of both products and athletes.

Presented as an exhibition at Milan Design Week 2018, the Puma Biodesign research focused on four experiments: a ‘breathing’ shoe, a ‘learning’ insole, pollution-monitoring wearables and adaptive packaging.

  • The Breathing Shoe: Made from a biodegradable material and featuring a pattern of cavities filled with bacteria and gelatinous matter, this sports shoe’s upper grows its own air passageways to enable personalised ventilation. In response to heat generated by the wearer’s feet, the bacteria consume the gelatinous substance, altering the surface of the shoe. Over time, each shoe adopts a unique look that’s based on the activity profile of its user. 
  • Deep Learning Insoles: This silicone-based disposable insole improves athletes’ performance by incorporating microbial cultures that provide real-time biofeedback.

    The microorganisms detect chemicals in the skin and sweat that indicate fatigue and wellbeing, and respond by outputting specific pH and conductivity changes. These biochemical changes are then registered by a layer of electrical circuits and broadcasted to a smart device via microcontrollers. The data captured from the insoles can be used to track activity patterns and build long-term models of user activity that help to inform the user about their fatigue before it happens.
The Breathing Shoe, Puma x MIT Design Lab
The Breathing Shoe, Puma x MIT Design Lab
Deep Learning Insole, Puma x MIT Design Lab
  • Carbon Eaters: These “microbially active” wearable stickers called Carbon Eaters change colour in response to carbon dioxide in the environment, informing the wearer about air quality while they’re participating in sport outside. 

    Made using algae that changes colour as it absorbs CO2, the stickers turn from dark yellow-brown to bright purple. The brighter the shade of purple, the poorer the air quality. See pH-Responsive T-Shirts for more on visualising pollution, and Living Colour: Dyeing with Bacteria to explore colour-producing bacteria.
  • Adaptive Packaging: The research also looked beyond wearables, developing a living, biodegradable material for packaging. It’s biologically programmed to inflate on demand using heat, allowing it to change shape and structure to adapt to the product within.

    The packaging is made using a biodegradable elastomer and two types of microorganisms: yeast that produces carbon dioxide to inflate air sacs within the packaging walls, and genetically modified bacteria that deflate the packaging over time by degrading the material. It can be designed for short- or long-term use by timing the degradation process using chemical inhibitors that are printed onto the material. 

    See Evoware: Packaging You Can Eat and Packaging Futures: Sustainability for more on biomaterial packaging solutions.

For more on material innovations and progressive products in the fitness industry, see Activated Materials, part of our Active Lives Macro Trend.

Carbon Eaters, Puma x MIT Design Lab
Adaptive Packaging, Puma x MIT Design Lab
Published: 22 May 2018

INBair O2: Brain-Boosting Air Purifier

INBair O2

British air purification tech company Radic8 has designed a portable oxygen purifier, called INBair O2. The device could help office workers reduce feelings of drowsiness in the middle of the day and boost their productivity just by inhaling oxygen.

The book-sized device processes air, purifies it and then delivers it through an inhaler that resembles a headset. It's designed to be an easy-to-use, inconspicuous product for people who would like to use it in their workplace.

Radic8 claims that the percentage of oxygen in offices drops from 21% to 17% as the day passes and more carbon dioxide is produced, which explains why people feel sleepy in the middle of the day. Instead of drinking coffee or eating something sweet, using INBair O2 for 30 minutes is meant to give users a brain boost that will increase their productivity and make them feel brighter.

Priced at $455, the product is available for pre-order from the company's Indiegogo page. It's expected to ship in July 2018.

As concerns over air pollution grow, the size of the residential air purifier market worldwide is expected to reach 21 million units by 2021 (Statista, 2018). INBair O2 is tapping into this trend, as well as the rising interest in maximising personal productivity, by claiming that "pure oxygen enters your bloodstream through your lungs and goes straight to the brain". See also Career Pioneers.

For more on the devices that are helping us to improve our physical and mental wellbeing, see Wearable Technology Show 2018 and Increased Wellbeing: Personal Air Purifiers.

Published: 21 May 2018

Convergence: Eobuwie.pl’s Blended Retail


In a demonstration of ground-breaking retail design, Polish footwear e-commerce giant Eobuwie.pl has blended online and offline within its new physical store in Zielona Gora, western Poland.

The store has no product on the shop floor and is divided into three sections. At the front, shoppers use interactive touchscreen tablets to search for and order items. In the middle section, dominated by seating, they can relax and try on shoes. The rear section comprises the huge stock room containing 110,000 shoe boxes, with each ordered box sliding down through the racking to create an element of theatre.

Designed by British agency Dalziel & Pow, the store features eye-level screens around the entire space, playing rolling content that showcases the wide selection of footwear – some 40,000 styles.

David Dalziel, the design agency’s creative director, said: “This ambitious and challenging concept blends the convenience of online shopping with the fast fulfilment of bricks-and-mortar, setting a new standard for high street footwear retailing.” 

Since 2016, Eobuwie.pl has belonged to CCC S.A, the largest footwear retail company in Central Europe and the biggest footwear manufacturer in Europe.

For more ideas around the subject of versatile – or ‘liquid’ – retail, see our report Beta Blends: Dexterous Store Design.

Published: 18 May 2018

Kengo Kuma Sculpture Absorbs Pollution

Kengo Kuma Sculpture Absorbs Pollution

Japanese architect and designer Kengo Kuma’s latest work of art, titled Breath/ng, is an impressive fabric sculpture that can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars per year.

Created for Milan Design Week 2018, the origami-like hanging structure is made from 120 hand-folded panels of an innovative air-purifying fabric that captures pollution in the air, cleans the particles, and generates clean air.

The multi-layered fabric, called The Breath, was developed by Italian start-up Anemotech. It contains a molecule-activated core that separates and absorbs large amounts of toxic pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides from the surrounding environment. Anemotech asserts that the material has numerous applications in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and it has already been used to make advertising billboards for highly polluted urban areas.

Kuma’s 6m-tall sculpture uses 175 sq m of the fabric, and is constructed using 46 unique 3D-printed joints. The installation was conceived in collaboration with French 3D-modelling company Dassault Systèmes, whose software was used to design the piece.

The project taps into growing global concerns about pollution and its negative impact on both the environment and consumers’ health. A number of future-facing designers and scientists are looking to address the problem by creating toxin-absorbing materials. See the Reducing Pollution section in Considered Environment to discover a number of solutions with real-world applications, such as air-purifying cement. 

Designers, architects and city planners should seek to incorporate such pollution-busting materials into urban spaces – both indoors and outdoors – in order to create healthier environments for consumers. See also Carbon-Negative Building Material Made of CO2.

Published: 18 May 2018

Top 4 Sustainable Beer Initiatives

Pioneering food and beverage brands are looking to waste and sustainability as an opportunity for savvy product development. The beer market is a key sector in this space, with companies tweaking production methods and harvesting surplus and 'waste' ingredients from unexpected places. Here, we round up the latest examples. 

  • Better Brewing Technique: AB InBev, the world's biggest beer company, recently announced a new patented brewing method that reduces CO2 waste and water consumption. Instead of bringing the liquid to boiling point at the end of the process to limit unwanted smells, the beer is brought to just below this temperature and injected with CO2 bubbles, producing the same result. This process reduces CO2 emissions by 5%, water consumption by 0.5%, and evaporation wastage from 5% to 1%.  
  • Leftover-Loaf Libations: Marks & Spencer has collaborated with UK brewery Adnams on a range of ales and fruit beers. The beverages use surplus bread crusts from Marks & Spencer's sandwich production line to replace some of the malt. The Use Our Loaf range includes a triple English hop ale, a raspberry fruit beer, and an Earl Grey pale ale.
Ab Inbev has developed a patented brewing process that reduces energy and water waste
Marks & Spencer X Adnans Brewery
  • The New Yoghurt Drink: Professor Sam Alcaine from Cornell University is in the process of creating a beer using leftover acid whey from New York's Greek yoghurt industry. The alcohol is produced by using multiple strains of natural bacteria and yeasts to break down the lactose. This creates a 2.7% volume beer with a sour and salty flavour similar to gose beer
  • Sustainable Six-Packs: Beer packaging is also an area ripe for a sustainable revamp. More than 100 million marine mammals are affected by plastic waste every year, according to the University of Plymouth (OGP, 2017). With this in mind, Scottish bio-tech firm Cuantec is using the remains of shellfish to create biodegradable six-pack rings, working with local brewery Jaw Brew, with a view to launch them to the market by 2020.

    Likewise, Florida brewery Saltwater Brewery has teamed with US packaging start-up E6PR to trial completely biodegradable six-pack rings made from barley and wheat ribbons left over from the brewing process.
Cornell University
Saltwater Brewery

For more on how brands are working to create sustainable solutions for the food and beverage market, see New Architecture of Taste, New Food Covetables and Packaging Futures: Sustainability.

For more specific examples, see Starbucks Launches Coffee-Waste Latte, Alcohol Made from Tofu Whey, and App Retails Unsold Restaurant Meals.

Published: 18 May 2018

Flavour Immersion: Harrods’ Wine Rooms Entice Connoisseurs

Harrods' Wine Rooms

London's luxury department store Harrods has reopened its wine and spirit rooms as part of the store's ongoing refurbishment. Aiming to entice alcohol connoisseurs, the art deco-inspired space features immersive exploration-based installations, interconnected rooms and VIP shopping services providing in-depth product information.

Situated on the lower-ground floor, the space spreads across 8,000 sq ft and is focused on flavour exploration rather than the specific categories and brands. At so-called 'aroma tables', consumers can smell various scents found in wine, such as apricots or coffee beans. Copper trumpets deliver the smells with the squeeze of a rubber bulb – similar to old-fashioned perfume flacons.

VIP consumers are encouraged to book wine tastings in a private suite for an extra charge of between £100 to £160 ($135 to $217). These are accompanied by live streams from wineries around the world, allowing visitors to see where products come from and how they're made. See also Intimate, Democratic and Inclusive.

An Education Room offers personalised bottle engraving and bespoke cellar plan consultations for those looking to build or expand collections at home.

Designed by renowned London/NYC-based Martin Brudnizki Studio, the opulent 1920s-style interiors boast marble patterned floors and limed-oak timber wall panelling and shelving.

The global luxury wines and spirits market is expected to reach $1.1tn by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 4.8% from 2016 (Allied Market Research, 2017).

For more on premium wine shops, see Alcohol Concept Stores and Retail: Reviving Ritual & Connoisseurship. See also The Rise of the Exploratorium and Immersive Brand Spaces.

Published: 17 May 2018

Vodka Brand Launches Clean-Air Bar

Clean Air Bar

Dutch vodka brand Ketel One has teamed up with London bar No 29 Power Station West to launch the city's first clean-air bar. The space was designed to help Londoners escape from city pollution, and learn how house plants can improve living standards.

The bar is filled with plants that Nasa has found to be effective at removing toxins from the air, including aloe vera, weeping fig, rubber plants and Boston fern. All plants have been supplied by local London urban farm Patch.

Customers can choose from a range of Ketel One cocktails, with ingredients such as basil, mint and rosemary picked from a "living garnish wall". They can also customise the drinks to suit their tastes.

Meanwhile, food comes courtesy of UK chef duo Billy and Jack. Dishes are made from locally sourced sustainable ingredients, such as vodka-cured sea trout with smoked mayo and house pickles, and lamb skewers with labneh, dukkah, spiced date sauce, charred spring onion and spring leaves.

The bar will also host two urban gardening workshops by Patch in late May.

This is the latest example of brands catering for urban-dwelling consumers who are concerned about rising levels of pollution. See New Architecture of Taste (part of our latest Industry Trend The Future of Flavour), Pollution-Fighting Health Drink and Pollution Protection Update: New Formats & Formulas for further case studies.

Published: 17 May 2018

Marram Co: Mood-Enhancing Shaving Creams

Marram Co

British men’s grooming brand Marram Co focuses on scent and its influence on mood as the prime marketing message for its new shaving creams.

The eight shaving creams in Marram Co’s inaugural collection all use different notes to alter the user’s state of mind in different ways. For instance, Time Out is aimed at men looking to unwind. It claims to reduce stress while cleansing, detoxifying and brightening tired skin. The brand harnesses the sensory properties of essential oils, using ingredients such as basil, thyme and cardamom to enhance relaxation.

Essential oils are a growing market, forecast to reach $12.85bn globally by 2025 (Statistics MRC, 2017). We believe aromatherapy is a key area for brands to explore, as consumers look to improve their mood and mental state with scent. Another good example is American tween start-up Scent Republik, which uses vanilla and mandarin in its Fab! fragrance to boost feelings of empowerment.

With each of Marram Co’s shaving creams evoking a distinct olfactory experience, consumers are encouraged to experiment with the scents depending on their mood. For more on this idea, see The Rise of Fragrance Wardrobes and St Giles: Personality-Enhancing Perfume

With a tagline of “bringing pleasure to shaving”, the brand operates on a subscription basis. Each kit, containing a shaving cream of choice, is delivered every four, six or eight weeks, depending on how frequently the recipient shaves and uses up the product. For more on this concept, see Luxurifying Personal Hygiene.

Published: 16 May 2018

Burger King Turns Instagram Stories into Food Orders

Burger King Spain gave consumers the opportunity to build their perfect burger order by using the interactivity tools in Instagram Stories – a feature that lets Instagram users post a series of videos and photos that vanish after 24hrs.

The brand stacked nine Stories – one each per classic ingredient – into its Instagram feed. As fans swiped through them, they could use polling widgets on each 15-second clip to choose their favourite toppings. Once they'd completed the clips, each user received an automatically generated coupon through Instagram's direct messaging system that they could exchange for their personalised burger in store.

Created by Madrid-based ad agency Lola MullenLowe, the 24-hour activation – dubbed Stories Ordering – generated almost 35,000 coupons in under three hours. Burger King also took the data from all of the interactions to surface the most popular burger, with the resulting InstaWhopper then made available across Spain for a limited time.

Instagram claims 80% of its users follow at least one brand account (Instagram, 2017), and the Facebook-owned platform's ad revenue is expected to hit $6.8bn by the end of 2018 (Statista, 2018). As Facebook cranks up the monetisation of its apps, interactive ad formats that reward users' attention in exchange for disrupting their experience of organic content will be vital for brands to sustain consumer goodwill.

For more on unlocking new platforms and formats for conversion, see Take Back Control of Your Brand, Beyond Prime Time and Retail's Fluid Future.

Published: 16 May 2018

Medly, NYC: Painless Pharmacy Retail


US prescription app Medly's first brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, NYC, aims to entice time-strapped New Yorkers with omnichannel retailing in a calm and relaxing setting.

Launched in 2017, the brand has already been redefining the traditional pharmacy retail experience (long queues, unpredictable inventory, rushed service, lack of personalisation) with its app. Users can manage and fill prescriptions without leaving home, pick the packaging of their choice, and have their order delivered the same day anywhere in the city. This additional physical touchpoint now enables them to collect prescriptions in-store, and book face-to-face consultations with pharmacists.

Challenging the often anonymous and uninviting aesthetic associated with pharmacy design, the 1,900 sq ft space boasts a visually distinctive pale aqua interior, featuring geometric pill-shape-patterned flooring and minimalist display shelving – all designed by NYC interiors firm Sergio Mannino Studio.

Dark green leather chairs (inspired by 80s Japanese designer Shira Kuramata) are positioned in the middle of the store, inviting users to relax and socialise while waiting for their orders to be fulfilled behind a marble countertop.

For more on premium chemists and the latest strategies in pharmacy retail, see Medi-Leisure: Modernising the Pharmacy. See also Colour Direction: Evolving Green.