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The Brief
Published: 4 Dec 2018

Kohl Kreatives’ Make-Up Brushes for Motor Disabilities

Kohl Kreatives

British start-up Kohl Kreatives is showing the beauty industry how to design for disabilities with a set of multipurpose make-up brushes.

The non-profit company, which is dedicated to beauty empowerment, was inspired to create the Flex Collection for consumers who have difficulty applying make-up. The brushes are the first of their kind to be catered towards individuals with motor disabilities. 

Each of the brushes in Kohl Kreatives’ patented five-piece collection stands up on its own when set on a surface, as well as having an easy-to-grip handle. All brush heads are also fully flexible, allowing them to be moved and positioned at different angles for better control.

The variously shaped brushes can be used on the skin in a stamping motion, with the softness of the bristles creating a blurring effect rather than a harsh appearance. This helps to smooth out any mistakes made due to unsteady application. For example, the small triangle brush can create a soft-finished winged eyeliner effect when drawn along the lash line, eliminating any wobbles that would usually be visible if using a precise liquid applicator. 

While the multiple shapes in the range can be daunting for users with disabilities to experiment with, Kohl Kreatives provides free workshops and tutorials in the UK and Hong Kong. 

This underserved cohort’s spending power is estimated to be worth $2.1tn globally (Business of Fashion, 2017). Recognising the gap in the market and understanding that this demographic’s needs are not being met by other beauty brands, Kohl Kreatives is going above and beyond to cater to them.

To read more about design strategies for mixed-ability users, see Access for All  and Crafting Modern Connections. For deeper insights into branding for people with disabilities, see A Fashion A’woke’ning and Empathetic Brand Engagement.

Published: 22 Nov 2018

CGI Model Launches Cosmetics for Digital Beings

Perl.www Cosmetics

Artificially intelligent and computer-generated models are starting to infiltrate the beauty industry, as luxury brands and consumers alike embrace these influencers. Could this be a new consumer group for cosmetic developers to target?

CGI model Perl.www announced the launch of a make-up brand for digital beings in November 2018. The brand’s ethos resonates with the idea that colour cosmetics should allow everyone – including AI-powered influencers – to express themselves authentically.

The 23-year-old avatar wants the beauty industry to acknowledge digital entities like herself as they gain popularity on social media. So she created a conceptual range of five essential products for online entities. These include a Pixel Injection to intensify the skin’s dots per inch (DPI), an MHZ Palette for restoring youth, and a Digital Eyeliner with a soft applicator to glide on a line in any colour. 

The interest surrounding cosmetics for CGI influencers could potentially herald the emergence of a new consumer group. In an interview with British style magazine Dazed & Confused, Perl.www said: “Digital beings are a reality, they are consumers with desires and currently no brand has stepped up to offer tangible solutions.”

The collection taps into the notion of inclusivity beyond gender, race, age or sexuality. In an era where perceptions of reality and digital are being challenged, brands need to embrace these emerging communities, who are being acknowledged by mass media.

To read more about CGI’s influence across different categories, see Redressing Femininity: Reality, Colour & Material Directions A/W 20/21: Cyber  and The Sensory Opportunity: Product.

Published: 20 Nov 2018

Museums Wake Up to the Modest Fashion Moment

Contemporary Muslim Fashions

Contemporary Muslim Fashions at San Francisco’s de Young Museum shines a spotlight on the booming modest fashion market, tracing its cultural and economic significance across couture, streetwear and sports apparel.

The multimedia exhibition, which is on view until January 6, acts as celebration of Muslim women’s fashion, exploring the often-misunderstood world of modest dress codes, customs and lifestyles around the world.

The 80-piece display includes designs from the UK, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, ranging from Valentino wedding dresses and traditional satin ensembles by Indonesian designer Dian Pelangi, to Nike-designed hijabs and youthful sportswear pieces by London designer Sarah Elenany.

Going beyond the designs themselves, the exhibition features an area dedicated to social media’s impact on the industry, highlighting the bloggers and influencers who have become role models for those under-represented in traditional media. 

The Muslim fashion consumer represents a powerful economic and cultural force. With Muslims’ global consumer spend expected to reach $3tn by 2023 (Thomson Reuters, 2018), brand and retailers have been increasingly taking note, creating product offerings that appeal to this widespread demographic. However, an exploration of the topic behind the consumption is largely overdue, with Contemporary Muslim Fashions the first of its kind to interrogate the subject with the aim of dispelling assumptions and stereotypes.

For more on the unprecedented scope of modest fashion, see Fashion & Beauty: Through a Modest Lens.

Published: 16 Nov 2018

VR Experience Gives Viewers Realistic Experience of News

Jim Brady

Consumers’ trust in media, governments and corporations is in decline, while in the US, civil division is increasing between the two political parties (Edelman, 2018; Pew, 2017). A new project from Eindhoven-based designer Jim Brady proposes virtual reality (VR) as a tool to heal these fractured relationships, exploring how its application in the news could foster understanding and empathy.

As explored in our S/S 20 Design Direction Rise, consumers are demanding transparency from the service providers they engage with. This is spurring the development of products that offer a behind-the-scenes look into how they technically operate and utilise information, giving users an unfiltered appreciation of goods and events.

This approach is at the heart of Brady’s Mobile Journalism, a VR experience presenting a political protest as told from the perspectives of various characters. Users click on a hand-held controller to change between scenes – from the first-hand perspective of a protester surrounded by others holding flaming cannisters, to a gas mask-wearing police officer, or a birds-eye view of the event unfolding below.

Although the project uses digitally created footage, it predicts that capturing real-world events could be a future application for VR technology. In this scenario, people and places can be captured from multiple angles, enabling viewers to gain a realistic appreciation of events, as well as the perspectives of different parties involved.

The project was presented as part of this year’s Dutch Design Week – see our full coverage of the event here. For more on how consumers and brands are responding to this ‘post-truth’ era, see Positive Realists.  

Jim Brady
Published: 15 Nov 2018

Mattel’s Barbie Launches Initiative to Support Young Girls

A recent study found that by the age of six, girls start to limit their self-belief. Toy manufacturer Mattel has announced a global initiative to help close the so-called "Dream Gap", leveraging its Barbie brand to provide young girls with the help and support they need to believe in themselves.

The Barbie Dream Gap Project aims to address the belief deficit that girls experience as a result of the gender stereotypes they're exposed to from birth. Barbie positions itself as "the original girl empowerment brand", with the new initiative aligning with Mattel's recent campaigns promoting inclusive doll design, female representation, and deconstructing parenting stereotypes.

The initiative includes investment in further research to help identify the issues which create the dream gap; Mattel is collaborating with New York University and localised researchers to understand more about girls around the globe. Mattel is also using the popular Barbie YouTube channel, which has more than five million subscribers. In an imitation of the popular vlogging format, the channel is publishing practical advice and real-life story videos to help boost girls' self-confidence.

The manufacturer is also providing young girls with positive role models by committing to adding 10 new Barbies a year modelled on real-world empowering women – such as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and American ballerina Misty Copeland. Barbie's range of 'career dolls' also illustrate a range of options for their future occupations. Stylus previously highlighted the importance of representation in children's toys in a recent post – see The Brief.

Gen Alpha (aged nought to eight) will become an increasingly important consumer group for businesses to engage with. Mattel and Barbie are a great example of how products and platforms can unite to support this demographic as its characteristics emerge. To understand more about Gen Alpha, see our report Raising the Superkids.

Published: 14 Nov 2018

Surge in Sex Ed Platforms Offers Role for Brand Advisors

The Sex Ed

A number of sex education platforms have recently emerged to fill a knowledge gap left by taboos and underperforming youth education. We believe there's an opportunity for brands to act as trusted advisors in this space.

US film-maker Liz Goldwyn just launched The Sex Ed, a platform to discuss sexual health, including sensitive issues like period sex and erectile dysfunction. The launch includes the Sex Ed Podcast, which aims to offer "a range of voices sharing their experiences with sex, health and consciousness", according to Goldwyn's Instagram.

In May, digital art lab Motherlode released Pillow Talk, a virtual reality series that immerses users in the full spectrum of sexual exploration. The first episodes, entitled Lube River, "educate users on the world of pleasure and sex toys through a playful, game-like environment", according to Motherlode. Meanwhile, in February 2017, Pornhub launched its own Sexual Wellness Center (suitable for work).

These platforms are arriving at a time when sex education in schools is in crisis: in the US, only 55% of boys and 60% of girls aged 15-19 have received formal instruction about methods of birth control (Gutmacher Institute, 2018). There is an urgent need for serious and safe conversations about sex among Gen Z particularly. Netflix picked up on this education gap with its brash cartoon comedy and sex-ed show Big Mouth, which stars a number of big US comedians and released its second season in October 2018.

As we saw in 2017 with Axe's 'Is it okay for guys...' campaign and Bodyform's award-winning campaign Blood Normal, this is an area where brands can play an active role. While businesses like British condoms brand Durex can obviously pursue this strategy – seen again in its current partnership with US non-profit RED to raise awareness about Aids among Gen Z – we see this as an opportunity for brands in every industry. For more, see Tackling Taboos and New Attitudes to Love & Sex.

Published: 13 Nov 2018

Whole-Life Beauty: Four Brands to Know from Decoded Future

Clockwise L-R: Fluide, Public Goods, Captain Blankenship, Apto

Beauty’s wellness focus is supporting customers beyond their skincare conundrums – such as by helping shoppers stock the medicine cabinet, and championing trans consumers. We highlight the US beauty brands to watch from New York’s 2018 Decoded Future Summit (November 2).

  • Inclusive Colour Cosmetics: Cosmetics brand Fluide positions itself as an ally for the LGBTQ community by highlighting trans models in its marketing campaigns.“We champion exploratory make-up and avoid the stigma that usually comes with [beauty],” said Isabella Giancarlo, co-founder and creative director. For more on Fluide, see our Brief post Men Embrace Genderless Beauty.
  • Medicine Cabinet Makeover: Start-up Public Goodsupdates bathroom essentials with a streamlined aesthetic intended to appeal to today’s self-care consumers (see 10 Wellbeing Trends to Watch). All-natural staples like soap, shampoo and toothbrushes come in low-profile black-and-white packages, designed to provide a calming home environment. “We spend a lot of time designing our homes – then fill them with garish products from the drugstore,” said founder Morgan Hirsh. 

  • Seasonal Skincare: Tapping into concepts from our report Selling Cyclical Beauty, natural skincare brand Apto schedules new product releases to align with the seasons. By acknowledging how the weather impacts skincare concerns and ingredient availability, the brand builds ‘act now’ desirability into its limited-edition capsule collections. Founder Marta Cros suggested that this seasonal strategy also educates consumers about the perishable ingredients that differentiate natural skincare.

  • Money-Minded Multitaskers: Looking to overcome clean beauty’s expensive reputation, skincare company Captain Blankenship launched a lower-priced capsule collection for American retailer Target in early 2018. To ensure shoppers could afford an entirely clean skincare routine, the brand developed five double-duty products, such as a dry shampoo that also functions as a salt styling spray. “You should be able to read the ingredient list as if it was a loaf of bread,” commented founder Jana Blankenship.

For more insights from Decoded Future, see our report on the 2018 NYC Summit.

Published: 9 Nov 2018

Kitchen Toolkit Makes Cooking Accessible for The Blind

The kitchen can be a daunting place for blind people, due to a reduced ability to map out the environment. To open up this space to these consumers, Singaporean product designer Kevin Chiam has designed a kitchenware toolkit to help those with visual impairments navigate cooking with confidence.

The five-piece Folks toolkit includes a retractable knife guard that acts as a barrier to protect fingers when cutting and preparing food. There's also a tray that clips onto the side of the chopping board to assist with transferring food from board to bowl, and a stove ring that sits above the burner – helping users to recognise the boundaries of the hob ring, and prevent topples and spills.

The kit also contains a pot lid that acts as an extra vessel for utensils and ingredients, and a teaspoon with an integrated float that lets the user know when liquid is nearing the top of the glass/bowl.

"For the blind, preparing food naturally becomes challenging as they learn to cope with the uncertainties of spills or injuries like knife cuts or burns," said Chiam. "The objective is thus to imbue individuals with confidence, so that they can overcome physical and mental barriers to appreciate and attempt cooking."

For more cleverly built kitchen kits for specific consumer groups, see New Architecture of Taste and Kitchenware for Kids. See also Access for All for an in-depth dive into how brands are accommodating people with disabilities.

Published: 5 Nov 2018

You’ll have noticed some improvements to our site over the last week, and I’d love to illustrate how they’ll benefit you as we enter an exciting new phase here at Stylus.

Firstly, we’ve refreshed our brand identity to better reflect who we are, what we do and what we stand for. Secondly, we’ve simplified how you navigate the site. All of Stylus.com’s features remain, but now everything is accessed via a single, more intuitive menu. 

We’ve also expanded our Consumer Lifestyle pillar into four new standalone directories: Consumer Attitudes, Technology, Food & Beverage and Travel & Hospitality. We believe this will make things easier and clearer as you access our regular industry analysis.

A further change is the new name for our Blog, The Brief, which will continue to feature our experts’ cross-industry analysis in a more digestible format. We’ve also launched a brand-new News & Views stream, where you can learn more about why we do what we do, in addition to keeping up to date with our events and other Stylus goings-on. 

Another new addition is our Press page, where you can keep tabs on our experts’ regular media appearances. Our director of consumer product Emily Gordon-Smith’s take on why dad trainers are back in fashion, for BBC News, is one that’s definitely worth a read.

Aside from our new look, this week we published our 2019 Look Ahead reports, where we reveal the 30 trends set to shape next year’s commercial landscape. I hope this will help to kick-start your planning process ahead of what promises to be a transformative 12 months. You can read them here if you haven’t done so already. 

If you have any thoughts on our brand refresh, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Catch up soon, 

Tessa Mansfield 
Chief Creative Officer

Published: 26 Oct 2018

New Dementia Therapies Tap Nostalgia for Mental Wellbeing


Reminiscence therapy – a treatment which stimulates all five senses to trigger memories – is being used to support people with dementia. Care homes and even the BBC are using nostalgia to help patients connect with powerful memories.

A care home in Yorkshire has built an artificial street, designed to look like the British town in the 1950s, to help patients with dementia. It even replicates the village barber shop, grocer and Post Office from 60 years ago, which patients may remember from their youth.

The street is based on the dementia care-home village Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, where patients are immersed in nostalgic settings to align with their long-term memory. This type of therapy is based on the reminiscence bump, where older people or those suffering from dementia have clearer recollections of their childhood and early adulthood than their present context.

The BBC is also providing reminiscence therapy through music, with its newly launched Music Memories platform. The site has almost 2,000 songs and television theme tunes from the last century, which can be compiled into personal playlists. These can then be shared with information about the creator's age, gender and place of birth to help people identify songs that may resonate with other dementia patients.

Dynamic approaches to dementia treatment will become increasingly important; the number of people living with dementia globally is expected to rise to 152 million by 2050 (WHO, 2017).

The recent use of reminiscence therapy to support these patients reflects a growing trend towards sensorial experiences, which are being used in many contexts to help stimulate wellbeing in an increasingly digital world. Our recent spotlight trend, The Sensory Opportunity, explores different initiatives that exploit the five senses for meaningful experiences.

Published: 25 Oct 2018

Diversity Makes History on the S/S 19 Catwalks

L-R: Louis Vuitton, Prabal Gurung, Christian Siriano, Pyer Moss, Valentino

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) led from the front this season, with its omni-inclusive casting making S/S 19 the most diverse catwalk season yet. A number of brands and designers also worked to make inclusivity their calling card, moving away from the tokenism of seasons past and embracing diversity across the board.

Fashion industry forum The Fashion Spot’s biannual diversity report noted significant increases in diversity across every fashion city, with racial representation experiencing the steepest rise. Across 229 shows, 36.1% of 7,431 castings went to models of colour – a 3.6% increase since last season, and a huge improvement on the 17% of S/S 15.

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) maintained its reputation as the most racially diverse fashion city, with 44.8% models of colour. Additionally, every show at NYFW included at least one non-white model, and the most inclusive – Pyer Moss and Claudia Li – featured entirely non-white line-ups.

Size inclusivity practically doubled this season, with a total of 54 plus-size models appearing in 15 shows across every city. Despite huge progress, Europe has been surprisingly slow on the uptake – particularly London, with the city known for experimentation featuring just one plus-size model across all shows. 

The catwalks took a more egalitarian stance on non-binary and gender inclusivity however, with 91 castings across every city going to transgender or non-binary models.

Age diversity remains low despite marginal improvements, with women aged 50 and over still greatly under-represented compared to their spending power. Despite influential designers in Europe accounting for more than half of these mature model castings, representation typically remained tied to one show in each city.

As relentlessly highlighted by consumers and inclusive organisations alike, diversity is a necessity that is not going away. For the latest on how to sympathetically and effectively engage with inclusivity, see A Fashion A’woke’ning: Mainstreaming Diversity.

Published: 25 Oct 2018

Furniture for Connection & Inclusion

Ella Westlund

Consumers are seeking to break away from screen media, and connect with one another. As explored in our S/S 20 Design Direction Arouse, designers are prioritising face-to-face interactions for a renewed appreciation of what it is to be human. We explore how this translates to furniture design.

Swedish designer Ella Westlund’s experiences as a care-centre helper and the sister of someone with Down’s syndrome inspired her to create an inclusive sofa for people of mixed ability.

The sofa has upholstered seating on each end with a central gap that can comfortably fit a wheelchair. The design allows people of different abilities to come together at an equal level, without any physical expression of height or dominance. Moreover, the central position of this gap allows users to be surrounded by loved ones – exuding a sense of safety and security.

Similarly, new UK brand Modular by Mensah released a furniture range that’s specifically designed to encourage social, face-to-face interaction. Designer Kusheda Mensah created the Mutual collection in response to what she felt was a breakdown in human relationships, brought on by social and digital media.

The capsule features wavy coral and arch-shaped seating pieces upholstered in a mix of fabric and leather. The odd silhouettes give the collection a puzzle-piece-like quality that prompts users to rearrange the furniture. It also encourages them to consider a more experimental approach to conventional seating arrangements – which in turn helps to establish a more relaxed and dynamic environment.

For more on how furniture can satisfy consumers’ desire to be social, see our Furniture & Lighting report from London Design Festival 2018.

Modular by Mensah
Published: 23 Oct 2018

Beautycon Pop: An Instagram Museum for Social Issues

Beautycon Pop

Since its inception, international beauty event company Beautycon has shown how internet-born Gen Zers crave interactive, IRL (in real life) experiences when it comes to beauty. Now, it’s launching a US pop-up concept with the aim of reinventing the beauty festival. 

Beautycon Pop will be based in Los Angeles for the entire month of November 2018. The convention is an opportunity for beauty fans to interact with a mix of high-street retailers and indie brands, featured across eight Instagram-friendly themed rooms.

Each one is described as a curated gallery, which expresses Beautycon’s viewpoints on social issues – tapping into teens’ concerns about the world. Products will be used to highlight these societal shifts and political movements – 81% of American Gen Zers believe beauty is about cultural expression (Beautycon Media, 2017).

Self-love and acceptance are also key themes running throughout Beautycon’s festivals in the US and UK. As such, one room will be themed around body positivity, featuring a ‘confidence runway’ for consumers to channel their authentic selves. This emotionally driven experience aligns with an important value for teens: championing anti-perfection.

“Beautycon Pop feels different,” said Stylus’ Retail editor, Stefanie Dorfer. “Its exhibition-like strategy and shrewd tactic of adding a contextual layer – it discusses social issues important to Gen Z, and gives the recent hype around Instagrammable beauty playgrounds an intellectual and refreshing twist.”

The move comes at a time when beauty giant Sephora has launched its own event, Sephoria (October 20-21) and new event companies are being established. Read Will Festival Fever Alter the Future of Beauty Retail? for more. See Next-Gen Pop-Ups, Soft Sell: The New RetailTeen Beauty 2018, Teen Media Trends and 10 Youth Trends to Watch for further insight into experiential retail and Gen Z values.

Published: 23 Oct 2018

AI Takes Bias Out of Workplace Harassment Reporting


Spot – a sexual harassment reporting app – uses artificial intelligence (AI) as a neutral mediator, collecting evidence from victims via time-stamped logs that can be shared with HR teams anonymously. "The point of AI in this instance is to help the person to feel more human," said Julia Shaw, co-founder of Spot, at Wired Smarter 2018.

The app is the first to use the cognitive interview technique – traditionally used by the police – to help stimulate event recall, and diminish misinterpretation and ambiguity by using non-leading questions.

After about 10 minutes of questioning, Spot turns the user's responses into a PDF report with a cover sheet, which can be sent anonymously to anyone the user wishes to lodge the report with. All details are deleted from the app's server 30 days after the report is collated to maintain the user's privacy. The technology aims to address the 67% of people who do not report workplace harassment (ComRes, 2017).

Spot was founded on the idea that answering sensitive questions may be easier when they are posed by a chatbot rather than a human, who could unintentionally lead questions in the emotionally charged context. Stylus has previously highlighted that consumers feel more comfortable talking to an artificial character, rather than someone who might be biased.

"We don't want to create a chatbot that feels human – quite the opposite," Shaw told an audience at Wired Smarter. "We want the consumer to feel human and take away the awkwardness from talking to humans." Taking place one day before the first anniversary of the #MeToo movement, Shaw's talk served as a timely reminder of the importance of enabling clear workplace harassment reporting procedures.

Businesses would be wise to adopt services that protect and support their employees in the workplace. For more on navigating sensitive subjects, see our Tackling Taboos report.

Published: 17 Oct 2018

Dress for Success: Affordable Interview Dressing

Amber Butchart giving a candidate advice on interview attire

Dressing appropriately for a job interview is a key concern for jobseekers  as well as a financial burden. Charities in Britain and the US are empowering job hunters by providing low-cost and rentable clothing and accessories for interviews.

Recent research has found that UK graduates spend £58 ($77) on average on a new interview outfit – an amount which is unattainable for many (Barclays, 2017). But career-finding app Debut and fashion historian Amber Butchart have collaborated with charity shops across the UK to launch a new initiative: Dress to Impress for £10, providing a whole outfit for just a tenner ($13).

More than 650 charity shops have committed to the enterprise by dedicating retail space to interview-appropriate clothing. Store volunteers will also be on hand to share styling advice from Butchart to allay any concerns.

Similarly, in the US, the New York Public Library has extended its offering beyond books by launching the Grow Up Work Fashion Library in August 2018. The fashion library focuses on accessories, offering items such as professional bags, briefcases and ties for three-week loans. It also has information sheets suggesting interview tips, career resources, books and websites – including those with advice on professional attire.

The two initiatives illustrate how contentious the issue of workwear has become. While professionalism is often associated with traditional tailoring, a recent survey reveals that only one in 10 people wear a suit to work (Travelodge, 2018).

As working life adapts to societal shifts, affordable, high-functioning clothing will be in demand. For further insight into the future of workwear, see Fashion's Workplace Challenge. For more on navigating the changing workplace, see our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.