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Published: 15 Dec 2017

Earthcolors x G-Star Raw: Naturally Dyed Denim

Earthcolors Natural Dyes

A partnership between Swiss chemicals group Archroma and Dutch fashion brand G-Star Raw has resulted in a capsule collection of naturally dyed denim jeans – an initiative that promotes more sustainable alternatives to synthetic textile dyeing.

Available in green, brown and blue, the jeans are dyed with Archroma’s Earthcolors. These high-performance natural dyes are synthesised from non-edible agricultural or herbal industry plant waste, such as leaves or nutshells. Made using up to 100% natural waste material, the dyes can be used without generating any toxic wastewater. For more on responsible and innovative dye processes, see Considered Colour.

Earthcolors feature seven warm, earthen tones, including a brown made using almond shells and a sandy yellow made using residue from bitter oranges. The dyes are currently suitable for cellulosic fibres such as cotton, viscose and linen, with dyes for other fibres in development.

A rising awareness of the harmful effects of industrial dyeing pollutants is causing brands to consider eco-friendly manufacturing processes. At present, many colours are made using petroleum or sulfur dye, and most blue jeans are dyed with synthetic indigo – processes that damage the environment due to chemicals and pollutants in the wastewater.

Other clothing brands such as Patagonia and Kathmandu have also partnered with Archroma to bring natural, sustainably dyed products to market. See our A/W 19/20 Colour Direction Sacred Earth for more on raw and natural colour.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Taking a Stand

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

On December 4 2017, California-based outdoor apparel brand Patagonia strongly opposed President Trump's executive order to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. "The president stole your land," read a blackout message on Patagonia's website and social media accounts. "This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history." Patagonia's billionaire founder and chief executive Yvon Chouinard amplified the message by saying he plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision.

Earlier this year, British fashion retailer Jigsaw met rising anti-immigration sentiments in the UK head-on with its 'Heart Immigration' manifesto (see Tackling Taboos), which reads: "None of us are the product of staying put." Jigsaw's head of marketing Alex Kelly said: "As a brand, we couldn't do what we do without the immigration of people, ideas and culture." To further challenge the notion of '100% British', the company let its employees analyse the ancestry of their genes, laying open their diverse origins.

Jigsaw took an unflinching position in a very heated political environment, and the staff gene analysis was a great way of making the political personal. Patagonia's promise of direct action, however, is a new watermark for brands standing up not only for themselves, but also for their customers, making the outdoor brand the champion of this battle.

For more on drawing a line in the sand and putting your brand on it, see Brands Take a Stand from our Macro Trend The Currency of Dissent and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing

Published: 4 Dec 2017

Singapore to Use Self-Driving Buses by 2022

Singapore's self-drivng buses

Singapore is set to introduce driverless buses to three neighbourhoods by 2022. The autonomous vehicles (AVs) will provide first- and last-mile connections for commuters who live in these neighbourhoods.

The Singaporean government has already implemented policies to promote public transport, which has resulted in less traffic congestion compared to other cities in the region. It recently announced that from 2018, no more new cars will be added to its roads, extending this ban to buses by 2021. This explains why the country is striving to become a leader in driverless technologies, with at least 10 companies testing AV technology in Singapore.

Transport minister Khaw Boon Wan expects that the driverless buses "will greatly enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport system, particularly for the elderly and the less mobile". He also announced that piloting AVs in these three areas would provide insights into how to plan for their future safe mass deployment, since "the biggest challenge for AVs is not the development of the technology, but how we can safely incorporate it into our living environment".

AVs are expected to be part of our everyday life in the future: by 2030, 15% of all new vehicles sold will be fully autonomous (McKinsey, 2016). For more on the latest innovations in transport, see CES 2017: Automotive and Radical Transport.

Published: 27 Nov 2017

Kozhya Air: Reinventing Active Skincare

Kozhya Air

German start-up Kozhya has created a new portable skincare atomiser that uses pressure-based technology to break active ingredients into micro-particles for better skin absorption.

Designed by Russian entrepreneur Yoanna Gouchtchina and manufactured by laboratories in Germany and Switzerland, Kozhya Air is filled with the brand's own serum, with a small nozzle spraying a fine mist onto the skin for two to three minutes. The hands-free application is not only advantageous for users with sensitive skin, but also combats product waste since excess serum is not left on the fingers.

Gouchtchina created a serum in the form of a capsule for use in the atomiser, developing a formulation that contains high-quality EU-regulated natural active ingredients. These include marine algae, which enables skin to retain its moisture content, and antioxidant reishi mushrooms that boost cell turnover and reduce inflammation. According to the brand, benefits include unclogged pores, firmer skin and smoother lines.

Consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of ingredients being absorbed into their skin, and the global organic beauty market is set to be worth just under $22bn by 2024 (Persistence Market Research, 2016). For more on this and how brands must strive for total honesty with consumers, see Transparent Beauty: Valuing Best Practice.

Currently pending a US patent, Kozhya Air hopes to cater to a new era of consumers who are seeking high-tech, time-saving solutions with powerful results – as explored in Battling Busyness. For more on time-saving beauty and portable packaging solutions, see Agile Beauty and Packaging Futures: Fast Consumption.

Published: 22 Nov 2017

Designing for Purpose: Pollution Solutions

With pollution levels at a record high, brands are increasingly adapting to the changing environment ­– utilising harmful waste fabrics to create everyday items or creating protective accessories that don’t skimp on design.

  • Swiss designer Yves Behar has created a backpack from recycled boat sails for California-based Sustainable Surf – a non-profit organisation focused on protecting the oceans from plastic pollution and other environmental issues. Each rucksack, made from recycled spinnaker sails, seatbelts and wetsuits, saves one square metre of material from becoming landfill waste.
  • Barcelona-based brand Sea2See is transforming plastic pollution by creating a range of sunglasses and opticals from materials collected in trawling boat nets. One tonne of plastic waste is collected every two days, with every 10kg collected producing enough quality material for one pair of glasses.
  • US-based eco-entrepreneur Carlton Solle has created the world’s first scarf with embedded pollution protection. Made from recycled water bottles and recycled PVC, the Bioscarf holds an N95 government efficiency rating – promising to block 95% of all non-oil-based airborne dust.

For more on how brands are adapting to rocketing pollution levels, see The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update: Challenging Environment, Packaging Futures: Sustainability and Agile Beauty – part of our Work/Life Revolution Macro Trend.

Published: 21 Nov 2017

The Kokon: Stress-Reducing Office Pod

The Kokon

The Kokon is a suspended pod chair that employs soothing scents, sounds and vibrations to help workers relax and manage stress. Created by a US start-up of the same name, the seat was designed in response to increasing concern about the effects of stress on physical and mental wellbeing, and encourages users to enter a meditative state.

The pod hangs from a central exterior pole that allows the seat to bob slightly in the air, evoking a sense of weightlessness. The team collaborated with Canadian perfume design studio Parfums Jazmin Saraï to embed olfactory molecules within the chair’s felt frame – made from upcycled textile waste – to activate an emotional experience of safety and comfort. 

An audio soundscape is projected via over-ear headphones, using frequencies that disrupt anxious thoughts and focus listener attention. This is translated into a physical experience via vibrational feedback resonating throughout the chair’s material, as well as through two handheld ‘sound pebbles’ placed in each palm, directly relaying the pulses of the soundscape to the user.

As explored in our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution, companies are realising the impact of staff wellness on productivity, and investing in spaces that foster rejuvenation. For more on adopting mindful workspaces to nurture and inspire staff, see Scape x UnStudio’s Reset Pods in Materialising Modern Work, and Professional Play in Blueprint for a Better Workplace.

Published: 17 Nov 2017

Beijing Design Week 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARS Architects
MARS Architects
ReMix Studio
ReMix Studio
ReMix Studio
Published: 10 Nov 2017

Glass Building Blocks Generate Solar Energy

Build Solar

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

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

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

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

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

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Blockchain Influences Coffee Supply


Denver-based tech start-up Bext360 has devised a way to improve transparency and quality in the coffee supply chain through a combination of robotics, mobile apps and blockchain technologies.

Its newly developed process uses large, sensor-laden machines to sort, weigh and grade the quality of coffee cherries and feed this information to buyers before they bid on the beans – allowing them to make a more informed choice.

This system is also fairer to farmers, who can earn more for their goods via a framework based on quality rather than quantity.

The data, including provenance, purchasing name and value, is collected and recorded in one place on a blockchain in the Bext360 system, cutting down on paper and making it simple to audit.

The company has developed this system to be used across other commodity supply chains in the future.

We have tracked the increasing importance of complete transparency in the food supply chain in both Culinary Provocateurs and Culinary Consciousness, and continue to watch this space for further developments.

For more on the influence of blockchain across other industries, see Retail's Blockchain Opportunities and Blockchain-Powered Smartphone.

Published: 31 Oct 2017

Waterless Products Form Eco Packaging Concept

Dutch designer Mirjam de Bruijn has created Twenty – a packaging concept that reduces everyday cleaning products and toiletries into solids of chemical concentrate to increase efficiency and minimise pollution.

The average cream, shampoo or dishwashing liquid is around 80% water. By distilling these items to their solid form, De Bruijn is able to decrease their volume, reduce quantities of plastic packaging, and offer an equivalent product in a smaller size. Twenty’s packaging also creates efficiencies in transport – reducing shipments and the pollution they create – while promising to lower costs for producers, retailers and consumers. 

Shipping accounts for roughly 90% of global transport and an estimated 4% of all human-caused carbon emissions. That figure is predicted to rise, with a European Parliament report from 2015 forecasting that maritime shipments will account for 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

De Bruijn, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, devised Twenty as part of her final thesis project. She has created three products so far – a dish detergent and shampoo in pellet form, and an all-purpose cleaner in powdered form, packaged in biodegradable cardboard. Consumers would portion up the pellets and powder in reusable plastic bottles before adding water, creating the chemical solutions themselves at home. 

Read Cleaning Reinvented: Spring-Cleaning Innovation for more on waste-reducing refill systems. To find out how environmentalism is building brand loyalty, see Tackling Plastic: Sustainable Packaging Solutions and Packaging Futures: Sustainability.

Published: 30 Oct 2017

McDonald’s Launches Vegan Burger


Global fast-food chain McDonald's has launched its first ever vegan burger at one of its branches in Finland.

The burger, called the McVegan, is completely plant-based, with a soy quarter-pounder patty, a new vegan 'McFeast' sauce, mustard, ketchup, fresh tomato, lettuce, onion and pickle slices. A single serving of the new dish costs €3 ($3.50) and a meal with fries and a drink comes in at €6.95 ($8.20).

The burger is available in the Finnish city of Tampere until November 21 2017. Depending on the success of the limited-edition trial, it may become a permanent fixture on the McDonald's menu.

McDonald's also recently launched a number of vegetarian options across several regions, including the Le Grand Veggie burger in France, featuring a patty made from carrots and root vegetables, and the McVeggie burger in Norway.

For more on how fast-food brands are tapping into the healthy food space, see Healthification of Fast Food and Fast Food Shifts Mechanics. For a deeper dive into new product development feeding the explosion in vegan diets globally, see US Natural Food Trends and New Food Covetables.

Published: 26 Oct 2017

Lush Launches Packaging Made from Recycled Coffee Cups

Lush's Packaging Made from Recycled Coffee Cups

British ethical cosmetics brand Lush has introduced new sustainable packaging made from recycled coffee cups, making use of a prevalent yet underused material source. 

Most disposable takeaway cups are made from a composite of high-strength paper and a polyethylene coating, which makes them difficult to recycle. However, UK manufacturer James Cropper, which worked with Lush on this packaging initiative, has developed an advanced processing technique to separate the plastic and paper for use in separate material streams (see Closing the Loop: Future-Proofing Design for more on material and product cycles).

Employing this technique, Lush’s new sustainable packaging is made from 100% recycled coffee-cup paper that has been press-moulded to create a premium feel. The packaging is sturdy enough to be reused by the customer, but can also be processed in mainstream paper recycling.

The square clam-shell box design can store up to four of Lush’s solid bath-oil products and aims to encourage a pick-and-mix approach to purchasing, tapping into the consumer desire for personalised retail. See Bespoke Beauty: New Retail Strategies for more.

Lush is not the only brand using James Cropper’s paper-cup recycling technology. British luxury department store Selfridges recently announced it is also working with the manufacturer to transform takeaway cups collected from its London food hall and offices into materials for its signature yellow paper bags. 

For more on the latest packaging innovations, see our coverage of Luxe Pack Monaco 2017, while Packaging Futures 2017/18 lays out the key trends shaping this industry.

Published: 24 Oct 2017

SmartPlant: Instant Gardening Expertise


US gardening company Garden Compass has launched an app that offers horticultural advice based on a photo of a plant.

The app, called SmartPlant, allows users to upload pictures of their plants and receive information on how to care for them. It also connects users with gardening experts in their local area, and sends monthly advice on their plants. For example, if a shrub appears to have a parasite, they can send a photo to an expert through the app and receive instant guidance on treating the problem.

With clear instructions for care, a key selling point is the simplicity of using the app, as it avoids the complicated jargon that puts people off nurturing their gardens. Calendar notifications provide helpful reminders when tasks such as watering or repotting need to be done. It also recommends products that will ensure each plant is properly cared for, such as specialist fertilisers or compost.

The company is raising equity via crowdfunding site Crowdcube to make it compatible with voice-activated services such as Amazon Alexa.

The service is likely to appeal to millennials (aged 23 to 36), who are spending more time gardening to boost their wellbeing and escape technology. Of the six million Americans who started gardening in 2015, five million were aged 18 to 34 (National Gardening Market Research Company, 2016).

For more on the standout products and services that are making it easier to care for plants, see Nature Embracers.

Published: 20 Oct 2017

Evoware: Packaging You Can Eat

Indonesian start-up Evoware has created seaweed-based bioplastic packaging that is not only biodegradable, but also edible and nutritious.

Evoware’s plastics are produced as an unaltered biomaterial – meaning that they are created directly from the seaweed, and without the use of potentially harmful chemicals that can leach into the products packaged within.

With no toxic ingredients added in its production, the biomaterial can be safely eaten, allowing users to dissolve sachets of toppings in with their noodles and chew on a burger still enclosed in its wrapping. Eating Evoware is even good for consumers, with the material retaining the health benefits of the nutrient-rich seaweed.

However, if users would prefer to enjoy their foods without the wrapping, or for other non-edible products, the bioplastic material can simply be thrown away – guilt-free – to safely biodegrade back into the natural environment.

Evoware has also created an alternative that combines its base seaweed material with Damar resin, tapped from Damar trees in south Asia. The inclusion of this natural resin acts as a strong combining agent to securely hold liquids. This makes it suitable for single-use personal care items (such as travel-sized shampoos and toothpastes), as well as hygienic encasements for medical instruments and supplies.

Read the Sustainability report in our Packaging Futures Industry Trend for more on brands taking a zero-waste stance. See also Edible Fast-Food Packaging for a similar example from a Brazilian fast-food chain.

Published: 10 Oct 2017

FIT Explores Fashion Inspired by Extreme Environments

The Museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology has launched the first ever exhibition dedicated to fashion inspired by extreme environments. From the North Pole to outer space, Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme charts how these increasingly accessible destinations have influenced modern design and fabrication.

Tapping into our A/W 18/19 fashion direction Utopia, where clothing is simultaneously combative yet cocooning, the exhibition consists of designer pieces largely from the 1960s ‘Space Age’ era onwards. The evolution of neoprene is traced from its initial use in aquanaut protective gear to a 1990s DKNY cocktail dress, while other outfits show how extreme environments have provided a wealth of print and colour inspiration.

The rise of the now ubiquitous down-filled jacket is also charted. US designer Norma Kamali’s long ‘sleeping bag’ coat from the 70s and Tommy Hilfiger’s 90s ‘puffer’ represent its mainstream iteration, while Japanese designer Junya Watanabe’s 2004 cropped version offers an avant-garde and less-than-practical twist.

As covered in our report  Sustainability 360, the exhibition also touches on the fashion industry’s role in damaging these environments – as well as the steps being taken to put this right.

Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme runs until January 6 2018. For more on catering to ‘wild wanderers’, see Travel for the Agile Elite part of our Macro Trend The New Rules of Luxury.