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Published: 12 Dec 2017

Plant Life Balance: AR Gardening App

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Plant Life Balance

Australian non-profit Horticulture Innovation Australia has created an app called Plant Life Balance to encourage more people to surround themselves with plants and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Released in October 2017, the app lets users check their home's current "plant life balance" rating based on the number and size of their plants, and helps them find out how healthy their space makes them. It then suggests different plants that would suit the space and, using augmented reality (AR), lets people see what they would look like in their home.

The app also offers seven professionally styled "living looks" that fit different tastes and needs. For example, Sharehouse Heroes is designed for those who live with housemates and need low-maintenance plants. Users can virtually try the different plants in their homes, receive analysis on their benefits and add the ones they like to a shopping list to take to their local nursery.

The company worked with scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne and found that a single plant can improve indoor air quality by 25%, as it removes airborne toxins. They also found that plants increase mental wellbeing by improving mood and concentration.

In the past decade, internet searches for "best air purifier" and "air-quality index" rose by more than 750% (Nissan, 2016). People are increasingly surrounding themselves with plants to relax and escape tech overwhelm. For more on urban gardeners and the brands that respond to their needs, see Nature Embracers.

Published: 11 Dec 2017

FIT Explores Fashion and Physique

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The Body: Fashion and Physique

As designers start thinking more inclusively about bodies, a timely show at New York’s Museum at FIT spotlights the relationship between fashion and cultural ideals of shape and size. The Body: Fashion and Physique explores how foundation garments from corsets to the Wonderbra have distorted natural shapes, how fashion responded to less-constricted bodies from the 1960s onwards, and how designers have influenced body ideals.

The show – which echoes elements of current NYC exhibit Items: Is Fashion Modern? at MoMa – considers how the fashion industry has promoted slender physiques, from the Twiggy era to the toned aerobics-influenced body of the 80s and the ‘heroin chic’ look of the 90s. The exhibition also touches on the rise of plus-size fashion, as well as designing for the differently abled and the ways in which technology can change fashion’s relationship to the body. For instance, a jacket by Grace Jun, head of NYC non-profit Open Style Lab, is designed for women who have had a mastectomy, incorporating a chip that can share data on range of motion with a physical therapist. Meanwhile, a shirt for people in wheelchairs by US designer Lucy Jones has a cropped silhouette to prevent bunching, as well as easy-to-use magnetic fasteners.

The exhibition runs until May 5. On February 23, the museum will host a symposium examining the marginalisation of certain body types in fashion. Speakers include those working to challenge traditional ideals, including fashion designers Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano.

For more on evolving attitudes toward the body in fashion, see our New Fashion Landscape reports State of Size and Diversity Rules.

Published: 11 Dec 2017

Chinese Consumers in Flux

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One-fifth of Chinese consumers are trading up to a more expensive brand

Chinese consumers' values and behaviours are changing due to greater disposable income. One-size-fits-all strategies no longer apply to this huge, diverse market, according to a November 2017 report from global management consultancy McKinsey.

  • High Consumer Confidence Levels: Because Chinese consumers are earning more, they're investing in more expensive, higher-quality items: one-fifth of respondents reported trading up to a more expensive brand. However, it's unclear whether consumer confidence levels will remain high as income growth has slowed, dropping from 10.1% in 2012 to 6.3% in 2016.
  • Rising Interest in Health and Fitness: With more money to spend, Chinese consumers are increasingly investing in health and fitness. Sixty-five per cent describe themselves as 'health-conscious', with this figure rising among city dwellers (see also Luxury in a Turbulent World).
  • The Post-90s Generation Are Not Millennials: Aged 17-27, this post-90s group differs from other generations – including post-80s millennials. They experienced more wealth and grew up at a time when China was more exposed to Western culture, and therefore cannot be grouped under the broader term "millennials". The post-90s generation will account for 20% of consumption growth in China between now and 2030, so brands should treat them as a completely different segment.
  • Brands' Origins Matter Less: Today's Chinese consumers are more interested in value for money than origins when it comes to the brands they choose. In 2017, Chinese brands accounted for 63% of the market in the personal digital devices category, while in other categories such as cosmetics and wine, foreign brands are preferred.

For more on the changing values of China's younger generations, see China's Youth: Challenger Consumers.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Hotel for Activists

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Hotel for activists

New hotel brand Eaton Hotels is opening its first 'hotel for activists' in Washington DC in 2018, aimed at politically minded, progressive travellers.

Inspired by the surge in activism across the globe, including the 2017 Women's March, the hotel will host workshops and talks on topics ranging from climate change to race relations. It will also house several activist-artists in residence who work in the non-profit and creative fields and tackle timely, political issues in their work (see also Tomorrow's Wandering Workers).

The establishment will boast visual art studios and a 50-seater cinema, which will screen films centred on social issues and human rights. All four of the new hotels (Hong Kong, Seattle and San Francisco will follow the Washington opening) will also run their own radio stations to broadcast similarly themed shows and podcasts.

The hotel is designed to facilitate social interactions, with public spaces inspired by town halls (free to the public), and co-working space reserved for guests.

The Washington hotel will also have a floor dedicated to new-age health, including a yoga studio, meditation and alternative treatment rooms to tackle the burnout often faced by hardworking professionals, according to founder Ka Shui Lo. See Wandering Wellness for more on-the-go wellbeing initiatives.

See also Hospitality Promotes Political Activism and Hospitality with Heart for more on diversity and hospitality.

Published: 7 Dec 2017

Olfactory Adventures: Archive of Curious Scents

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Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

Ahead of our Future of Flavour Industry Trend, publishing in January 2018, Stylus visited the olfactory archive museum of California-based all-natural perfumer, archivist and author Mandy Aftel.

Located at the rear of Aftel’s Berkeley home and blending studio, the one-room museum offers a voyage through the natural origins of aromatics, bringing them to life via a vast collection of cultural and historical artefacts.

Some 300 botanical essences and raw ingredients are available to experience first-hand. These are derived from flowers, barks, grasses, resins, fruits and other natural sources – some very rare. Central to the experience is Aftel’s ‘Scent Organ’ – a vast wooden testing bench of aromatics, where visitors are encouraged to select and sample various base, middle and top notes.

Further highlights include a display on the now-often-synthetic scent musk, and its origin as the glandular secretion of the musk deer. It also explores how ambergris, which is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, is still highly prized – although largely replaced by the synthetic alternative Ambroxan. 

Aftel’s latest book is The Art of Flavor, which she co-authored with San Francisco-based two-Michelin-starred chef Daniel Patterson. The book dives into how food gets its flavour and how natural alchemy can help to enhance it – more of which will be explored in our New Fragrance Worlds report, part of our Future of Flavour Industry Trend. 

For more on natural scents and ingredients see, Pitti Fragranze 2017, Hyper Natural Beauty: NYSCC 2017, Future Beauty: New Era Naturals

Published: 5 Dec 2017

Partition Uses Colour Gradients to Influence Mood

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Nicolas Verschaeve and Juliette Le Goff

Belgian designer Nicolas Verschaeve has collaborated with French textile designer Juliette Le Goff to create Mirage, a spatial partition that employs shifting tonal strips of fabric to alter a space’s ambience and mood.

The Mirage partition can be used to segment open interiors or function as a moveable blind screen, placed in front of a window to create shade and filter coloured light into a space. It can either be suspended from the ceiling or stand on timber feet on the floor. The design features long strips of coloured polyester fabric wrapped around two top and bottom poles and two smaller internal rods that can be pulled up and down to adjust the pieces of textile.

The fabric strips are tinted with alternating contrasting colours that increase in intensity from one end to the other. By pulling on the two interior rods, the user is able to manipulate the combination of tonal gradients to create interesting juxtapositions of pale to saturated, light to dark and warm to cold shades. Recognising the influence of colour – and combinations of colour – on human psychology, Verschaeve and Le Goff designed Mirage to invite users to interact with their surroundings and gain a sense of control over the mood and experience of their space.

Read Playful Optimism from Colour Spectrum A/W 19/20 for more on how luminescent brights are being applied to designs to create a youthful and joyous experience. And read the Light Play section of our Dutch Design Week 2017 report for more on the designers exploring the potential of blinds to create comfort and visual interest.

Published: 4 Dec 2017

The Ageless Café: Where Food Meets Beauty

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The Ageless Café

American skincare brand Ceramiracle has just opened the world’s first beauty-inspired café in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Ageless Café advocates the gut/skin connection by using a range of ingredients chosen for their beauty-enhancing properties.

Eugene He, founder of Ceramiracle, has shrewdly developed more than 30 custom-blended organic teas, snacks and pastries to combat specific skincare concerns. For example, the Truly Asia tea contains papaya, pineapple, mango and butterfly pea, which is rich in enzymes and anthocyanins – ideal for consumers with oily skin.

In an interview with US beauty magazine Allure, He said: “As a clinical naturopath, I can tell you that great skin is made in the kitchen, and it's always been my dream to bridge the gap between beauty and nutrition.”

 Launched on November 28 2017, the café caters to all skin types and ages. It’s located in Ceramiracle’s first flagship store, which also features a medi-spa with three treatment rooms to unwind. For more on the increasing consumer demand for unconventional spa services and spaces, see Future Beauty: Evolution of the Spa.

The global wellbeing market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.9% between 2016 and 2020 (Business Wire, 2016), confirming consumer demand for more healthy, natural and holistic approaches to beauty. For more, see The Business of Wellbeing

Published: 1 Dec 2017

Estée Lauder x Google: Voice-Activated Beauty

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Esteé Lauder

This month, Estée Lauder is launching a new venture that will feed personalised beauty advice to consumers via Google Assistant on the voice-activated Google Home device, showcasing an interesting new retail and consumer engagement model. 

The Estée Lauder Nighttime Expert app will offer a chat-based experience to establish a bespoke evening skincare routine through a series of questions and answers. It ends by encouraging users to try the Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II serum for free at an Estée Lauder counter.

Offering 24/7 tailored assistance at home while simultaneously driving consumers in-store, the platform could be adopted successfully by wider beauty retailers, such as Sephora. Bespoke beauty concepts are known to work best when online and offline experiences are combined – see Decoded Beauty: Engaging Beauty Consumers and Bespoke Beauty: New Retail Strategies for more. 

In a similar move, Amazon is partnering with mass-market derma brand Eucerin, helping consumers find the right product for problematic skin using its voice-activated Alexa home assistant.

Beauty brands that capitalised on personalisation in 2015 alone saw double to triple-digit growth, contributing to a 3.8% increase in sales of cosmetics and toiletries (Kline, 2016). For more on the importance of personalisation, customisation and diagnostic offerings in this industry, see Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke.

Published: 30 Nov 2017

Smartphone Deletes Content After 24 Hours

Swiss manufacturer Zenum Technologies has created Breve, a mobile phone that erases its content within 24 hours to help online communications become more ephemeral.

The phone was created in response to increasing anxiety around the permanence of information shared on the internet. Reframing mobile content as fleeting and temporary enables users to be more impulsive in what and how they communicate online, and to embrace content that is imperfect and candid.

Users can choose whether images, messages or call histories self-destruct, and can customise the number of seconds, minutes or hours (within a 24-hour period) that they wish their content to exist. The user can be ‘full ephemeral’ – opting for all content to be deleted, or ‘half ephemeral’ – allowing some to remain, including contacts, agendas, alarms and maps. Breve can also access their social media accounts and is able to automatically delete images or posts shared online.

Further, the user is able to configure their Breve mobile device to create multiple ‘personas’, with different settings saved according to the user’s specific schedule and geographic location.

Breve is also aimed at commercial clients. Zenum Technologies suggests that by embracing ephemerality, brands can create a sense of exclusivity and timeliness – such as by sharing temporary coupons or discounts that inspire a feverish call to action among consumers.

Read Mindful Automation and Digital Disruption: Wired Live 2017 for more on brands using digital innovation to respond to shifting social and experiential landscapes. For more on integrated technologies that increase user focus and encourage wellbeing, see Circuit.

Published: 29 Nov 2017

Editor’s Highlights: Food Matters 2017

This year’s Food Matters conference in London (November 21-23) once again unpicked the industry’s most pertinent pain points and offered creative solutions.

  • Label Wars: Bryonie Hollaert, company nutritionist at UK supermarket chain Morrison’s, explored current tensions in food and drink labelling. “Consumers want everything ‘on a stick’,” she said. “They want it to be detox, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory etc. but unfortunately, regulation lets us say very little on-pack. Even ‘vegan’ isn’t really properly defined as a label.”

    She questioned the focus placed on the labelling of sugar, especially in light of the UK government’s recent suggestion to quantify it in ‘teaspoons’ on future packaging – something she feels will be “demonising and unhelpful”. Hollaert believes labelling fibre would be more productive: “Fibre is something so good and something we desperately need more of.”
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Sugar still sparks hot debate in the food realm
  • Road to Reformulation: Speakers addressed the need to reformulate products with high levels of sugar, fat and sodium. Peter Harding, chief operating officer at Japanese-owned beverage company Lucozade Suntory, feels that Lucozade has succeeded here. “We’ve converted over 13 million consumers to a lower-sugar format,” he said. “We now steward a business that we believe is doing the right thing and can lead industry.”

    However, Jane Lawrie, group communications director at UK supermarket chain Tesco, emphasised that taste still needs to reign supreme. “Our customers say that the healthier product doesn’t necessarily taste as good as the regular product. Taste really is the number one issue, so reformulation needs to be attractive and appealing.”

    Joanna Allen, global brand vice-president at condiment giant Hellmann’s (owned by Unilever), agreed: “Taste is the reason we exist at Unilever.” She detailed a recent product tweak which involved substituting sugar for honey in one of its mayonnaise products.
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Hellmann's honey-sweetened ketchup
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Hellmann's
  • Retraining the Palate: Speakers felt that for long-lasting dietary changes to manifest, brands need to start ‘retraining’ consumers’ palates. “We can retrain people to accept a lower level of saltiness in foods,” asserted Sue Gatenby, senior director of nutrition science at PepsiCo.

    However, Lawrie cautioned a slow but steady approach. “At one time, our product developers decided to cut all salt from our chilled soup products, and when it came to taste testing, the products absolutely bombed. It needed to be done step by step.”

    Harding also feels that taste preferences can be modified. “Over time, we need to re-educate palates. New soft drinks coming to market have much lower sweetness profiles, and this is a good thing. Our cactus water product is a good example of this. Look at Japan, where the preferred sweetness profile is much lower to the West.”

    Allen also stressed the importance of catering to eco- and health-conscious consumers who prefer to consume less meat. “When we promote recipes, we make sure we are putting more plant-based dishes out there.”

    However, Lawrie also felt that price is ultimately the key decision maker. She believes consumers can be led in the right direction by making healthier versions equal in price to the original ones, or available at reduced cost. “In May this year, [Hellmann’s] ran a health month where we made the lower-sugar and lower-salt varieties cheaper and more accessible,” she explained.
  • Give Preservatives a Break: In recent years, preservatives and additives have been given a bad name by brands and consumers alike (often for very good reason). However, panellists implored audience members to reconsider some of these ingredients.

    “There are product quality implications when not including particular preservatives, and this is the case with one of our Hellman’s products in particular – so it must stay,” said Allen. “Also, preservatives can reduce food waste, so let’s make sure there are no unintended consequences when removing them.” PepsiCo’s Gatenby agreed: “Some additives are essential for food safety.”

    For more on developments in sugar alternatives, see The New Sugar. Meanwhile, Culinary Provocateurs deals with heightened consumer consciousness around ingredients and product formulations.
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Speakers asserted that consumer taste preferences can evolve
Published: 29 Nov 2017

The Assemblage: Mindful Co-Working Space

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The Assemblage

The Assemblage is a New York-based community that combines co-working spaces and short-term residential living with the idea of interconnectedness and collective consciousness.

Its first location opened in New York's NoMad neighbourhood this month. The 47,000 sq ft building comprises 12 floors for co-working and features meditation rooms equipped with artificial intelligence, which guides members through daily mantras.

The venue also offers holistic services such as Ayurvedic community lunches and mindfulness programmes. Two more spaces are set to open on Park Avenue and in the Financial District. The Assemblage also plans to open branches in cities around the world. Membership starts at $200 per month for evening-only access and costs up to $6,500 for a private office.

Chief executive Rodrigo Niño defines The Assemblage's audience as the people who are at "the intersection of technology, consciousness and capital". He founded The Assemblage to offer "a place of convergence for those who feel we could be defined not only by the known, but by the unknown".

The Assemblage's main goal is to align positive social change. Its principles are to help others as a form of self-interest, to make a commitment to personal transformation, and to do good.

As outlined in The Purpose Collective, people are searching for meaning in their workplace more than ever before. For more on how the way we work is evolving, see our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 27 Nov 2017

Kozhya Air: Reinventing Active Skincare

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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: 27 Nov 2017

Skan: Cancer-Detecting Scanner

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Skan

Engineering students from Ontario's McMaster University in Canada have developed a low-cost, non-invasive handheld device for diagnosing melanoma.

Called Skan, the scanner simplifies the early-detection process by using temperature sensors to identify cancerous cells, which are warmer than normal cells. These thermistors monitor the heat emission of cells in real time to create a heat map showing which ones recover quicker from thermal shock – indicating the presence of melanoma.

The creators won the International James Dyson Award in November 2017, receiving $40,000 for their invention. "By using widely available and inexpensive components, the Skan allows for melanoma skin-cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many," judge James Dyson told The Guardian. "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world. This is why I have selected it as this year's international winner."

The students intend to use the prize money to develop the tool further and gain regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Once this has been achieved, it could lead to its adoption by medical practices worldwide.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with more than 3.3 million people treated each year in the US (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2017). If detected early, the disease is easily curable.

For more on the innovative healthcare products equipping consumers with at-home tools for diagnosis and care, see CES 2017: DIY Doctor and Wellbeing Warriors.

Published: 24 Nov 2017

Cannabis Moves into Beauty

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Vertly

As cannabis enters America’s mainstream consumer marketplace and occupies an increasingly stylish and luxe space, US beauty start-ups are embracing the beneficial ingredient. 

Some products use cannabis seed oil, while others deploy CBD – the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol. The latter is not psychoactive, unlike the compound THC, but currently occupies a legal grey area in states where recreational cannabis is banned. As a skincare ingredient, CBD boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties, and is said to benefit acne, under-eye bags and skin irritation, among other things. It can also be used as a topical remedy to soothe anxiety or ease aches and pains, akin to Tiger Balm or Bengay.

California-based Vertly, launched in August by W Magazine’s former accessories and jewellery director and her husband, makes three varieties of lip balm. One contains moisturising sativa seed oil (claimed to be especially easy for the skin to absorb), another features CBD (for a “subtle state of tranquility”), and one includes THC – sold only in Californian marijuana dispensaries.

Meanwhile, using contemporary unisex black and white packaging, New York-based Herb Essentials offers a moisturiser, body lotion and lip balm infused with cannabis sativa seed oil. Another cannabis-focused brand, Ohio-based Cannuka, couples CBD with manuka honey (known for its healing properties) in skin, eye and lip balms and a body cream. New Jersey-based CBD for Life offers a shampoo and conditioner in addition to moisturisers.

For more on cannabis in cosmetics, see Budding Beauty and New-Era Naturals. See also Women Embrace Weed, and for more on cannabis’ role in the luxury wellness sphere, see Retail’s New Prestige Players and New Food Covetables

Published: 24 Nov 2017

Rubix: Device Detects Sound and Pollution

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Rubix

French start-up Rubix has created three smart sensing devices that interpret sound waves and air molecules to detect the presence of gas, mould and suspicious noises. 

The first, the Rubix Pod, is designed to be used in indoor spaces such as offices, hotels or restaurants. The Pod has in-built sensors to analyse the surrounding environment, comparing it to a bank of odour, particle and sound profiles. Detecting temperature, humidity, light, noise, air quality, particles and vibrations, it can alert office workers or restaurant-goers to allergens and toxins in their environment.

In conjunction with the Pod, Rubix has created two products for outdoor spaces – designed to be used in larger open settings such as an industrial site or urban centre. These outdoor products are also able to detect gas, with the capacity to warn companies in the event of a gas leak or of the presence of hazardous chemicals.

Rubix products have received interest from countries around the world, with Thailand’s capital Bangkok expected to install 50 sensors in its city centre to better monitor and manage pollution and air quality. Meanwhile, authorities in Los Angeles have expressed an interest in Rubix products due to their ability to accurately decipher the sounds of 67 different weapons. 

Rubix plans to expand the technology’s application by embedding its sensors into a wearable device, allowing users to monitor the freshness of the food they consume as well as local air quality.

Read Tomorrow’s Tech Aids for more on how digital innovation is aiding everyday activity, and Brizi: Protecting Babies from Pollution for an air-filtering cushion and sensor that alerts parents to the presence of harmful pollutants.

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