I was thinking of these vibrant images, so alive and real, as I watched the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope this past Christmas Day. Far more powerful and technologically advanced than the Hubble Space Telescope, this incredible device will ultimately deliver images from a deep and faraway space that human eyes have never seen before. Its mission is simple – plunge into the very heart of life’s beginnings and reveal the nucleus of our humanity. In short: share our star story from its fiery start.
The gap from those first outstretched hands to the silver rocket hurtling into space maps eons, centuries of human experiences all made up of moments. Births, deaths, grief, love. Hands held, hands clenched, eyes clear, or cloudy with tears. During these extraordinary times, when we have felt stretched and pulled, when we have absorbed too much and felt too little, we need to remember this arc. We are all held in a chain of fragile and beautiful moments, uniquely human, uniquely our own, each life a link connecting to the next. To quote the poet Mary Oliver, ‘each body here a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.’
We are here. Right now. Held softly by the past. Looking into the warming of tomorrow. There, we will make beautiful things.
As we gaze into the New Year, we see so much beauty and excitement! From mushroom music, to a high school in the metaverse, horoscope hues, and anime accessories – we see shiny promises of big adventures and promising new paths. Let’s go there together, shall we?
Hits just right…
In this interesting and unknown place we all inhabit right now, Lowe’s collab with the lush and haunting anime masterpiece Spirited Away feels exactly right. Wistful, frightening, deeply layered and intriguing… it’s characters and their stories feel like morality tales for 2022. Jonathan Anderson has once again tapped into our collective zeitgeist of fear and longing and conjured up the very things we need. Due to drop this weekend, we expect this line to sell out – providing the fashion savvy with totems and talismans of a time beyond time. Collaborations that weave nostalgia and tap a shared iconography will be in demand this year, as we continue to find ways to signal solidarity in a battle that has no end. No doubt this is the first of many to offer our uniforms for the fight!
It is almost farcical when we think of the pre-pandemic romanticism, we all had for the concept of ‘slow’ prior to the pandemic. From slow fashion to slow food, we were enraptured by the idea of stepping off the frantic moving sidewalk of our lives and engaging with a gentler life, thoughtfully choosing from items that had resulted from an old fashioned and highly localized manner of production. And yet, despite our collective ennui, it seems that we have acquired an even deeper taste for those things that require deep attention and focus. To note: Indian musician Tarun Nayer has found Instagram fame posting videos of ‘mushroom music’ – sounds seemingly capturing the unique vocalizations made by the fab fungi deep in its natural habitat. Nayer believes that nature can speak to us and soothe our anxiety through its innate vibrational tones, offering both natural order and personal solace. And as sound design becomes the next sensory frontier, we expect this genre of nature-based derivations to find its way into home and office environments. Talking dirty never sounded so spiritual!
School is Cool
In so many ways, Covid has been an incubator for the future. While here in the US, many school districts have pivoted to zoom for ad-hoc online classes, Seoul, South Korea has taken their edu-game a step further. The country has unveiled the first school fully existing in the metaverse – offering classes to elementary, middle, high and special education schools. Complete with a virtual exhibition hall and after school clubs, each student can design their own avatars, and engage with other kids and teachers through VR technology. Ideal – maybe not – but imagine how a program like this could level-set educational inequities due to district finances and the current teaching shortage here in the States. Imagine the possibilities of a global school district that lets kids learn and connect with other children in places and spaces far beyond their own hometowns. Cultural connections embedded at a young age might lead to greater empathy, and a future world bonded by real understanding. #gamingforgood anyone?
Color is my Spirit Animal
We are all looking for guidance, some sign from the universe about what our future might hold. If not for our lives…perhaps at least for our wall color. Tapping into the sharp spike of interest in astrology and psychic portends brought on by the pandemic, the latest home goods collab marries the intricate art of color choice with the stars. Valspar, one of the largest paint purveyors in the country, has tapped the Astro Twins to guide consumers through the maddening maze of color selection. The touch of astrology both lightens the task, and also lends it a feeling of personification, a double win for both manufacturer and consumer. And while a bit whimsical, this marriage speaks to a much deeper world wide shift in behavior. 2022 shows us shifting into a more spiritual gear, seeking deeper meaning, and crafting time and spaces for meditation, reflection and other mental health practices. And with home being the center of our worlds for the foreseeable future, brands that can offer up deeper reasons why for their products and services here will be poised for long term success.
We are officially in the age of the nano-influencer. As the world continues to spin darkly, unmoored from facts, today’s consumer clings closely to those they know. We increasingly rely on small circles of trust, admitting only those who know our secret passcodes. Over 40% of the content we watch is user generated – (not designed by networks) and the only stars we trust gleam overhead. Savvy brands are tapping into these nano-networks by co-branding with smaller footprinted creators, creating one-off products that entice, and ultimately, introduce the brand to a whole new set of passionate potential users. Consumers today see themselves as creators, so when brands like Levi’s co-create with authentic influencers on design, it gives meaning and promises access for all of us. We like our heroes home grown right now. Watch this space for an explosion of the unique and the special coming to a ‘gram near you.
As the world sifts and sorts into a new kaleidoscope of humanity, we are leaving old tropes around gender and race behind. Next up? Ageism. Gen Z, the pluralist generation, is looking to seasoned veterans for advice and counsel on navigating a world gone mad. From Tom Brady to the beloved Betty White – earned wit and wisdom has a new gravitas and value, particularly as the ground remains so shaky. Expect a lot more silver to come in the worlds of advertising and influence.
Remember this guy? He might just be back. Exhausted by the pandemic, and already slotted into pods of preferred people, the next phase of living might well be in packs. In the early phases of Covid, groups of young people moved into secondary cities to co-house and commune, giving life to a trend long predicted. In this liminal phase where life is still unknown and unmoored, Millennials are moving on and moving in – together. Pods of friends are snapping up homes in less congested cities, and are looking to create richer, fuller lives together. For some, this may mean buying into Neumann’s new real estate communities, fully kitted out with activities and amenities. For others, it might mean AirBnB co-working and living together for a month in an exotic city, or- at the very least- a week or two bonding off the grid. The future is full of friend-families, with default pre-planned community benefits. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of good neighbors.
The world is so rich – let’s make sure to pay attention!! For a primer on how to really see, brought to you by @jenniferrrrrroberts