December 21, 2021

Pearl diving. The phrase conjures up a murky, intensely sensual universe that weaves together women, the sea and rare jewels – a heady combination for a species increasingly starved of the physical. Several years ago, the world became obsessed with the mythology of the ama, Japanese sea women who braved the darkest depths of the ocean in pursuit of treasure. Part pirate, part mermaid, theirs was a world of superstition, tradition, luck and skill: a silent, undersea sisterhood of rakish and fearless adventurers risking their lives in service to a sweet and scarce independence. Tapping into the secret language of the sea, decoded by generations before, these swimmers depended on plunges into that dark and icy silence to exact the rare and the valuable. Holding their breath, trusting themselves.

As we enter into yet another dark winter, uncertain and unsure, I think of these women often, hearing their siren song of survival. Naked, stripped down, callused feet caressing rocky ground, giving themselves over to a place so primordial, so intrinsic to our own story of evolution. We too are creatures of this place, baptized in salt, ruled by tides. Constantly ebbing and flowing, climbing up through the surface, reaching for the sun.

When I give talks on Future Trends these days, I am often asked how much longer we need to hold our breath. We are all exhausted by these riptides, the endless crashing of waves and storm. But, when queried, most confess a new found solace in the quiet found in these deeper uncharted waters of solitude. How our eyes have adjusted to the dark, our ears to the murmurs of our own thoughts and dreams in this rare silence. When we survive our fears, when we push past our worst vulnerabilities, we find strengths in our own uniqueness, and we learn our voice. Only then can we meet each other in a way that is raw and real and true. These are where our true bonds are formed, in the valleys of vulnerability. And this is where our next transcendence begins. Together, rising.

As we close out this year, we are endlessly inspired by what is emerging. There is a new movement of self-agency, a heightened belief in claiming and creating our own, best lives full of purpose and possibility. We see it in the explosion of the creative class, and the massive outpouring of story, art and ideas shared moment to moment online. From the metaverse to Gen ‘zines, nano-influencers to NFTs, the ability for human beings to imagine and dream has never been so rich and so accessible. And in a world that promises us only this moment, the reward so outweighs the risk. Let’s plunge in!

“Your heart is the size of an ocean. Go find yourself in its hidden depths.”
― Rumi

To tempt you with the dazzling future around the corner, read on for our top 5 trends for 2022.

So much light and love,

Future Trends: The Big Five

1. Self-Agency

What happens when you mix governmental mistrust, medical misinformation, and lockdowns? You create a unique and spicy cocktail of self-empowerment. Households around the globe faced an ongoing load of home schooling and work from home, all while dealing with a shattering of global supply chains and spikes in variant outbreaks. We were forced to make our own decisions about how and when we wanted to step back into the world, for ourselves and for our children. We reassessed our priorities and discovered a hunger for personal purpose and a demand for a quality to our whole life – not just the scraps left after a 60 hour work week. This new sense of control and self-direction has led to the Great Resignation, the shift away from urban centered living, and a surge in self-care, new family experience design, as well as a spike in alternative currency. We have been forced to declare our own life agency – and now there is no going back. We predict: a rise in life-purpose coaching, wellness retreats, millennial co-homing, artisanal apprenticeships, and universal digital currencies. Today’s weary humans are swiftly building a life outside of the conventions of the swiftly receding past – in order to survive an increasingly unknown future.

2. The Creative Class

A trend that has been bubbling up for over a decade, the rise in the self-described creative class crashed over the moats of expectation this year, providing an onslaught of fresh thinking, new voices and uncharted territory. As the standard practices and systems for creative process crumble, individuals are free to experiment with a far lower threshold for failure. Musicians record albums on their phones, collaborate with other artists in distant parts of the world, and release partial compositions on Sound Cloud for crowd sourced opinions. Beauty brands release products to their models for unique self-shot campaigns, or to small pods of passionate users for co-designing. Teenagers venture into YouTube in never-before-seen numbers to co-host watching sessions of adolescent favorites from Nickelodeon. Hundreds of thousands of consumers have begun posting cleaning/cooking/and design tips to a bored and eager public, expanding their stories as they gain traction. Gen Z is publishing a whole new generation of ‘zines, and meme culture is upending the entertainment industry. We have found our own voice and our own audience, on line – and – in a newly localized economy, at home. The pandemic suggested we tap into our right brains, and now we are hooked on the inherent drug of imagination – the sweet drip of dopamine that a shared idea, recipe or design gets from others. We predict an increase in the Tik-Tok nation of personal talk shows, co-branded nano-influencer lines on a made to order basis, hyper-local cooking shows, and pop-up experiences made for specific neighborhoods.

3. LocalX

Nationalism has been on the rise for over a decade, and the pandemic has poured kerosene on that slow burning fire. As borders closed, and lockdowns increased, we became far more deeply connected to a geographic place on a map. With over one-fifth of the U.S. moving back to someplace called ‘home,’ we have committed to a physical community at a level not seen since the 50’s. And – these communities have increasingly become the source of not just what we buy, but of how we buy. Today’s consumer sees consumption as a means of sharing support for the type of world they want to live in, both from a sustainability standpoint and in a grass-roots give-back loop. We want human connection with store owners – from restaurants, to coffee houses, to clothing shops. It inspires us. It generates trust. It provides us with place. The pandemic has greatly heightened this way of thinking. It sources income to those who personalize our communities and in turn provide us the services that make us want to live here. One example: Facebook Marketplace exploded during the pandemic – as Gen Z sought to connect with and purchase from other people in their community – not big box sources. Every product interchange now comes with a local connection and leaves us with a story. And in line with this, Instagram’s new function, Creator studios, is generating excitement around connecting consumers with the ability to buy from the people they like and follow, deepening a parasocial connection into a personal one. In short, hyper localism is not political. It is a movement by consumers who want to support an ecosystem built on trusted individual relationships.

4. Haptic Hunger

In a world starved of feelings, we are seeing a surge in offerings designed to enhance and up level every mood and feeling. (Think of Taylor Swift on steroids.) Gen Z has shown a proclivity to lean into moods and emotions, good and bad, as if to better explore their realness. Confined to two dimensional screens for the past 18 months or so, all of us are hungry to engage our full senses and revel in our very humanness. We have seen a commensurate explosion in textured furniture and art; paints and wallcoverings that shift color to alter moods; hyper-textured clothing; scent design for homes and now sound design is emerging as the next sensory frontier. Apple has taken out a variety of patents around sound enhancement, with other brands to follow. (And it seems a natural follow up to the ASMR craze of early 2020.) We are looking to be enveloped by the umami of life, and to be able to play with our senses to evoke the moods or emotions of the moment. We predict an explosion in products that elevate the senses and give us dominion over the levels we experience in all five. Watch for experience spaces that offer up sensory DJs to take us to places we have never been before.

5. The Metaverse

The term ‘metaverse’ often elicits a) an eye roll, b) a groan, or c) a look of panic. For many, this concept seems to be conscripted to a world of gamers or to a future run by robots. But neither of these narrow definitions serve the massive opportunity that this new world represents. As humans have become increasingly comfortable with their ‘authentic selves’ (thanks Aerie!) we are equally and increasingly empowered to explore alternatives to this life’s limitations in the metaverse. And, as the possibilities for our post pandemic lives remain elusive, the opportunity to create and experience what these might be in the next moment, month or year gives flight and color to our imaginations, and potentially, to our future. Life today moves at the speed of culture, and the metaverse will give us a place and voice to play in and inform that culture. Well beyond the concept of ‘gaming,’ here people will find apprenticeships, talent collaborations, ideas and conversations that will inform the next we choose to create in real life. With no limitations, it is a key into an ignition beyond anything we have built before. Be excited!

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