Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Fantasy Age

I'm working on an article at the moment about the rise of fantasy in culture. I'm co-writing it with Collyn Ahart Chipperfield, my new work partner. We think fantasy will replace authenticity as the major cultural movement. The feature will explore fashion, design, food, science, and sustainability. It will include things like the Met museum's forthcoming Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy exhibition, interviews with people like Rolf Jensen, author of The Dream Society, and importantly, how to apply this trend.

Lolita Marketing

I've never been more flush than when I was 16. Back then, my spending power was limited by supply - Topshop and Barry M. Today's teenage girls are even better off and brands are actively targetting the 'baby pink pound'.

Gleneagles Spa, a luxury hotel in Scotland, offers its younger clients a 'Little Miss' range. For £20, girls from the age of six can indulge in a 30 minute Versace make-up session (Versace? This makes me think of baby whores).

‘Yummy mummy’ culture seems to be driving this trend along with a style of parenting in which many want to be ‘mates’ with their kids. But it is also that children are just more grown-up these days, especially girls. It’s telling that the term ‘tween’ is exclusive to girls, after all.

Proctor & Gamble are rethinking the target market for ‘Covergirl’ cosmetics. Make-up game-playing will be introduced to attract 8 year olds. Face Boutique is the best example I’ve seen of a beauty brand marketing to the new girl consumers. Stocked in Space NK for a start, it boasts ethical ingredients and Julie Verhoeven-style illustrated packaging.

I love the trend for ‘Sweet Sixteen’ style parties (as in the MTV show). Companies such as ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ make every brat’s dream come true – from pamper parties with never-ending lipgloss to turning the back garden into fairyland, costing up to £800 a pop.

It seems like a knee-jerk reaction to say this kind of marketing is wrong but why can’t sophisticated pre-teens be treated as the willing and able consumers they are? Done properly, this could actually be life-enhancing.

Teen novels and magazines are a perfect example of this. I genuinely believe my generation would be worse off without More magazine’s ‘Position of the month’, the word ‘Phwoarsome’ (thank you Bliss magazine), and Judy Blume (Paula Danziger I could live without).

I could rant on forever about my obsession with teenage girls but I’ll wrap up with this phrase I read in a G2 article today on the new tween film, ‘Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging’. The film is based on the books by Louise Rennison, who seems to have captured perfectly the ‘waiting-on-the-edge-of-life-for-it-all-to-happen’. All those grammatical dashes. How very Sugar magazine.

I must credit journalist Ella Alexander for her great article Painted Princesses in Pigeons & Peacocks magazine I have referenced from.

Protein Forum

Went to the Protein Forum last night, a series of talks around science meeting culture.

The Delighter:
Matt Jones, designer at Dopplr said some really interesting things. One, was the idea that travel today is 'broken'. Stuck in my head as I've been doing a lot of research on responsible travel recently.

He also used the phrase 'Cybernetic Serendipity' to describe the way Dopplr connects users to their friends by spotting travel 'coincidences'.

I also liked the idea that diaries are 'models of the future'. By forward planning, we can optimise our future.

When designing Dopplr, the creators came across the phrase 'the delighter', a term used in the hotel industry to describe small, unexpected details which delight guests, such as the chocolate on your pillow.

I made a mental note of this luxury industry-relevant quote by experience designer Dan Saffer, 'Because details are hard to get right, they're hard to replicate.'

Dopplr uses the idea of the delighter in its logo, which is subtly customised to each user and changes colour based on their patterns of travel.

Bow down to the 22 year old:
Kate Moross is a geometry-loving illustrator who has worked for the likes of Nike, Cadbury's and Topshop. A self-taught, self-starter, she put most of the audience (including me) to shame with her youthful entrepreneurialism. She's publishing a book next year, 'Work Nice, Play Hard'. Instead of studying the visual arts, she obsesses over triangles and gets paid by clubs to draw on people. (She must be good). I'm inspired to write an article on her for Teen Vogue or 
i-D or something.

Eau de Golders Green:
RCA graduate Tuur Van Balen talked about his 'My City, My Body' project, a sort of biology meets geography study of London. This involved him 'branding' three local tap waters, creating a story and marketing sell for them. 

Golders Green was branded as a fertility water because it is relatively oestrogen-free due to local Jewish diets. City of London on the other hand, was labelled the 'Red Bull' of waters, pumped full of toxins and stress hormones. The most appetising was Notting Hill, which has the highest concentration of organic shops, so was aptly given the organic sell. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Doppelgänger chic

Have you noticed that some teenage girls are starting to dress identically to each other? As in, twins. 

Fellow trendspotter and my doppelgänger Priyanka spotted a pair of rude girls in South London doing this, and we reckon it's quite a rude girl thing, perhaps because they love coordinating their outfits and the girl gang element to it. 

It's also particular to black girls. I came across a troupe of five teenage girls who synchronise hairstyles on a weekly basis. They're currently doing bouffants. 

This is a fully fledged trend in Asia which makes sense - they love cuteness and harmony. Asian labels such as Giordana, Baleno, and Samuel & Kevin have started capitalising on it by merchandising 'Double dresser' or 'Twinning', as this trend is known, outfits. 

When I probed further I discovered twins are becoming more prevalent in society. Older mums means a higher probablity of twins (due to hormone levels, IVF use) and in China, people have been getting round the one child only rule, by 'engineering' multiple births.

Could it be that in a more virtual world young people are craving the tangible bond twinship seems to offer? A report by Unicef shows that today's youths lack true friends, particularly children in the UK. 

Amy Harrison and Antonya Allen are a pair of Double dressers I spotted on the street and got talking to. Antonya is mixed race and well-spoken, Amy's white and slightly Cockney. They have a twin MySpace page and co-present web TV show, Bite. They say, 'All celebrities and high street clothes wearers look the same anyway. We've just taken it to a more extreme level. Double dressing almost makes too much sense.'

This post is taken from an article I wrote for THE magazine.