Friday, 31 October 2008

Why I love Gen Y

I just interviewed Penny Power, founder of Ecademy, the business networking site (what a superhero-style name!). We were discussing the Interpersonal Economy (I will blog about this properly soon). This is a theory by the futurologist's futurologist Ian Pearson. He says that as work increasingly becomes automated and outsourced, what is left are the jobs that require human and emotional skills and these will become more important to the economy. Some of these jobs already exist, such as nurses and life coaches, others haven't been invented yet.

The Interpersonal Economy will be based on supportive, sharing, like-minded communities and networks. As Penny says, 'People will help each other in this economy because this is what really matters. Ultimately, people know if they build a likeable reputation, that's their insurance for the future.'

Anyway, in relation to this trend, Penny told me a wonderful story about her teenage daughter who had diligently revised for her GCSE mocks over the holidays. It turned out her daughter's classmates weren't quite so diligent and the teachers' were panicking that the class was unprepared. Her daughter came home and shared this with Penny who took the Gen X view of 'all the better for you then'. Her daughter however, decided to upload all her revision notes to Facebook and share them with her classmates because she wanted 'everyone to be at the same place and go forward together.'

I think this is such a striking and rather lovely example of how distinctive Gen Y's attitudes are towards work, collaboration, and sharing than previous generations.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Final Fantasy

Collyn and I have finally finished our Fantasy article, which explores a new cultural movement we think will change design, culture and branding. The article is out in Wallpaper*'s March issue.

Here's a few snippets from the final draft:

We are looking for more magic, mystery and fantasy in our lives and design is finding its new mission to provide it. Designers are bored with reality. Function has been perfected as far as it can. As designer-cum-artist Jaime Hayon says, 'Fantasy is a very important component of design. I don't believe it's enough for a product to be of good quality, it must also have a narrative. The narrative takes you to another world.'

In the emerging Fantasy Age, storytelling is the new currency and the role of design, technology and culture will be to make our fantasy worlds a reality...

'We live in a fantasy world and we need to make products to fill it,' says Rolf Jensen, author of the Dream Society and one of the protagonists of this movement. 'Fantasy products may never materialise in the real world. It could be robot milk, a computer game or a concept car. The product is a by-product of a fantasy.'

The idea is not to create a fantasy brand, but to invent a fantasy world through which a brand can tell its story. The architects of our imaginations, the Eric Cloughs, Steven Spielbergs and JK Rowlings, will have an integral role to play in this new era of fantasy branding.

Dan Hon, CEO of Six to Start, a cross-platform entertainment and augmented reality game (ARG) company agrees with this theory. 'Harry Potter is a great example. It's JK's [Rowling] story. But in her world there are some amazing sweets and a company out there has thought – let's actually make these sweets. It's making fantasy a reality.'...

The commercial age has gone as far as it can. In the Fantasy Age, where we trade in stories and dreams, customers and creatives will be defined by their imaginations. 'People are ready for wonderful, special things,' says Hayon. 'In this era, the industry can do anything you want. What the technology can't give you is fantasy, and that's where the designer comes in.'

Images from top: D&G's fashion fantasy is an homage to the Queen, one of our most enigmatic icons; Robot milk, one of the early Fantasy products on the market; Interior architect Eric Clough has designed an apartment that invites its inhabitants to live out a mystery in their own home. 'Mystery on 5th', as it has come to be known, is designed as a kind of sophisticated scavenger hunt, embedded with riddles, ciphers and furniture with hidden compartments; Tim Walker brings nature indoors, tapping into the Fantasy aesthetics of menageries and aristocrats.

Meet me at St Pancras

I am not very good with dealing with customer service people. Especially staff in mobile phone shops (why are they all rude boys and Alan Sugar wannabes?). Today, my faith was restored. (Mark Hadfield, I think of you as I write this, customer service Nazi!!!).

I booked a trip to Paris for me and my beau and though I tried to find the cheap £59 return deal I couldn't, and ended up buying a really expensive one. Then we both had a panic and realised we couldn't afford it, particularly him. Although my ticket was non-refundable and non-exchangeable, I thought I'd at least give it a shot with their helpline, see if they could help us out.

Wow. I don't think I've been so impressed by a sales person, the lovely 'Margaret' was so genuinely sympathetic, efficient and went above and beyond for me. I emailed her manager to say so and hope she gets some kind of commendation (not a Eurostar t-shirt I hope). I think we're set to see a revolution in customer service soon. The gold standard of John Lewis (and perhaps Eurostar?) will become the norm...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Fashion Mart

Swedish fashion label Filippa K recently created a store which invites customers to donate their old Filipa K clothes to be resold in a dedicated Filipa K second hand store. What I particularly like about this is that customers receive commission if their old clothes are sold. 

Oxfam and Marks & Spencer similarly launched a scheme this year offering customers M&S vouchers for any M&S clothes they donated to Oxfam. I think this reward incentive is where ethical consumption is headed, it cannot be sustained or mass marketed by guilt. And as one of my icons Jane Shepherdson said on Twiggy's Fashion Exchange doc this week, 'conscience fashion' has got to make us feel good by making us look good. Out with the hemp sacks, in with the Stella vegan shoe boots (at Topshop prices please).

Talking of Topshop, this summer the brand trialled a 'Top Swop' event in conjunction with Rubbish magazine which invited customers to swap and update their old Topshop clothes. The concept looks set to be extended and Traid recycling depots are popping up around stores up and down the country too. 

I really like the idea of a second hand branded store that serves as a kind of fashion archive.