The ‘Now’ Age

Call it hippie-dom for the social media age—or a call for higher meaning in an increasingly agnostic society. Spiritualism is gaining mainstream awareness, and new platforms, stores, brands and publications are reinterpreting it for young, hip Millennial audiences. Examples include Gabrielle Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie (which has exploded into a culture of self-improving memes) and the SoulCycle phenomenon, which aligns spiritualism with fitness. Recent research by Pew shows that a fifth of consumers globally are not religiously affiliated, yet 37% consider themselves spiritual. Deepak Chopra’s newest book, The Future of God, aims to be “a practical approach to spirituality for our times.”

Retail is catching on too: Celestine Eleven, a new concept store in groovy East London, claims to “redefine luxury” with jewelry, clothing and apothecary goods that are intellectually, spiritually and aesthetically uplifting. Sunday Times columnist Ruby Warrington has launched The Numinous, a popular content platform featuring fashion and beauty alongside astro and tarot sections, with updates on the “Now” Age.

Why it’s interesting

Consumers are seeking meaning but are looking beyond traditional channels to find it. Spiritualism is being adopted by new younger audiences—prompting a wave of retail, media and product concepts that are presenting the movement in a cool way.

Los Angeles’ New Image

Long associated with entertainment, Los Angeles is reinventing itself as
a fashion, tech and innovation hub. It’s telling, perhaps, that Ace Hotel launched its most recent iteration in downtown L.A. Meanwhile the city
is rapidly becoming a fashion hub, with Moschino’s Jeremy Scott, Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane and hip Parisian concept store L’Eclaireur all opening there. Downtown L.A. has emerged as the hub of this activity: Pershing Square has been made over, and hip fashion brand Acne launched its largest store ever in the area. New fashion and retail tech startups abound, and the general tech scene is rising. Disney purchased Maker Studios for $950 million, Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion, and Apple recently bought Beats for $3.2 billion. Hot companies including Dollar Shave Club, Snapchat, Nasty Gal and Tinder are based there.

Why it’s interesting

The axis of influence is shifting, more generally, from the traditional capitals.

Brogawear Arrives

Trend pieces have spotlighted “broga,” the rise in men taking up yoga, for a while—now big business is finally taking note. Lululemon is about to open its first men’s yogawear store, in Manhattan. Lululemon Athletica invented the premium women’s yoga and activewear category, which is now booming with new players. If its broga line is as successful, expect more to follow.

Why it’s interesting

Consumers of both sexes are spending on wellness. As of 2013, the wellness industry, encapsulating spas, yoga and complementary therapies, is worth $3.4 trillion and growing, according to SRI International.

Adventurist Impulse

Following the boom in activewear, a new clutch of hipster-friendly brands is championing adventurism and outdoor pursuits. Jordan Hufnagel and James Crowe from Portland, Ore., co-founded West America, a line of outdoor adventure staples, packaged on a sleek website with inspirational travel content. Urban Outfitters has launched Without Walls, a line of clothing targeting adventure-hungry Millennials. Some ranges are aimed at adventurist women, like Bowndling, a new boutique line of British- made adventure gear founded by Collyn Ahart that combines high-tech functionality with beautiful design.

Expect more of this as adventure travel grows—adventure tourism is one of the fastest-growing travel segments in the world, hitting a global value of $263 billion in 2013, according to TTG Asia. It has increased 195% from 2011, says the recent UNWTO Global Report on Adventure Tourism.

Why it’s interesting

Consumers across the board are starting to prioritize experiences from travel to food to exploration over “stuff.” Smart brands are connecting their products to such experiences.

Incremental Savings and Donations

Incremental savings and donations are on the rise, powered by new mobile payments and banking apps. Penny for London, a new charity platform, encourages commuters to use contactless payment across the Oyster subway transportation network to donate a small amount to charity every time they make a journey. Using Visa or MasterCard, they can give between a penny and 10 pence per journey, up to a maximum of 99 pence each month. More banking apps are also allowing customers to make small incidental savings. In the U.K., Nationwide and Lloyds have both introduced impulse-based incremental automated savings systems.

Why it’s interesting

Research into Millennials’ financial habits shows they are not effective savers. This is an opportunity to facilitate better financial management.

Sports Brands: New Niche

Niche, beautifully branded premium brands are creating waves in the sports apparel industry by focusing on one sport only, developing genuine expertise and connecting to enthusiast audiences through cleverly executed social media and community platforms. This started with Rapha, the premium cycle brand, and was followed in the past year by adventurist line Bowndling, founded by advertising strategist Collyn Ahart, surf label Finisterre, U.S. surf line Saturdays and Tracksmith, the new running venture by Rapha co-founder Luke Scheybeler. Rather than attempt to be the master of all categories, as many traditional global sports groups have done in the past decade, these brands proudly focus on just one, producing premium, high-tech goods with a refined design aesthetic and using social media and content to build cult followings among fans. Some are not sold in stores but are available only via the brand’s website, allowing products to be wrapped in storytelling and not diluted by
second-party retail.

Why it’s interesting

As more consumers prioritize sport, and spend heavily on sporting apparel, they’re increasingly willing to invest in premium goods. They’re also
taking sports more seriously, meaning that expertise and aligning with professional standards is a big selling point. Specializing gives brands authenticity. Moving beyond conventional sports aesthetics of basic graphics and Lycra toward more sophisticated branding also sits well with a more refined audience.

Surf Renaissance

After a downturn in the late 2000s due to the decline of Aussie surf giants, surfing is enjoying a renaissance as the ultimate mind-body pursuit for Silicon Valley CEOs, hip urban professionals and anyone seeking to unplug and be at one with the elements. “The laid-back Californian lifestyle is changing business culture. In big business, deals are done over a round of golf. In Silicon Valley, deals are done over adventure activities,” says Google industry head Fintan Gillespie, who in 2014 founded the Surf Summit, a sister event to the Web Summit in Dublin. The Surf Summit attracted groups of entrepreneurs, investors and professional surfers, who were taken to Ireland for a weekend of surf sessions, discussions and networking designed to drive creative thought.

The surf look is also being overhauled, as seen in the recent Chanel No. 5 ad by Baz Luhrmann that features a surfing Gisele Bündchen, and niche luxury surf and lifestyle brands such as Finisterre and Saturdays. Brands such as Patagonia are also using high-profile innovation in sustainability as a PR platform—Patagonia recently introduced a sustainable alternative to neoprene wetsuits using a new fiber from Yulex. The traditional hot spots are also being rethought, as exploratory surf tourism shifts to new frontiers such as Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Alaska.

Why it’s interesting

The image change is less interesting than the appeal of surf to those in business—it’s becoming seen as a mind-body activity, a way to connect to the elements, almost a form of active meditation.

Helicopter Parenting Crashes

There’s a rising realization that parents have gone too far in shielding and coddling kids—and leaving little time for themselves. “Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such,” writes Heather Havrilesky in her New York Times op-ed “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem.” This thread is appearing in other parenting discourse. Today show contributor Amy McCready’s book If I Have to Tell You One More Time promotes an anti-helicopter approach: “For kids who are developmentally ready, the long-term benefits of implementing a ‘no rescue’ policy are responsibility and accountability.”

Why it’s interesting

This is the latest thread in a growing trend. Daisy Waugh’s book I Don’t Know Why She Bothers, written in response to Allison Pearson’s popular
I Don’t Know How She Does It, helped to start the trend. New discourse around parenthood is increasingly parent-first, less reverent and idealizing of children, and firmly anti-coddling.

Mindfulness in Business

Meditation and mindfulness are getting mass appreciation for benefits not just in well-being but also in work success—and being embraced by young urban audiences from Silicon Valley to Manhattan. Arianna Huffington’s Thrive further established the links between meditation and effectiveness
at work. Next stop: Unplug, a new meditation studio in Los Angeles by Glamour editor Suze Yalof Schwartz, which is pitched as the “Drybar of meditation.” Unplug features sleek, minimalist white interiors, mood lighting and a selection of chic lifestyle goods for sale. The Path, launched by Dina Kaplan, is an invitation-only meditation studio in New York that has emerged as a downtown hub where technology and fashion entrepreneurs relax and network. Kaplan recently wrote an op-ed for Medium, “The Cult of Busy,” calling for workspace effectiveness rather than engaging in endless tasks. “Busy should be a confession, not a brag,” she wrote. “Spend time setting up processes that make sense, rather than simply working more.” Kaplan also recommended meditation. Expect more of this.

Why it’s interesting

Thanks in part to Silicon Valley buy-in, mindfulness is increasingly being embraced en masse and recognized for its benefits not just to well-being but also to career progression and workplace effectiveness.