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May 6, 2021

Are We There Yet?

Rumor has it that parts of the world are reemerging… and that IRL is going to be a thing. However, the internet seems to say otherwise. Today, Rtfkt, a virtual fashion platform raised over $8 million dollars in an early investment round. The site, which specializes in virtual sneakers and accessories, was launched in January 2020 and turned profitable the same year. The company was able to tap into the growing focus on non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) which they predict will become passports or keys to unique online spaces and places in the very near future. At one point this winter, Rtfkt sold 3.1 million dollars worth of virtual sneaker tokens within seven minutes. The investment round was led by venture capital firm Adreessen Horowitz who stated that they believe games may become the new social networks. “As we spend more and more time in virtual worlds, we will care as much about digital sneakers and handbags as we do about physical items,” said Jonathan Lai, a partner there. Proof of concept? Adidas, Gucci and Burberry have all launched virtual lines, and Puma has just launched a gaming ‘Sock’ for all the GQ-esque gamers out there. So, while the pundits ponder what the future of fashion might look like as we return to the streets, it seems that at the very least, we will have our virtual wardrobes on lock. #gameon!!

Let Me See Your Paper

Digital is cool, and yet… nostalgia + pandemic continues to fuel our hunger for the paper products of yesteryear (and we don’t mean toilet paper!). As Millennials fuel a land rush to NFTs, they are also driving up the values of their once ubiquitous tradable talismans: Pokemon. Prices for the cards have reached the nosebleed section of Ebay, with pristine pieces going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is taking months for eager traders to get their playground packs authenticated, leading to a Robinhood worthy meltdown for those looking to cash in on the current craze. Given the challenges of the past year, and the uncertainty that continues to plague plans for the future, having a few “pocket monsters” handy may not be the worst of plans! Charizard! I choose YOU!

Loud and Proud

The latest jewelry trend mines nostalgia and has a bit of a peacocking purpose. The hot new trend blowing up the ‘gram is candy colored and seemingly sprung from The Parent Trap. Summer camp-tinged lanyards and ‘blob’ resin rings take us back to bunk beds and BFFs, all the while allowing us to show off unique, hand crafted pieces that spark – wait for it – conversation! Luxury brands are feeding this homespun desire, offering bright and cheeky collectibles that lure people in, while keeping us feeling safe. Ready or not, at the very least, we can shop!

FOGO Footwear

Need further proof that for every person who is currently applauding Extra Gum’s ‘Summer of Love’ predictions (must watch!!) there is another who is perfectly content to crash on the couch for the next six months or so? Well this just in: Crocs – they are a still a thing. The company reported record first quarter sales last week, with its shares soaring well past initial expectations. CEO Andrew Rees said the global demand for the Colorado company’s unique brand of footwear is “stronger than ever,” with shoppers seeking a little extra comfort, and possibly a bit of bling, all while staying home. The clog brand’s collabs with Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Priyanka Chopra have certainly helped the brand reach new heights. (And all hail Questlove’s golden Croc moment at the Oscars – that broadcast gave us literally nothing else to talk about!) So if your summer theme is more FOGO than FOMO…. feel free to jump in feet first – you’re in good company.

Farm to ….Closet?

If there is one industry that has had a huge reckoning during the pandemic, it’s fashion. With supply chains disrupted and consumers questioning their need for the new, the Fantasia-like fugue of seasonal launches became the poster child for environmentally tone-deaf excess. As clothing brands and retailers alike begin to launch resale sites and pledge to work with dead stock and vintage materials, one brand is raising the stakes. The founders of the fashion line Christy Dawn are questioning the goal of sustainability, suggesting instead that the industry needs to be reaching for ways to become regenerative instead. To that end, they have become stewards of a regenerative cotton farm in Kanjikoil, Tamil Nadu, India, where they’re employing farmers who use ancient, natural techniques to transform acres of bare, chemical-stripped land into robust cotton crops. The first resulting capsule collection of those “Farm to Closet” pieces will debut on Christy Dawn’s website on May 11th, including an un-dyed embroidered cotton maxi dress and a block-printed mini in a blend of 50% regenerative cotton and 50% peace silk, produced without harming silk worms. Their goal is a big picture one – to change our relationship with fashion, and with ourselves. To quote the founders: “We have these environmental issues, economic issues, social issues… but at the root, I see an intimacy issue. We’ve forgotten who we are, and we’ve forgotten how to relate to ourselves, to each other, to the earth. It doesn’t really matter what title you put on it, but this is where we heal—we heal through relationships.” No doubt today’s consumers will see that as a good look.

The Second Coming of Second Hand

As consumers embrace, and even prize the world of thrift store threads, all eyes are turning to a new fast fashion villain – the trend towards cheap, disposable home goods. The pandemic brought stark focus to our mismatched armchairs and bare-boned bedrooms – and seemingly overnight our home screens were crammed with sources for new goods: fast fashion furniture. The result – a new crisis in the making. Right now, Americans alone throw out 12 million tons of furniture annually, up from 2 million tossed in 1960. The churn and burn of this Covid-fueled marketplace has rung environmentalist’s alarm bells, and like a hungover twenty-something we are beginning to questions choices made in the night. The bromide? A spike in sources for second hand design, with resources from the high (1stdibs) to the low (Facebook Marketplace) capitalizing on this new reckoning. Even industry giants like Ikea have recently launched buyback programs so that customers can chose refurbished pieces over new. Analysts believe these new retail channels will cause the furniture resale industry to hit $16.6 billion in sales by 2025, a 70% increase from 2018. It seems that the newest look in home design is thoughtfulness, with an eye for the future.

Give My Regrets

Despite our initial beliefs, 2020 has indeed turned out to be a year of incredible x-ray vision. But rather than providing us with big insights into a far-off future, it has instead provided the time and luxury to take a deep look back. This process of real-life review has led to an inevitable collective regret taking. But all is not bleak! Dan Pink, one of our favorite commentators on the human condition, is using this unique moment in time to capture and extrapolate these personal rues around the world into a global catalogue of reckoning, a planetary primer on how to create a life well lived. It’s a fascinating exploration into our collective psyche – and one we can all still participate in!

Paper Cuts are Cool!

In other sustainability news, guess what else is out? How about disposable razors? Once hailed as massive time and energy saver, the current world is giving the cold shoulder to this lubricious landfill fodder. The answer? – why origami, of course! Introducing Japan’s Paper Razor, 98% plastic-free. The ecologically engineered offering arrives unfolded, allowing the user the chance to craft their own face-saving device in minutes. Great for travel, and of course, for the planet. File these under fantastic!

It’s the Little Things

The past year has found us appreciating the little things in life, the simple pleasures that give us meaning and even joy. From organic gardening to ornithology, our once telescopic lens has shifted to one more microscopic, narrowing our gaze and celebrating the natural world around us. But what about our ears? In a surprising turn of events, two unique teams in the US have been uncovering the subtle, unheard sounds of this place we call home. These unlikely allies? MIT and Subway. Really! In a study begun before the pandemic, the scientists at MIT had been exploring the web-making process of arachnids for clues in the advancement of 3D printing. Add in a faculty member from the school of music, and the study of strings became an exploration into the web as an instrument. The sounds are unique, eerie and a bit unsettling – and yet, oddly connecting – a channel for a better understanding of this strange and beautiful world. Across the pond (and admittedly on a separate mission) the good people of Subway have been working with musician P Money to create some truly fresh beats. Among brands promoting sustainability for this year’s World’s Earth Day, the restaurant chain released what it claims is “the world’s first plant-based grime track,” featuring sounds emitted by plants to promote veganism. Listen in. The world is an incredibly rich and complex emporium of experiences. And we have so much left to discover.

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As our thoughts turn to the riotous colors of the world around us, we encourage you to drown in the cacophony of Vera Kober’s vibrant brush strokes. It’s a dance party!
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