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July 15, 2021

Let’s Get Loud

Gen Z has made it clear – they are looking for sustainability when it comes to clothes. Yet, the siren song of fast fashion continues to call with the allure of more, more, more. One brand looking to solve this dilemma is Audio Architect Apparel. This cutting edge offering has developed technology that turns their garments into music. Founder Dave Swallow is an award winning sound engineer who has worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse and the Bloody Beetroots. After years of touring the globe he could see the damage that was being done to the environment and he decided to do something about it. He set about creating a sustainable clothing brand where the clothes themselves became the music. Each garment contains music for the buyer to own and keep forever, underscoring the specialness and value of each piece. Catchy hook, no? To paraphrase SJP – “I like my money where I can hear it – in my closet.”

Mind Games

The past 15 months have underscored the deep and universal consumer desire for introspection and a need to develop tools for mental health. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Tripp, the psychedelic VR meditation startup has recently closed $11M in a Series A round of funding. As the name implies, the startup looks to create visuals and audio experiences that mimic the feelings people may have during a psychedelic trip —sans hallucinogens. “Many people that will never feel comfortable taking a psychedelic, so this is a low-friction alternative that can deliver some of that experience in a more benign way,” CEO Nanea Reeves tells TechCrunch. “The idea is to take mindfulness structures and video game mechanics together to see if we can actually hack the way that you feel.” Given the rapid growth in game adoption and the yawning need for personal peace, we anticipate a huge appetite for people to log on, drop out and tune in!

Cover Me

Vogue China’s new editor, Margaret Zhang, is already making power moves. The magazine’s famed September issue will be publicly cast through a “Hello New Face” initiative launching July 14th on the Vogue Club app. A post on the title’s Weibo page called out to followers seeking someone who is “bold, fun, looking to try something new, independent, talented and passionate about fashion” to sign up for a chance to be featured on the cover. This move has Zhang bringing a new cohort of local faces to the fore of Chinese fashion media, marking a significant ideological shift from the mainland’s celebrity-focused magazine model, where cover shoots have long been the preserve of top idols and the occasional supermodel. It also continues the country’s shift from a Western focused gaze, to one that looks admiringly on its own people. As China continues to escalate its role in the fashion and beauty markets, this type of cultural cognizance bears watching.

Sounds Like Teen Spirit

On this wild ride of 2021, we often wonder exactly where we are right now. With algorithms broken and prognosticators confused, the search for the centering zeitgeist thread seems a fruitless one. Well, ladies and gentlemen – I give you Willow Smith – or maybe we should call her Cassandra. Her recent single, Lipstick, showcases all the late 90’s and early 2000 music vibes climbing the charts right now, with a low-quality grungy-green screen video to bring it all home. There is all the emo, the rejection of status quo, and psychedelic vibes that comprise the darker underbelly of this erstwhile Hot Girl summer. If the run up to March 2019 had taken on a quasi-80’s tone, welcome to the new 90’s. Gen Z deserves to be cryptic – and once we have taken a breath, don’t we all have questions that still need answering? Rock on!

Coat Check

Talk about a puffer! Italian designer Andrew Kostman has created a metallic inflatable jacket that is filled with helium instead of down and can be carried around like a balloon. At home, it doubles up as an art piece and can be left to float on the ceiling in lieu of being hung on a coat rack. Kostman’s goal was not to simply create a coat that dazzles, but more to inspire all of us to think about our possessions as filling many needs. “It is more an artifact designed to amaze and make people realize that more can be done if we overcome our traditional thinking and approach things from a different angle.” Words to inform the work we must do to create the post-pandemic world of our dreams. Let’s amaze ourselves!

Throwing Shade

Walking the streets of our hometowns and neighborhoods became the cliché of lockdown. And yet, over the past months, this practice turned from tedious to cherished as we began to find a personal purpose in these rambles. Tapping into this new discipline, the Barcelona City Council has launched a new app called Cool Walks, designed to make it easier for pedestrians to walk in the shade. A feat of geography, weather intel and time management, the app calculates the patterns of sun and shade at various times and delivers walking options accordingly. One option is the fastest route, but there are also ‘vampire’ mode (all shade – my favorite!) and ‘sunny’, which includes marked water fountains and shade depots for quick breaks along the way. With both localism and climate change on the rise, many cities would do well to explore similar programs to help their citizens ‘walk this way.’

Wigging Out

The best new brands tap into personal pain x consumer sentiment. For Waeve co-founder and CEO Mary Imevbore, the journey to starting a brand was based on just this. As a computer science student at Williams College in 2017, she and her friends discovered that they all faced frustrations when shopping for hair brands catering to Black women. Everything was on the DL, with no one source to serve. To solve the problem, they decided to create their own business. Waeve, launched this past Tuesday with $2 million in seed funding led by Pillar VC with participation from Maveron, is already kicking up broader platform talk. The team believes they are tapping into existing demand to order wigs online, with online sales making up 63% of the global wig market in 2020. And with a broad range of styles, the brand is pursuing what they call a “wig fashion house concept” with unique style drops planned for four times a year. Following the flow established by celebrities and influencers, the goal is to offer people choices to make getting dressed a pleasure, and a chance to switch up personas. At this unique inflection point in time, we expect to see more brands develop from such unique cultural and lifestyle perspectives. Whip it good!

The Personals

Technology is often contrasted with humanity – one cold, the other warm. But what if the first could be the ultimate tool to save the second? Twenty-one patients who need kidney or liver transplants die every day, and only one in five such cases ultimately find living donors. Montefiore-Einstein Hospital System in New York seeks to improve those odds with “Live and Let Live”, a digital platform that uses simple prompts and A.I. tools to help patients tell their own stories across multiple media and possibly find donors. Patients input images, audio and video—augmented by stock assets as needed—and the system weaves the materials into film, social, print and OOH content designed for sharing. The technology formats films for YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook. It even generates posters and flyers. Perhaps if we can start to think of A.I. as assisted intelligence, instead of artificial, we might uncover more ways to even save a life.

Where the Boys Are

As mental health awareness sprung into the forefront of conversations during the pandemic, online forums and apps were developed to give people spaces and places to share and unpack. Women, in particular, found refuge and connection here. But where were the men? In a surprising subtext, men’s sports apps have bubbled up as a quiet resource for community and concern. One such is Whoop. Whoop was created in 2012 as a high-end monitoring device for professional and amateur athletes. Worn on the wrist or arm, it collects health data that can be shared with coaches, personal trainers and friends to improve workouts and challenge, praise and support each other. The app’s off-label use as a social support group became more pronounced during the darker stretches of the pandemic. When members noticed someone not working out, or not sleeping (data that is shared) many used it as a reason to check in and connect. Blake Reichenbach, who runs a wellness website for men, said that Whoop appeals to men who feel more comfortable gathering around stereotypically masculine activities. “There are a lot of groups popping up to get men to support other men, but the big problem they are having is that men are not conditioned to meet with other men and talk about their feelings,” Mr. Reichenbach said. Similar trends have been shown with tween and teenage boys who use the group chat function of games such as Fortnite to discuss bigger, more personal issues. Building in these deeper levels of connection, with prompts that allow for personal sharing might be an incredibly powerful step in addressing the current mental health crisis. Game makers? It’s your move.

Eat Your Words

Food is the great connector. Meals mend hearts, collapse borders, connect cultures. But preserve whole countries? In this charming history shared by Atlas Obscura, we unpack the clever means by which one determined priest recast an entire country into a place worthy of championing. By creating a cookbook utilizing the Slovene language and choosing to share recipes well above the standard fare, Valentin Vodnik elevated his people, and celebrated their history. This treasured tome has become a touchpoint for many Slovenians and provides a source of connection to a culture almost lost. The stories here echo the exploration and elevation of so many personal cultures that occurred during lockdown. There is a new power of self-knowledge and pride driven by these discoveries – the ripples of which will inform our lives and how we view the world for years to come. #tastetherainbow indeed!

Obligatory Cat Video?

As we venture forth into the world we are ready to be amazed, even dazzled, by things once considered mundane. But trust Tokyo to elevate the ubiquitous cat video into something awe-inspiring. Japanese commuters heading to their local train station were greeted by a Godzilla size version of this genre.. reminding us to remember to look up! Life is good, indeed!
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