Archives for category: TREND FORECASTING

The Age Of The Long Near from The Future Laboratory on Vimeo.

London – This is The Age of the Long Near, in which we explore why short-term thinking is the greatest threat to business potential, our happiness as individuals and the world that sustains us.

The Future Laboratory’s creative team has produced a film for LS:N Global’s Spring/Summer 2015 Trend Briefing, which was held at South Bank on 12 March.

The video introduces The Optimised Self, our manifesto for the body and mind; Whole-system Thinking, consumerism that goes beyond sustainability and environmentalism; and The Immortal Brand, a new premise for businesses that want to thrive in The Age of the Long Near.

‘We wanted to establish the premise of The Age of the Long Near through a commanding spoken narrative,’ says Lynne Devine, who provided design and direction on the film. ‘The film traces the path of an orb as it evolves, regenerates and mutates before returning to a singularity, suggesting an infinite cycle of time with an element of the divine.’

For more information about the event, contact alena@thefuturelaboratory.com.

Animation: Mighty Elk http://mightyelk.co.uk/
Sound: Joe Ashworth https://soundcloud.com/joeashworth
Voice Over: Elizabeth Nestor http://www.damngoodvoices.com/

Images:
Van Gogh cycle path by Studio Roosegaarde, Neunen, Netherlands
Morphosis by Lucia Giacan for ODDA magazine
Prada Mens AW15 Catwalk by AMO. Photography by Alberto Moncada

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In light of the first successful telepathic experiments utilizing digital messages sent to remote volunteers, JWT has come out with its 10 key consumer trends and behavior for the next 10 years and beyond (one of which are telepathic technologies…) It demonstrates both an attraction and aversion to developing technologies and the omnipresent, connected and always on society.

JWT’s “10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond” is the result of quantitative, qualitative and desk research conducted by JWTIntelligence throughout the year and for this report. JWTIntelligence conducted quantitative surveys using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool. – See more at: http://www.jwt.com/blog/consumer_insights/10-trends-that-will-shape-our-world-in-2014-and-beyond/#sthash.WKd0NHxT.dpuf

1_ IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES: Entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention.
2_ DO YOU SPEAK VISUAL?: We’re shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. “Visual” is a new lingo that needs to be mastered.
3_ THE AGE OF IMPATIENCE: With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more instant, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase.
4_ MOBILE AS A GATEWAY TO OPPORTUNITY: In emerging markets, the mobile device is coming to represent a gateway to opportunity—helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, education and more.
5_ TELEPATHIC TECHNOLOGY: Thanks to the rise of brain-computer interfaces and emotion recognition technology, brands are getting more adept at understanding consumers’ minds and moods, and reacting accordingly in a very personalized way.
6_ THE END OF ANONYMITY: Thanks to an array of new technologies and a growing drive to collect personal data, it’s becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked by corporations and governments. As anonymity becomes more elusive, expect pushback from consumers and a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy.
7_ RAGING AGAINST THE MACHINE: As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. We’ll put a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously question (while not entirely resisting) technology’s siren call.
8_ REMIXING TRADITION: With social norms quickly changing and a new anything-goes attitude, people are mashing up cherished traditions with decidedly new ideas, creating their own recipes for what feels right.
9_ PROUDLY IMPERFECT: Imperfection and even outright ugliness—the quirky, the messy and the clearly flawed—are taking on new appeal in a world that’s become all too polished or mass-produced. The imperfect is coming to feel more authentic, and also more comforting and meaningful.
10_ MINDFUL LIVING: Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, with more people drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment. – See more at: http://www.jwt.com/blog/consumer_insights/10-trends-that-will-shape-our-world-in-2014-and-beyond/#sthash.WKd0NHxT.dpuf

With a youthful appeal to 20-30 year olds, this colour will rejuvenate everything from home-wares like coffee makers to cars and naturally, clothing and accessories.

Radiant Orchid pantone 18-3224

The mother of all forecasting discusses her latest insights which reveal some very interesting ideas such as:

*Everyday Spirituality: Not in a Buddhist mode, but to something that celebrates life on a small, day to day level.
*The loss of individual behavior: Collaborative efforts and groupings. Terrace style organization.
*The young father: The nurturer which gives new perspective on parenting.
*Fluidity: The creative elite is envisioning a borderless world, against what is happening nationally and politically, where each person incorporates another profession in their work. Something akin to a new renaissance (wo)man.
*New couples are like teammates,buddies, comrades, lovers.
*The rite of the blogger (future editor-in-chiefs?): By creating their own sphere of influence, sharing innate passions for their subjects and reinvigorating the written word.
Naturally, she says it all with casual conviction and succinct wording…

Technology Review 2010 TR10 – technologies likely to change the world

Media Release:

1* Solar fuel. Joule Biotechnologies’ Noubar Afeyan has created genetically engineered microorganisms that can turn sunlight into ethanol or diesel — a feat that could allow biofuels to compete with fossil fuels on both cost and scale
2 * . Mobile 3-D. Recent box-office hits like Avatar and Up have added to the growing popularity of 3-D movies. Julien Flack of Dynamic Digital Depth is leading the charge to take 3-D mainstream not only on TVs, but also smart phones and mobile devices, through a technology that can convert existing 2-D content to 3-D on the fly.
3 * Dual-action antibodies. Genentech’s Germaine Fuh has found a promising way to fight conditions like cancer and AIDs through dual-action antibodies that give patients two drugs for the price of one, offering the promise of drugs that work better and cost less.
4* Real-time search. Amit Singhal is leading Google’s quest to mine social networks for up-to-the-second search results that offer the same relevance and quality of traditional Web searches.
5* Light-trapping photovoltaics. By depositing nanoparticles of silver on the surface of a thin-film cell, Kylie Catchpole of the Australian National University has found a way to boost the cells’ efficiency — an advance that could help make solar power more competitive with fossil fuels.
6* Engineered stem cells. James Thomson of Cellular Dynamics and the University of Wisconsin has potentially revolutionized the way we screen drugs and study disease by providing a way to make — in the test tube — any kind of cell from patients with different diseases.
7* Social TV. People are already trying to combine their social networks with TV, using laptops and smart phones to comment on live events like the Oscars or the Olympics. MIT’s Marie-José Montpetit is working on social TV — a way to seamlessly combine the active experience of social networks with the more passive experience of traditional TV viewing.
8* Green concrete. The production of cement is responsible for about 5 percent of global carbon emissions. Novacem’s Nikolaos Vlasopoulos has created a cement that is a carbon “sink” rather than a source. His innovation could greatly reduce the global carbon emissions that result from cement production.
9* Implantable electronics. Tufts University’s Fiorenzo Omenetto is developing implantable electronic devices that can be used to deliver drugs, stimulate nerves, monitor biomarkers, and more. And once they’ve done their job, they almost completely dissolve away.
10* Cloud programming. At the University of California, Berkeley, Joseph Hellerstein is creating better software for building cloud applications, and this could herald a new wave of applications for social media analysis, enterprise computing, or sensor networks monitoring for earthquake warning signs.

As we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium, let’s consider what life will be like a decade hence. Changes in our lives from technology are moving faster and faster. The telephone took 50 years to reach a quarter of the U.S. population. Search engines, social networks and blogs have done that in just a few years time. Consider that Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to meet each other just six years ago; it now has 350 million users and counting. 

Between now and 2020, the trend will continue, spreading cutting-edge technologies to every corner of the country and beginning to make innovations once consigned to the realm of science fiction real for millions of Americans. Specifically what can we expect? Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand. 

What will drive all this accelerating change is precisely what has driven it this past half-century: the exponential growth in the power of information technology, which approximately doubles for the same cost every year. When I was an MIT undergraduate in 1965, we all shared a computer that took up half a building and cost tens of millions of dollars. The computer in my pocket today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion-fold increase in the amount of computation per dollar since I was a student. 

That incredible force — information technology that moves faster, then faster, then faster still — will power changes in every imaginable realm over the next decade.

Start with the basics. You’ve no doubt noticed that electronic gadgets are getting smaller and smaller; the iPod Shuffle holds 1,000 songs and weighs 0.38 ounces. Your phone is smaller than it was a few years ago and can do much more. By 2020, memory devices will be integrated into our clothing. And the very idea of a “smart phone” will begin to change. Rather than looking at a tiny screen, our glasses will beam images directly to our retinas, creating a high resolution virtual display that hovers in air.

That virtual display will be able to take over our entire visual field of view, putting us in a three-dimensional full immersion virtual reality environment. We’ll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in these 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will be an art form. We’ll even have ways to touch one another virtually.

There are already beginning to be apps available for your iPhone or Android phone that allow you to look at a building and have the display superimpose what stores are inside it; Google Goggles, released last week, is the first free, widely-available version of such software. By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.

In other words, your memory will be constantly, instantaneously aided by the information available on the Internet. The two will begin to become indistinguishable.

How about energy? That doesn’t sound like an information technology. Fossil fuels, after all, are an early first industrial revolution, 19th century technology. But we are now applying nanotechnology — the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices—to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy. As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past  20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.

When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, “but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?” I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this. The prime minister announced an Israeli energy initiative the next day at the Israeli Presidential Conference based on our conversation, setting a 10-year goal to create the technologies to completely replace fossil fuels.

It’s not just the gadgets we carry around and the power we use to fuel our lives that are subject to what I call “the law of accelerating returns.” Health and medicine, which used to be a hit or miss process, has now become an information technology.

We now have the software of life (our genes) and the means of upgrading that software. How long do you go without updating the software on your cell phone? Not long: it does it itself every few days or weeks. Yet we are walking around with obsolete software in our bodies that evolved thousands of years ago. Within 10 years, that will change. 

Already today, there are over a thousand projects to change our genes away from disease and toward health, not just in newborns but in mature individuals. The Human Genome Project, which has catalogued our genetic material, was itself a very good example of the law of accelerating returns; the amount of genetic data that is sequenced has doubled every year and the cost has come down by half every year. We can now design health interventions on computers and test them out on biological simulators. These technologies are doubling in power every year and will be a thousand times more powerful in a decade.

By 2020, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging, and toward significant advances in our ability to treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer — an approach that will be fully mature by 2030. 

We won’t just be able to lengthen our lives; we’ll be able to improve our lifestyles. By 2020, we will be testing drugs that will turn off the fat insulin receptor gene that tells our fat cells to hold on to every calorie. Holding on to every calorie was a good idea thousands of years ago when our genes evolved in the first place. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity. By 2030, we will have made major strides in our ability to remain alive and healthy – and young – for very long periods of time. At that time, we’ll be adding more than a year every year to our remaining life expectancy, so the sands of time will start running in instead of running out.

No, it’s not going to be an entirely brave new world. Some things will look pretty similar in 2020. We’ll still drive cars — although they will have the intelligence to avoid many accidents and self-driving cars will at least be experimented with. All-electric cars will be popular. And in cities, don’t expect subways or buses to go away.

But in more and more ways big and small, hang in there and we’ll all get to see the remarkable century ahead.

Kurzweil is former recipient of the MIT-Lemelson prize, the world’s largest for innovation, and in 1999 was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He is the author of the books “The Singularity is Near” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines.”

By David Licona
Puebla, Mexico, is the latest city to offer a taxi service exclusively for women. Intended as a safe means of transport, the thirty-five strong fleet of bright pink Chevys are driven by women only and will not stop for men. For further female appeal, the cabs are equipped with beauty kits, GPS and emergency panic buttons. Pink Taxi de Puebla has privately financed the initiative, according to an AP report. The regional government, which is licensing the service, has trained more than 60 Pink Taxi drivers (aged 25-45) in driving theory and practice, as well as aspects of car maintenance, such as changing tyres.

Despite the best intentions of the scheme, some local women’s rights campaigners claim that the girly vehicles are promoting harmful female stereotypes. Still, they are certainly eye-catching and for women who have experienced harassment by male drivers in the past, the 24-hour service is sure to offer peace of mind. Similar operations have already proved successful in places from London to Teheran. Mexico City proposed it in 2007, but settled instead for female-only buses and subway cars. If this service in Puebla is successful, there are plans to expand to other cities. If your own town doesn’t yet have a fuchsia fleet, now’s the time to launch one.

By Jeff Salton

The first blue roses will be available for sale next week in Japan (Photo: Florigene Ltd /...

They may not be exactly blue in color, but the long-awaited commercial release of the blue rose is set to take place in Japan next week (November 3). Thought to be impossible to create because they lack the blue pigment delphinidin, Australia-based Florigene and its Japanese parent company Suntory Holdings (known more for its beer than its floral conquests) began working together in 1990 to create a blue rose by introducing a blue gene from panzies and then irises into roses. It took until 2004 before the team could announce the successful development of blue roses. But before you go ordering a dozen or so for your loved one, check out the price – around ¥2,000-3,000 (US$22-32) each.

Breeding a blue rose has been described by many horticulturalists as the ‘Holy Grail’ of rose breeding.

A clear silk film, about one centimeter squared, with six silicon transistors on its surfa...

By Darren Quick

Via Technology review22:52 November 11, 2009 PST

Tattooing dates back to at least Neolithic times and has experienced a resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world in recent years. Advancements in tattoo pigments and the refinement of tattooing equipment has seen an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced. Today it’s possible to get ink that glows under UV light, but a new technology could see tattoos that emit their own light. Researchers have been able to build thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates that almost completely dissolve inside the body, paving the way for embedded LED tattoos that offer much more than just aesthetic appeal.

The devices are made of a thin film of silk on which silicon transistors about one millimeter long and 250 nanometers thick are placed. The silk holds the electronics in place and conforms to the biological tissue when implanted inside the body and wetted with saline. Unlike current electronic devices that need to be isolated from the body and are on rigid silicon, the silk substrates are completely broken down by the body into harmless by-products. And because they are just nanometers thick, the thin silicon circuits left behind don’t cause irritation.

Although the prospect of LED tattoos brings to mind science-fiction scenarios of gangs sporting futuristic illuminated designs that can be animated to move across a person’s body, the technology is being developed for medical applications such as photonic tattoos to show blood-sugar readings.

The technology also offers the prospect of arrays of conformable electrodes that could interface with the nervous system to allow improved control of prostheses. Also, arrays of silk electrodes conforming to the brain’s crevices thereby reaching regions inaccessible with current technology could be used to control Parkinson’s symptoms.

Silk is already approved for medical implants by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the researchers are able to control the rate at which it degrades, which can range from immediately after implantation up to years. Silicon has not conclusively been proven to be biocompatible, but all studies so far have shown it to be safe. The devices also contain gold and titanium, which are required for the electrical connections. Because they are biocompatible but not biodegradable the researchers are working on biodegradable contacts so that all that would remain inside the body is silicon.

The silk-silicon technology is being developed by researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Tufts University in Medford, MA, and the University of Pennsylvania. They managed to implant silk-silicon devices in animals with no adverse effects and no impact on the performance of the transistors on the silk. Their findings appear in a Paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

By Juliet Warkentin, WGSN
Some very interesting developments as our crunch goes on…

The Power of Women
Powerful, iconic women have been making headlines recently, not only with their ability to inspire new generations as role models (Hilary Clinton, Christiane Amanpour) and fashionistas (Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni), but also through a growing awareness that the 21st-century workplace will be far better served if it taps into its feminine side: Experts cite female characteristics such as ‘discipline, focus, detachment, and systematic thinking, together with playfulness, empathy, and design‘ as the key to management success. From a retail point of view, women hold the decision-making power for many products, making it vital for marketers and brands to connect with them. In recessionary times it makes even more sense to focus on the group that holds the purse strings.

The Wisdom of Age
In a world that has idolised youth for decades, ’age‘ is little more than a dirty word. But as the economy gets tougher and as Baby Boomers get older, the concept of ’experience‘ is acquiring a new relevance and energy. To get the best from the benefits of age is more than learning lessons from the past — it’s about applying experience to new ideas and concepts.

Opposites Attract
An adverse reaction is often the birth of a new trend. This trend could be termed the “baglash” – a movement against the now de rigeur It bags and conspicuous consumption – and in it’s place, a humbler design approach to luxury that’s all about understated perfection and unconscious simplicity. For the modern consumer, the placement of a perfect seam or an immaculately sculpted collar is more awe-inspiring and authentic than any logo. That’s not to say we’ve forsaken glamour entirely. But rather than OTT branding, the flip-side of this modest trend is about bold, dramatic gestures that tell a story. Look to bygone fashion icons such as Iris Apfel and Diana Vreeland: eccentric and headline-grabbing in their styling, yes, but always true to themselves.


2009 Honda U3-X Demonstration Video
A self-balancing unicycle experimental vehicle from Honda to be shown at the Tokyo Motor Show next month might just be history in the making. Weighing less than 10kg, the 24 by 12 by 6-inch U3-X experimental vehicle runs for an hour, is small enough to be carried onto an airplane as hand luggage, has a wheel which spins in two planes and is set to challenge, perhaps even change, society’s concept of personal mobility.

Though Honda’s U3-X is still experimental, only runs for an hour, isn’t as fast as the Embrio and is not hydrogen fuel cell powered, it is already in prototype form and weighs just 10 kg, rather than the 164 kg weight BRP expected of the Embrio in 2025.

Six years later, Honda’s U3-X is one sixteenth of the weight of the Embrio envisioned for 2025 – and 2025 is still more than a decade and a half away.

And though the HFT is two-wheeled rather than one, it has a top speed of 20 kmh, weighs in at 50kg and it is available now.

Clearly personal transport must get smaller and lighter, particularly if it is to share the footpath with humans made from flesh and blood. It also makes sense to make personal transportation devices easily backpackable, so they can be carried on public transport, and at just two feet tall and 12 inches by six inches in cross section, the U3-X is so small that it would never disrupt crowd flow or obstruct a railway carriage as we often see with bicycles on public transport around the world.
With the world’s most prolific demographic, the post-war baby boom moving into old age, Honda and the world’s number one automobile manufacturer (Toyota) both recognize that low speed, footpath bound mobility assist devices will be in great demand a decade from now. Toyota has also shown both walking- and wheeled-chair mobility assist devices in addition to its iREAL wheeled exoskeleton which I was lucky enough to try at the last full Tokyo Motor Show back in 2007.

Though it is a genuine engineering triumph of some magnitude in its entirety, the U3-X’s most remarkable piece of engineering is the Honda Omni Traction Drive System which enables both forward and backward movement as well as side-to-side movement.

The HOT drive is indeed one of the coolest things you have ever seen if you’re mechanically inclined and consists of many small motor-controlled wheels in-line connected to form one large wheel. Forward and backward movement is done by moving the large wheel, and side-to-side movement is done by moving the small wheels. By combining both, the U3-X moves diagonally, though to the rider, it’s more like thinking “I’ll go that way”, and away it goes.

When being carried, the seat and the footrests fold away so it looks more like a ghetto blaster than a transportation device.

And at Honda’s stated weight of less than 10kg, the light-weight it’s highly portable – indeed, it’s not that long ago that computers weighed more than this.

Though the Tokyo Motor Show is still four weeks away, and promises to be the most significant car show in recent history due to the plethora of eco-centric vehicles we’ll see, I’d be very surprised if the U3-X isn’t the vehicle that we’ll read about in history books a century from now. It just might be a landmark device in transportation history.
 Portable and less than 10kg in weight - the Honda U3-X The seats stow within the Honda U3-X when not in use The Honda U3-X, ready for use A pair of Honda U3-X experimental vehicles

By Samantha Critchell (Canadian Press)

NEW YORK — The clone wars have ended: It is no longer cool to carry around the must-have handbag that all your friends have, too. Nor do you need to have matching designer outfits or easily identified mass-market kitsch.

Tastemakers say there’s more value these days in owning the unique, even if it sometimes costs a little more.

At a recent brainstorming session held by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, designer Betsey Johnson told her peers that it was her “special things” – the items that didn’t look as if they could come from anywhere else – that were her best performers.

When it comes to trends, Johnson says, a chain like H&M can get them out there before she can, even if the style started on her runway. But, she says, those stores can’t capture the Betsey Johnson signatures, so that’s what she’s concentrating on.

“The idea of a cookie-cutter idea of style can seem more stale than it used to,” says Claire Hamilton, retail and events consultant for style forecasting firm WGSN. “This is a reaction to the sheer amount of fastness in the fashion market … people are looking for what is unexpected.”

Even retail giant Macy’s is trying to carve niches to appeal to the uniqueness customers are craving.

The company is the sole U.S. department-store source for the Spanish label Desigual, which has a global-infused contemporary look achieved through embroidery and patchwork, and it will be the only place for Rachel Rachel Roy, the upscale designer’s contemporary line.

“We want to make Macy’s a destination for these things,” says group vice-president of ready-to-wear fashion Nicole Fischelis. “We can’t go anymore and focus just on the basics. We want to offer pieces that stand out.”

The company is actively seeking out exclusives, serving a twofold purpose, according to Fischelis: Shoppers get distinctive items and the store differentiates itself from its competitors.

Cathy Calhoun, a jeweller in Royersford, Pa., and New York-based Max Osterweis, who launched Suno, a collection of bright cotton apparel made from traditional East African kangas, both have found success during the recession by offering one-of-a-kind items.

Osterweis, in fact, now is moving away from using vintage printed fabrics to creating new vintage-inspired printed fabrics at a factory in Kenya partly because the demand is exceeding supply. (Also, part of the mission of Suno is to create a sustainable apparel industry for the local population.)

Michelle Obama, wife of the U.S. president, was photographed this summer in a Suno top, which almost certainly increased brand awareness.

Even as it grows, however, the business will stay intentionally small, which allows him to maintain control, explains Osterweis. “Suno is trying to create a new paradigm for what luxury goods are by going back to the old paradigm of what luxury goods were – things that are very special, difficult to get and might have a story behind it.”

Calhoun Jewelers sells the traditional milestone items such as engagement rings and confirmation crosses that one would expect from a suburban store, but Calhoun says it’s the vintage pieces, which are often more expensive, that are generating interest and excitement.

“Here’s the No. 1 thing people are looking for: a piece of jewelry with provenance or a story. If there’s a story to it, they have to have it,” she says.

Recently, she had a quick sale of a diamond brooch with open platinum handwork from the early 1920s that came in its original box. It had been passed on from generation to generation and, for 30-plus years, it belonged to a woman who wrote a note, kept in the box, asking the next bearer of the brooch to “wear it and cherish it as I did.”

“People don’t come in knowing they want a story, but once you start giving a story, they are enthralled by it and that’s when they have to have it,” she says. “You feel important in this jewelry and you are given the chance to retell the story every time you wear it.”

Consumers are attracted to the craftsmanship they associate with vintage jewelry, as well as top-tier leather brands and couturiers, says Greg Furman, executive director of The Luxury Marketing Council, which advises CEOs and marketers on how best to reach potential customers.

It helps if you can make an emotional connection too, because then shoppers aren’t concerned with price – or at least the price tag, he explains. They’ll amortize the cost over the long period of time that they’ll cherish that special thing or experience, which will be perceived as a better long-term investment than a here-today, gone-tomorrow fashion trend.

“It’s stuff you understand why there might be a high price tag on a product,” Furman says. “That brings the joy to have great things.”

Furman also sees a growing movement toward customization, in which consumers have a say in how a final product turns out – and ensuring its rarity.

“We’re moving away from the old push form of marketing. Image ads don’t work anymore. Now we want to understand what you want, it’s pull marketing – tell us what you want,” he says. “How much more special can something be than if you help make it. It’s a clear shift from the ‘it’ bag mentality.”

Hamilton, the trend analyst, says the change is largely a byproduct of a more savvy marketplace. “We’re all a little more sophisticated in how we dress and think about fashion. The ability to have something no one else has is total luxury.”

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Sybille Walter

The altlantic,

Written by Benjamin Schwarz

It was a splendid relic, this February’s New York Fashion Week. Twice a year, in February and September, some 250 designers introduce their collections for the upcoming season. Most of the superstars stage runway shows beneath improbably glamorous temporary tents in Bryant Park, while the Next New Things and the famously edgy hold presentations in galleries and formerly grotty lofts in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. To the natives, it’s a semiannual rite to be endured: a constant stream of town cars and cabs cleaves the middle third of Manhattan, relaying models and editrixes, photographers and trust-fund interns, store buyers and fashion aficionados and their hangers-on (beauties with surly boyfriends, celebrities of various grades with somewhat dicey entourages). Hotel bars and neighborhood boîtes close for private parties, and block-long lines of Parsons/FIT/Pratt students, sartorial exhibitionists, and other species of the young and hip take over downtown sidewalks, emitting their Gauloise smoke and studious sullenness (the latter exacerbated when the fashion world’s A-listers steadily breeze past them to the head of the queue).

The point of it all is hardly obvious. Decades ago, these presentations were hushed, semisecret affairs for a very limited audience made up of a designer’s select group of private clients (the ladies who lunched at the Colony and Le Pavillon); buyers from Bonwit Teller, Bergdorf Goodman, Peck & Peck, and, probably at the top of the heap, Saks Fifth Avenue, who would place orders for the dresses they would sell to their ever so slightly less select clients; and the elite of the fashion press (actually, fashion being then so rarefied, there was hardly a non-elite fashion press)—the blue-rinsed Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar and the equally blue-rinsed Edna Woolman Chase of Vogue, along with their minions, “tall, cool Vassar graduates,” as S. J. Perelman described them, all in their pillbox hats and white gloves. Fearing piracy of their upcoming designs, the handful of American fashion houses shunned publicity and prohibited even sketching.

Although small-scale and discreet, those old-fashioned shows clearly served a mercantile purpose. Fashion Week, on the other hand, was invented in the 1990s, at the height of New York’s giddy, gilded age, as a pseudo-event to generate froth, a quality that may be priceless—or worthless. And all of the collections are now photographed and, in quite a few cases, filmed, so they’re available, sometimes within minutes, on dozens of Web sites (most prominently, Style.com), where they can be studied in detail. In this environment, sketching is unnecessary, and fashion-besotted kids in Kankakee get a closer view of the sculptural seaming on Narciso Rodriguez’s rigorously tailored, cropped khaki wool-twill jacket than do Suzy Menkes and Claire Danes in the front row. Which makes those blingy, Sex and the City–ish tent shows rather quaint. “Kind of like a Shriners’ convention—people get together and wear funny outfits,” the gimlet-eyed fashion critic Lynn Yaeger observed while filing into an unusually celebrity-engorged show.

The Colony closed in 1971, Le Pavillon in 1972, Peck & Peck in 1974, and Bonwit Teller in 1990; Saks, as we’ll see, is another story. And though an elegiac mood suffused February’s Fashion Week, few there cared a whit for the long-vanished world of fashion doyennes. Indeed, if today’s standard-issue fashionistas have thought at all about that former era, it has only been to congratulate themselves on how much more “free,” diverse, and glittery is their own new nexus of money, prestige, and fashion—an agglomeration of the wives, girlfriends, and aimless daughters of Manhattan’s entertainment, media, and financial titans and mini-titans that forms the gelatin in which are suspended the candied fruit of Ivy-educated actresses, charismatic DJs, scenesters with great bone structure, and rap stars given to obscene gestures on the most unlikely occasions.

During this gray February week the nostalgia was, of course, for the gaudiest spree in New York’s history—a binge that began sometime in the Reagan years, accelerated for two decades (despite brief and minor slowdowns at the end of 1987 and 2001, and what in retrospect was a trifling breather in 1990–91), and ended last year with breathtaking rapidity and finality. With one eye on the Dow and the other on the lonely stretches of Bergdorf’s main floor, Yaeger marveled, “It’s getting worse so fast.” Sally Singer, Vogue’s director of fashion news and features, who has the most sociologically and historically sophisticated antennae in fashion (honed by her fanatical childhood home sewing, her Berkeley-dropout stint as a beautician in Oakland, her graduate work in American studies at Yale, and her quasi-Marxian rigor as an editor at the London Review of Books), was noticing a new trend on Manhattan streets: cute young women putting skirts and little lace-up shoes together with the expensive suit jackets and crisp striped shirts their newly unemployed banker boyfriends no longer needed. “Great look,” she allowed with a shrug.

Fashion’s strange career and the city’s boom years entwined. Not only was Fashion Week that era’s creature; the period had essentially created that event’s very locales. Before the boom, Bryant Park meant methadone addicts, Chelsea meant shabby gentility, and the Meatpacking District meant rough trade, transvestite prostitutes, and, well, meatpacking. By boom’s end, all of Manhattan (and a good part of Brooklyn, and even some of Queens) had, it seemed, become one vast, hip neighborhood. This meant that soaring rents were eroding the traditional centers of garment manufacturing, but it also meant that talented young designers now had swaths of new territory in which to open their own boutiques and build an ever-growing fashion-conscious customer base.

The main store of Tracy Feith, for instance, one of the bevy of young designers Singer has nurtured and championed (Feith was relatively unknown outside fashion circles until Michelle Obama wore his dress at the National Prayer Service the morning after the Inauguration), moved last September from Mulberry Street, which was transformed in the 1990s from goombahville to a center of insouciant hipness, to Williamsburg—which was transformed in the early 2000s from a pool for poor immigrants to … a center of insouciant hipness. More generally, the relationship between fashion and the few who populated the boom-engendered scene under the tents, as well as between fashion and the vast army of boom-engendered fashion customers, was the same as the relationship between art and its rich, powerful, often unlovely patrons: all that money sloshing around led to excessive, vulgar creations and consumption, but it also created a fertile soil in which works of beauty and integrity could develop.

Image credit: Firstview

In 1931 and 1932, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote two essays, “Echoes of the Jazz Age” and “My Lost City,” in which he described how in just two years New York’s “vaunting pride” and “steady golden roar” born of “fantastic success” and fashionable, youthful free spending came to seem “as far away as the days before the War”—and how the reckless élan that characterized those vanished years had been replaced by a chastened awareness of dashed hopes and circumscribed ambition. Indirectly, Fitzgerald’s pieces remind us that the Depression had insidiously but rather slowly worked its way into the life of New York. The October 1929 crash had been a jolt, but the Christmas shopping season following on its heels was a prosperous one. The market’s precipitous drop seemed, if not a healthy correction, then at least, probably, a manageable one; indeed, Wall Street had recovered a good portion of the losses from the October crash in the mini-rally of early 1930, and the market wouldn’t find its bottom until July 1932. It was really only in the autumn of 1930, perhaps even later, that it became clear to New Yorkers that what Fitzgerald called “the most expensive orgy in history” was irrevocably over.

The current collapse, universally labeled within the fashion world a depression, has struck with a vicious suddenness that can almost be dated to the week. Everything had been different just five months before, in September 2008, at the previous Fashion Week. True, by then everyone knew that some economizing lay ahead, even perhaps, worst-case scenario, something on the order of the 1991 recession. But spending on fashion—on uplift and fantasy—had proved recession-resistant. Saks, for instance, knew its customers and, like most stores of its kind, bet on their desires. At the beginning of 2008 it placed heavy orders on the New York collections and on the collections presented in succession in London, Milan, and Paris over the following months. But in October, in what Stephen Sadove, the CEO of Saks, told The Wall Street Journal was “as short a period of time as you can possibly imagine,” fashion customers just stopped buying. By mid-November, Saks had cut its prices by 70 percent—well below the break-even point. This introduced the most economically ravaging period in the history of American fashion. Saks’s competitors were forced to follow suit, which meant that designers got next to nothing for their fall collections. As Tracey Ross, who ran what was probably the best-curated boutique in Los Angeles (she was forced out of business after nearly 20 years, in December), put it, “I am like, ‘Do the math. I sold your $800 shoes for $50.’”

New York fashion is mostly a lot of small businesses. Even household-name designers often lack backers, which means that they make twice-yearly gambles (on their fall and spring collections) requiring huge cash outlays—for the most part, fabrics have to be bought, patterns cut, garments sewn, and finishes applied before any money comes in. All of which makes the industry unusually vulnerable to the credit squeeze. Fashion is by far the largest manufacturing industry in New York, but it’s mostly made up of piecework (for instance, Lyn Devon, a rising designer known for her well-cut, sexy renditions of classics, relies on four women in Queens to produce all her knitwear). Last season’s sales, then, were “very, very destructive,” as Singer says. “It might be cool to be able to find something for 80 percent off … but that means a lot of people aren’t getting paid, and a lot of businesses are going to go under.” Diane von Furstenberg, who serves as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, declared with old-world imperiousness that the sales that had devastated the industry “cannot happen again.”

But they’re bound to. Days before Fashion Week, a friend in the fashion world ran into the fashion director of a tony Manhattan department store on the store’s empty main sales floor. Surveying the unsold spring lines, the director said the clothes would sit at full price on the shelves until March (the conventional understanding, violated by Saks in the fall, holds that stores won’t mark down prices for two months), and “then we slash.” For their part, of course, the large retailers are also hemorrhaging: in January, Saks fired 1,100 people, including its director of women’s fashion, Michael Fink, and Neiman’s fired 375 (just after Fashion Week, Neiman’s fired an additional 450 employees).

Given this cataclysmic reality, Fashion Week itself was, depending on one’s point of view, a remnant of an age of gaudy excess or evidence of remarkable and unfounded pluck. A runway show in one of the tents can cost $800,000: the 40 or so outfits must be handmade, the space rented ($50,000), shoes and accessories (usually designed specifically for the collection) bought, and the stylist, lighting designer, hair and makeup artists, and 40-some models (top ones traditionally get $20,000 a show) paid. So the decision Rodriguez made to finance his own tent show (he lost his backer, Liz Claiborne Inc., in October) was gutsy. True, economizing was evident throughout Fashion Week: the models halved their catwalk fees, and a number of designers scaled back their presentations—Marc Jacobs, for instance, cut his guest list from 2,000 to 500, and decided to forgo his once de rigueur after-party. Still, Fashion Week’s purpose is to shimmer, and there were more than enough dos. Their atmosphere did bring to mind Fitzgerald’s description of post-crash cocktail parties in the first years of the 1930s:

A last hollow survival of the days of carnival [in which] a few childish wraiths still played to keep up the pretense that they were alive, betraying by their feverish voices and hectic cheeks the thinness of the masquerade.

Fashion, of course, draws far more than its share of such young and foolish creatures, but for every three fashionistas attracted to the glitzy and the trendy of Fashion Week, there was someone more seasoned, enticed by fashion’s singular ability to marry aesthetics and psychology, formalism and eroticism. Those people were far more likely to be at certain presentations (say, L’Wren Scott’s or Francisco Costa’s for Calvin Klein) than at others (Proenza Schouler’s, Alexander Wang’s), and, being mostly of a certain age and leading very busy lives, would eschew those parties anyway. Hardly recreational shoppers, they’d probably been less excessive spenders than many well-off, fashion-minded Manhattanites; but their country’s prevailing culture—and particularly their city’s—had hardly been an ascetic one, and the boom had been long. As is true for most Americans, the period since … well, since the September Fashion Week has amounted to the great chastening experience of their lives. Outside Rodriguez’s show, a woman much photographed by the fashion blogs for her stylish and eccentric dress carried a bag striking for its combination of whimsy and sophistication. The ornamentation, “rather Alice in Wonderland–ish,” as she put it, seemed handmade. “Well, hand- applied,” she explained, “though who really knows where or by whom.” The irony turned to self-disgust as she volunteered that she’d bought it for a modest fortune on Labor Day—“just five months ago. It now just seems so obscene.” She liked the bag, but she had enough bags.

Those given to introspection at Fashion Week were similarly dismayed, not just with themselves and fashion’s readily apparent excesses but with the city’s decades-long, dizzying spree—an attitude that echoed Fitzgerald’s description of New Yorkers’ sobering-up after a similarly immoderate era: “Now once more the belt is tight and we summon the proper expression of horror as we look back at our wasted youth.”

To put it in very different terms, consumers of fashion are undergoing a “values correction,” as the retail consultant Candace Corlett told Reuters. If that’s so, a contingent of people at the heart of American fashion has for years been readying for post-crash style. The great figures in fashion need a kind of clairvoyance, for they have to show women what they want before they know that they want it. Critics given to a crude commercial determinism have long dismissed that as nothing more than the market dictating to hapless consumers what fripperies to buy. But in fact insight into what women want is born of emotional and psychological sympathy and an exquisite sensitivity to the faintest and most distant cultural and commercial tremors.

Fashion is both a form of self-expression and an outward means of defining and altering selfhood. (Indeed, fashion people largely agree that a woman’s sense of style grows out of her youthful vision of the romance of adulthood.) It famously, complicatedly blends art and commerce, and perhaps the highest compliment one can pay a designer is to say that he or she understands the customer: a good part of the art lies in fathoming her mood, her desires, and her ambitions, and the ways these may shift from season to season and year to year and evolve as she ages. The best designers challenge those who wear their clothes—they want to guide and at times even push them, but they’ll fail in every sense when they push in a direction the customer repudiates. Underlying the relationship between designer and customer are a handful of fashion editors and store fashion directors who themselves guide, prod, and educate the other parties. They discover and promote emerging talent, and help established designers refine and enlarge their aesthetic and commercial goals.

Two of the most influential of these matchmakers and tastemakers—Singer and Julie Gilhart, the senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York, a store that exercises the greatest sway of any in the country—extracted what substance there was to be had from Fashion Week. Singer, legendary for her work ethic and ferocious energy (and possessed of a near-Talmudic knowledge of the New York subway system), attended upward of 10 presentations a day, shuttling on Saturday, for instance, from Chelsea for the Ohne Titel show (biker/Rick Owens–inspired, lots of chain mail, but also some formfitting dresses and jackets) to far-west Midtown for the VPL show (innerwear as outerwear, dance-girl look), then crosstown to a private presentation by Koi Suwannagate (all cashmere), later to the Roseland ballroom for the show of the Next Huge Thing, Alexander Wang (cropped blazers and body-conscious dresses for what one observer called “the skinny hipster in the city”), and back to Chelsea to a hideously overcrowded loft (the fire marshals seem to look the other way during Fashion Week) for a presentation by the “fashion collective” Threeasfour, which featured geometric shapes and uncharacteristically sharp tailoring. Avoiding the parties, she capped off the evening at a buffet supper in solid, sleepy Cobble Hill, where the theme was a salute to Oregon and the entertainment was folk ballads performed by the hosts’ children. Gilhart, impatient with the glut, jokingly told New York magazine that by Wednesday she was trying to escape Fashion Week. “I started looking for flights: ‘How much would it cost to just fly away to the Dominican Republic? Would Turks and Caicos be cheaper?’” The whole scene “just got excessive.” Though blasé, as she told me, about “runway shows with pretty clothes,” Gilhart (who, when I first met her last summer, was wearing a sundress from Rogan Gregory’s organic, sustainable line for Target, a black-lace Icelandic bracelet, and a gold surfer’s pendant from Abraxas Rex) is surprisingly excited about what she believes the current crash will mean for the future of fashion. She has long maintained that women want—or should want—something different from what they’ve so far been offered by fashion. Now, by necessity, they are going to get it.

Singer and Gilhart have responded with sympathy to what their close friends the designers Ruben and Isabel Toledo call “the fashion plunge” (obviously, many people they love and admire are in financial jeopardy), but they don’t yearn for a return to the fashion spree. Gilhart, who would be meeting with a charitable group in the South Bronx the next weekend, put things in perspective by describing what she sees there: “Now that’s a catastrophe.” Fashion, she said, “will have to take some hits,” but the plunge “will lead us to a new era in fashion, and to a better place”—a place she and Singer have been trying to get to for years. “I’m quite optimistic,” Singer told an audience at a “Conscientious Consumption” panel she helped organize at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles immediately after Fashion Week. This economy, Singer said, has made women think, “My God—why did I need all this stuff?” Gilhart adds that thanks to the recession, “the customer is just thinking more,” which “is preparing the ground for a more conscious consumerism.”

These women hope this new deliberation will benefit the savings rate, the environment, the workers of the world, animals, and—not least—fashion. Gilhart led Barneys’ development of its own line of all-organic casual clothes, made by Loomstate, and has deployed her clout to persuade designers to make clothes from organic, recycled, and discarded materials. She used the store’s powerful publicity machine (buzz-inducing Christmas window displays on the Upper East Side, in Chicago’s Gold Coast, and in Beverly Hills) to push a tough though quirky environmental message on its customers. She has sought out designers and lines committed to high labor standards and economic development. Vogue’s “View” section, which Singer oversees, inaugurated a monthly page on Style Ethics in March. It’s a link Singer has been trying to make for years, as she has nudged fashion consumers and producers to rethink their stances toward not just animals and workers but, more generally, the nasty ethos that pervades the fashion world. She told Paper in 2000:

I think that there are a considerable number of people in this industry who think that to be cool and hip and to have “edge,” it is essential to be cruel—to be a bitch, for lack of a better word … I think there’s an idea in the fashion world that if you’re humane and you’re thoughtful … that you are somehow less hip … This posturing in the industry simply has to be done away with.

Within both women there’s a tension between delight in fashion—a delight rooted simultaneously in their own refined aesthetic and girlish thrill (“Wearing clothes is fun,” Singer says)—and an acute awareness that, in Singer’s words, “the world does not need more things.” Both have tried to reconcile that tension by urging “a sustainable frugality.” The trend-driven, recreational shopping of the binge years (Singer terms it the “yo-yo dieting of clothes buying”) enormously damaged fashion, because the development of a sense of style depends on discernment and discrimination—on the idea, long Singer’s mantra, that women should “buy less, but buy better.”

The stylish woman, she asserts, “carefully builds a wardrobe.” Singer bought exactly one dress this season, at Barneys—a cocktail dress by Isabel Toledo (a designer who aims to “make a garment that lasts”: “It’s not just yours. It should be your daughter’s eventually”). Singer’s stylish woman “wears great things from five years ago, 10 years ago.” On the first day of Fashion Week, Singer, whose own style her friend Kim Hastreiter, the editor of Paper magazine, calls “windswept chic,” wore a jacket she had bought last year (Italian double-knit wool, from Marco Zanini’s first and last collection for Halston) over a silk-and-cotton V-neck from J. Crew, whose Italian yarns, Singer says, display “obviously great sourcing” and whose sweaters form a staple of Michelle Obama’s sensible-chic, workaday wardrobe. She put it over “an old Dosa shirt,” Dosa being the line designed by her L.A.-based friend Christina Kim, who, years before green was the new black, was making all her clothes to what could be described as fanatically high ethical and environmental standards. Singer’s pants were green velvet, from Vanessa Bruno; her shoes “very old pointy ballet flats,” from Devi Kroell.

Obviously, this idea of buying so-called investment pieces resonates more deeply today than it did even six months ago. As Gilhart says, “If I were a consumer now, I’d really want to buy pieces that count, that last; the customer is in no hurry. She should be choosing these things with great care.” (In an effort to guide the customer to focus on enduring design rather than the au courant, Gilhart is now working with the designer Stefano Pilati of Yves Saint Laurent, who is assembling a new line for Barneys to revive the best styles from the archives of that renowned French design house.) Part of that care, Singer maintains, means recognizing that “things that are very expensive can be very expensive for just the right reasons—because they were made beautifully by someone who really gave a lot of care to the design and by people who were fairly paid along the way to execute something that was rather difficult. Those prices that often seem high are fair prices.”

If the consumer is expected to make conscientious choices based on an item’s provenance (favoring, for instance, designers who use wool made from humanely raised sheep—hardly a frivolous concern given the conditions sheep routinely endure), both the retailer and the customer are in for a whole new layer of homework, on top of the Stakhanovite diligence many already apply to their study of such bibles as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Elle. But even if a woman can figure out what’s best for the Earth, she still has the eternal problem of choosing what’s stylistically best for her.

In this responsible new world, a woman may be happy with the notion of buying one new, expensive-because-it-is-fairly-priced dress per year. But when it comes down to choosing which of those dresses will perennially look good on her, the pressure is intense. What woman hasn’t made wardrobe mistakes? How to be sure—even if one scrupulously avoids gauchos and go-go boots—that one’s daughter will not judge this year’s purchase (when, in the fullness of time, it becomes hers) one of them? The cognoscenti of the fashion universe distinguish between fashion and style. A woman should just find her own personal style, they urge, and then she will always look great. Easy for them to say.

Thanks to American voters, the heralds of a new era in fashion now have an example to point to. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the significance Michelle Obama holds for the world of American fashion generally and for these advocates of a newly conscious consumerism specifically. The designers Obama favors aren’t the biggest names, nor are they the trendy ones. Rather, they’re those whose creations are never tied to a “look” or a “moment.” The point is not to copy Obama’s style but rather to follow her approach. According to Singer, when Obama wears a dress by Toledo (whose clothes are expensive because they’re exquisitely made and because she pays her cutters and sewers very well), women don’t necessarily “want to buy a knock-off Toledo. They just see that Obama is a woman with style who buys interesting things—things that are different from what they’ve seen before—and wears them well, and they’re inspired to do the same.” Of course, she’s a woman with not just a sense of style but the sense, and the ability, to choose stylish advisers.

Despite the ever-present frivolity and the new foreboding, a lot of the clothes that emerged from Fashion Week were unusually strong. Designers were trying to respond to the national mood—one that had darkened intensely just since they’d bought the fabrics last October for the clothes that would not be in the stores until August. True, some designers went defiantly, exuberantly over the top—Marc Jacobs most obviously, with his nostalgic, big-shouldered encomium to the 1980s, when the great splurge had begun. But for most, this wasn’t a time to play around. Most of the better lines covered a spectrum: there were the pretty good, snap-to, grown-up, and wearable (Doo-Ri Chung, who “didn’t feel bright colors,” and Thakoon Panichgul, although in a clumsy effort at luxe he festooned his otherwise smart collection with a lot of fur hats, coats, and jackets); the very good, practical, and authoritative (Donna Karan and Michael Kors, though fur, always a cheap ploy, also vitiated Kors’s collection, and shearling did Karan’s); and the terrific, elegant, and adult (Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein, L’Wren Scott).

But the best collection to emerge, while entirely in keeping with the mood, wasn’t responding to it: that of Matthew Ames, a 28-year-old Brooklyn-based designer who presented in New York for the first time (he’d shown in Paris the three previous years). If Gilhart is right that the economic upheaval will inaugurate a new era in fashion, then Ames is likely to be its first great designer. Marked by their pure, strong lines, his austere garments—beautiful, not pretty—in what he calls “a classic American palette” of camel, ecru, loden, tobacco, and blue denim, are sophisticated and even avant-garde but unfussy (no buttons, no linings), practical, and marked by an elegant ease and comfort. “I’ve always wanted to make pieces that are lasting,” he said, “not pieces that will only excite people for the moment. People want to buy something that’s not going to look old in six months.”

Ames’s pieces seem at once nearly medieval and from the future. They’re not in fashion, and they won’t go out of fashion. And they’re versatile. For instance, one of his garments—a single piece of silk with one seam, an elastic waistband, and a long extension—can be worn five ways, so it can be worn by women of different ages, or by the same woman as she ages. They’re enduring: his attention to the quality of his materials (woolens, denim, cashmere and cashmere-cotton blends, silk crepe) and to detail and craft is extreme. Prices are high but not loony-high: dresses retail for $800 to $1,500. A post-crash woman (at least one in the average Atlantic reader’s income bracket) determined to defend the value of style through these dark times could make worse investments. Her daughter will probably thank her.

Research Watch/February 8, 2009

Can money make us happy if we spend it on the right purchases? New research suggests buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness. The study demonstrates that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs.

“These findings support an extension of basic need theory, where purchases that increase psychological need satisfaction will produce the greatest well-being,” said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology and head of the Personality and Well-Being Lab at San Francisco State University.

Participants in the study were asked to write reflections and answer questions about their recent purchases. Participants indicated that experiential purchases represented money better spent and greater happiness for both themselves and others. The results also indicate that experiences produce more happiness regardless of the amount spent or the income of the consumer.

Experiences also lead to longer-term satisfaction. “Purchased experiences provide memory capital,” Howell said. “We don’t tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object.

“People still believe that more money will make them happy, even though 35 years of research has suggested the opposite,” Howell said. “Maybe this belief has held because money is making some people happy some of the time, at least when they spend it on life experiences.”

“The mediators of experiential purchases: Determining the impact of psychological need satisfaction” was conducted by Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University and SF State graduate Graham Hill.

via Experiences, not possessions, lead to greater happiness.