Changing financial paradigms are heralding in a new way of thinking, living and working.
Showy displays of wealth and unbridled aspiration no longer work. People are weary of uncertainty and drained by the constant barrage of technology and sensory overstimulation.
As such, consumers yearn for a new sense of positivity and simplicity, and a wholesome way of life. There is a genuine need for moderation, for calming, safe spaces and for a movement toward building stronger communities. While determined to live more modestly, consumers still want products that have relevant, lasting value.
Our choices are becoming more deliberate and considerate. No longer is it important to have a brand name or icon emblazoned on a product; consumers are more interested in the value behind the brand. They want to know what it stands for. How it is made. How long it will last.
Consequently, genuine luxury brands must take care to produce thoughtful and purposeful goods using the very best materials, and finished to the highest standards to influence the notion of real value.
Underscoring the New Normal is also a need for familiarity, which manifests itself in classicism, the incorporation of natural elements, a trend toward mid-century wholesome values and design and a desire for things that evoke memories of a simpler, more connected life.
The New Normal has also accelerated the desire to reduce our carbon footprint, to act local and to embrace authenticity and the familiar. We are ushering in a new mood that embraces the philosophy of consuming less. The aim is to curtail excessive material possessions and to retain only products that are made to last, rather than one-season wonders. Items that are unique and personal to the owner are becoming more important. With the advent of sustainable building and design, there is a growing population of consumers who are concerned with the origins of the products they select. The demand for regional products is on the rise, and the reuse of material is merging with a heightened focus on function, flexibility and simplicity.
Today, we are putting our values of the last decade under a microscope. We are rejecting the notion that our houses should be designed, built and lived in with the sole purpose of resale. Instead, there is a renaissance of 1950's values. We are creating homes rather than just investment properties, and cultivating spaces with the intention of staying put rather than flipping. More than ever, we aspire to create memories, build lasting relationships with neighbors, design a living environment suited to our own personal needs and in many cases, permeate our homes with legacy pieces that future generations will appreciate. There is care given to designing more intimate and versatile outdoor living spaces, a return of Victory gardens with the desire to grow our own food and an increased investment in home entertainment. Because the home is becoming a place to build roots and memories, homeowners also have a new attitude toward selecting products—searching for things that have personal meaning and that make emotional connections and demonstrating a preference for private-label products or brands with proven heritage that are imbued with value, unassuming style, exceptional quality and longevity.
Right now, we're still in rebound mode, and it's too early to tell whether the financial crisis will have a lasting impact on consumer buying behavior and our culture at large.
But one thing is certain right now: consumers are conflicted.
On one hand, they are trying to eradicate the deeply ingrained, self-centered acquisition mentality of the past two decades with a new ethos of community, others-focused service and Voluntary Simplicity. Considerate consumption and resourceful lifestyles are top-of-mind, as we evaluate the space we inhabit, the items we own and how our choices impact those around us and the world at large.
At the same time, the ultra-wealthy consumer still desires highly personalized and exquisite experiences that hold true value. An increasingly homogenized global offering compels consumers to demand more than mere products from their favorite brands, however high the quality of these items. Although now driven by discretion, these consumers still want concierge-style service.
We are indeed living in a time of opposing forces. Technology is increasingly designed to integrate with the personal objects, products and spaces that surround us, resulting in homes and offices focused on manual task reduction, connectivity and real-time information. In fact, technology is becoming so ingrained that brands that want to survive need to rewire their brains to think digitally to cultivate and connect with the younger, online consumer.
However, our online social connections and sterile communication platforms often leave us wanting, and make us hungry for human, face-to-face contact. As a result, more of us are deliberately unplugging during family time and vacations. Public spaces are becoming cellphone-free zones and offices are even implementing tech-free time for workers to engage and collaborate without the use of phones, e-mail or laptops. As we move into a new decade, finding balance between technology and actual human interactions will remain at the forefront of our culture.
Over the past decade, the fashion, furniture, design, food and beauty industries have evolved to address an increasing awareness of environmental threats. Recycling, reuse, waste, carbon emissions, fair trade, social responsibility, buying local, natural versus synthetic, and organics are in the spotlight. The modern lifestyle often leads to a disconnection from our environment, seemingly pushing us towards an empty, cold future devoid of intimate interactions with the natural world. But at our core, we long to be immersed in nature, and as such, there is a renewed affinity for the natural world. This has led to several key stories in textiles, fashion, décor and architecture — the strong influence of water, birds, flowers, natural habitats and, on the horizon for 2012, a focus on the elements of the earth.
Urban living is increasingly becoming the norm. Some reports indicate that from a global perspective a majority of people will live in cities rather than rural areas by 2020.
The migration toward and a regeneration of urban spaces will continue to reshape our sense of home, space and community. We'll use space to its maximum by building up and digging down more levels, and will ensure that every space has a purpose. Entrances will become a focal point and a gathering place for the community, encouraging hospitality and friendship, with skillfully articulated common spaces on terraces, roof retreats and cellars. To fit into these edited spaces, we will reduce clutter and focus on the essential, the emotional and the crafted. Underscoring these trends will be the strong desire to bring natural elements into the urban space to connect us with nature, including wood, stone, water and décor inspired by geology and flora and fauna.
As the emphasis on blue-sky thinking remains an important function of business and community, the new decade will witness an explosion in exploration, experimentation and unimaginable discovery. What is normal today will be rapidly replaced by staggering inventions that are launched at the speed of thought.
Partially out of environmental urgency and partly due to significant advances in technology, we'll see unheralded changes in the fields of science, medicine, food and farming, technology, architecture and design.
Amidst our everyday functioning, the pervasive undercurrent of our times will be upheaval, crisis and chaos. To remain successful, individuals and businesses will have to recognize that constant change is the new paradigm and those who do not adapt and innovate will not survive.
We have an amazing opportunity before us. We can become the minority that stops trying to predict everything and takes advantage of uncertainty. We can start designing for and strategizing about a world we cannot imagine today but whose reality lies just around the corner. We have the opportunity to think big, pioneer revolutionary ideas, become thought leaders and influence the communities around us.