Offering critical cross-industry insights, this series provides our members with a vital starting point for their strategic planning. With each year’s publication, we look back at our predictions from the previous year and validate our insights by analysing how they’ve manifested over the past twelve months.
Here, we explore how five of the trends identified by our experts in Look Ahead 2023 have developed over the past year.
Trend 1: Low-Key Living
Highlighted by Emilia Morano-Williams, Stylus’ senior trends editor, Low-Key Living and slowing down is an antidote to daily stresses – from dealing with cost inflation to responding to ceaseless negative headlines. “What was once posed as self-care – taking time to relax and unwind – will become a matter of mental preservation, as easy living overtakes busyness as a marker of cultural cachet,” she explains.
So, how did slowed-down routines and leisure-first lifestyles emerge in 2023?
In April, The Nap Ministry (US) released a deck of cards with instructions for practices intended to help individuals reset and resist hustle culture. Then, in June, home brand Thefalls (China) and meditation app Tide shared a guided meditation to perform while doing laundry and a candle to burn while doing chores. Following this, TikTok’s summer trends highlighted low-effort lifestyles. Buzzwords from “bed rotting” (staying in bed all day) to “lazy girl jobs” (roles that aren’t intensely demanding) illustrate how younger consumers are opting for easy-going routines.
Pivoting for 2024, our trend experts predict that the ongoing financial pressures and hiring bias will create a renewed appreciation for hard work – overturning the lazy girl jobs of 2023 as young people face strained budgets.
Trend 2: Forefronting Biodesign
An evolution of our Look Ahead 2022 theme Nature Nurture, Forefronting Biodesign was a trend outlined by our Beauty experts as one to watch for 2023. From the emergence of environment-centric subcultures on TikTok to the use of biodesign, biomimicry and synthetic biology in product design, this trend strengthens the connection between the natural world and the beauty, fragrance and personal care industries.
Over the past year, we saw this manifest in a multitude of ways. In January, biodesign company Geltor (US) developed NuColl, a vegan alternative to conventional collagen, produced through genetically modified bacteria or yeast, for global haircare. In April, Japanese-German textile start-up Aizome created an industry-disruptive skincare line, made from its textile-dyeing factory’s wastewater, showcasing its clean production processes and providing a commercial solution to industrial waste. And in June, British beauty brand Haeckels collaborated with materials science company Pangaia (UK) and C16 Biosciences (US) on a soap formulated with a lab-grown palm-oil alternative, using an innovative fermentation process to replicate the ingredient’s properties.
As we move into 2024, we’ll see a considered consumer shift towards nature as a source of healing. Expect to see brands championing clever uses of powerhouse plant ingredients to elevate everything from formulas and fragrance to tech and packaging.
Trend 3: Progressing Plant-Based Products
“The ‘mainstreaming’ of veganism isn’t breaking news. However, the sector is advancing exponentially as the science, technology and creativity underscoring new product offerings become more sophisticated,” suggests Mandy Saven, Stylus’ content director, Consumer Lifestyle. In our Look Ahead 2023 Food & Beverage report, our experts flagged vegan advances with technology as a key trend. Think 3D-printed vegan steak, pea-based smoked salmon, mushroom ‘foie gras’ and dairy alternatives.
Notable examples of this trend included the development of a new pea-based high-protein alternative to gelatine by scientists at the University of Alberta in July. The alternative is a patent-pending substitute that can transition easily between a liquid and solid state – enabling it to be used across many food applications. In September, Austrian food tech start-up Revo Foods launched 3D-printed mycelium salmon fillets in German grocery retailer Rewe’s vegan store in Vienna. This marked the first time a 3D-printed protein alternative has been available in an EU supermarket. And in October, alt-dairy start-up Bam (US) developed a gluten-free plant-based ‘milk’ made from regeneratively grown buckwheat.
A long-standing movement in the food and wellness space, our experts predict that the boundaries of innovation within the plant-based category will be pushed further with the help of artificial intelligence as we journey through the new year.
Trend 4: Celebrating Diversity & Diasporic Design
Rich cultural narratives in art and design had a significant impact on the 2023 creative landscape – an influence our trend experts first forecast in our Spring/Summer 23 Colour & Materials Direction Gather. The direction was projected to emerge in museums and galleries that would work to amplify under-represented voices, bolstering optimism and empowerment.
We saw this theme develop strongly in the first half of 2023. In April, Australian brand Breville launched a limited-edition home appliance collection in collaboration with prominent Aboriginal artists. Wrapped in original artwork, the kitchen products bring Indigenous Australians’ visual culture to a wider global audience. May saw New York-based design gallery Kombi open to make southern African design easier to acquire in the US. Its online curated platform features work from diverse independent creatives ranging in ethnicity, age, experiences and perspectives. In the peak of summer, a partnership between London’s Walthamstow Football Club and the local William Morris Gallery culminated in new decoratively patterned home and away kits. While celebrating the area’s creative history, the project also supports the community, with proceeds of sales going towards establishing a women’s football team.
Progressing towards a more inclusive, diverse and accessible world, our Colour & Materials experts are anticipating a joyous and celebratory trend to unfurl in 2024, championing individual expression.
Trend 5: Adaptive Entertainment
“When Coda, a coming-of-age film about the hearing child of deaf parents, won Best Picture at the 2022 Academy Awards, it highlighted the representation of people of all abilities as a key cultural growth opportunity in 2023,” wrote Julia Errens, Stylus’ senior trends correspondent, in our Look Ahead 2023: Pop Culture and Media report. As such, we highlighted Adaptive Entertainment as a pertinent evolution for businesses to pay attention to. It’s also a theme explored in our 2023 report series and the accompanying webinar, The Accessibility Imperative: Disability Futures.
February brought with it a watershed moment in deaf cultural representation: American Sign Language performer Justina Miles became the first deaf woman to provide signing during the Super Bowl pre-game and halftime shows. In March, Australian game developer Vercidium added Deaf Mode to its first-person shooter game, Sector’s Edge. The feature uses ray tracing and colours to add sound visualisation to the game, so players can anticipate what’s ahead. And, starring two Stylus Changemakers, British Vogue’s May issue featured 19 disabled cover stars, including figures from the worlds of film, social media, publishing and sports. The editor-in-chief at the time of release, Edward Enninful, called the process of producing the covers “a necessary and overdue education for all”.
With as many as 16% of people globally experiencing significant disability, and with disability touching an estimated 73% of consumers worldwide, the need for continued accessible, inclusive practices by businesses – now and in the future – is clear.
These are just five examples of the trends our experts highlighted in our Look Ahead 2023 report series and how they have progressed in the months since. Our experts are continually tracking, decoding, analysing and validating our trends and insights to ensure their commerciality and longevity and consider their local and regional implications.