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Apple’s China Design

17 Mar

Accompanied by much media fanfare, Apple have recently opened a specially designed store in Hangzhou, near Shanghai. It’s one of 40 new stores they hopes to build in the next two years, forming part of a massive retail expansion into China’s urban heartland.

The building is essentially a giant hyper-optimised box, divided by a single sliver of a floor – 10 cm at its thinnest point – that appears to float in the air without any visible support. The design – by the architectural firm Foster + Partners in collaboration with Apple’s own designers – has been hailed as a pioneering feat of technical innovation and smart design. According to the architects, “Every aspect of the store has been optimized, minimized, and de-cluttered”, making it a perfect embodiment of the Apple brand and a reflection of the products sold within.



Apple is renowned for its physical, design-led marketing. Through encounters with its products and aesthetic, consumer’s most meaningful interactions with the brand take place in the physical rather than digital realm. This has helped make it one of China’s top luxury brands. And Apple has made no secret that these stores are supposed to make a dramatic physical imprint on China’s city centres. They even claim the Hangzhou store will become a ‘new living room for the city’.

This is a clever move in China, where dramatic architectural statements have become especially important in projecting the power of brands. The country’s rapid urbanisation has seen public space become a battle ground where brands – both corporate and personal – vie for the public’s attention with ever more bombastic, often downright eccentric, architectural feats. These range from CCTV, the national broadcaster’s, headquarters in Beijing  (nick-named ‘big boxer shorts’) to a  giant teapot shaped building in Wuxi built by China’s richest man.



But the nature of this love affair with statement architecture is changing – and Apple’s new buildings may come just at the right time. President Xi Jinping recently called for there to be ‘no more weird architecture’, reflecting a broader turn away from ostentation towards discernment and subtlety in the country’s aesthetic preferences. (It’s no coincidence that Apple took over from Louis Vuitton as the country’s favourite luxury brand).

Apple’s new stores certainly fit the bill – grabbing attention with their unique design, whilst avoiding ostentation entirely. Though they may not turn out to be the ‘new living rooms’ of China’s cities, these new stores can only add legitimacy and cultural capital to the brand, cementing its status at the pinnacle of Chinese luxury.

Out and About

3 Oct

The Lost Act (part of the Lost Lectures) is two evenings of interactive lectures with street feast food and inspiring cocktails all in a lost part of London. The lectures aim to push the boundaries of knowledge and controversy with a wide range of speakers including The Chapman Brothers, Polarbear and Helen Czerski.

3rd and 4th October 2014. An abandoned North London Theater; exact location told after ticket purchase.


At the House of Peroni there is a master class on the art of chocolate. Guests will unearth the secrets of exclusive chocolate mastery. The Italian chocolatiers will teach the class the artisanal techniques of the craft and they will sample many luxurious Italian chocolates.

Saturday the 4th October. House of Peroni, 64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JX


Join the Glow Neon Fun Run which is fundraising for the Royal National Institute of Blind people.  Participants will be splattered with neon paint and dance to raving music as they complete the 3k East London run. There are Djs UV lights, glow paint and a dance floor at the end to amplify this intense experience.

Fri Oct 17. Mile End Stadium, 190 Burdett Road, E3 4HL




Industrial Celebration

16 Sep

Open for Business is a film and photography exhibition at the Science Museum exploring British Industry through the eyes of nine of the Magnum photographers. It is open until the 2nd November and explores all aspects of industry from handmade crafts to the intelligent high tech world of modern high tech factories. The exhibition reveals the gritty reality facing British industry, and tells the stories of the individuals who work to create the things we take for granted.



The exhibition taps into a trend we have been noticing more and more. We are becoming increasingly in tune with our rich industrial history in Britain and across the Western World.  Some brands are tuning into this change, like Doc Martins which created a short film called ‘The Art of Industrial Manufacture’ documenting their Cobs Lane Factory and the real people involved in making the boots.

The exhibition is on until the 2nd November at the Science Museum London

Demand More

5 Feb

This year consumers will demand more than ever.

If you want a cultural eye on the year ahead, check out our amazing article published in Forbes .




Cultural Trends 2014

20 Jan

Welcome to 2014

Our job is to look at big cultural shifts, we can see that 2014 is going to be a year where consumers demand more than ever.

Check out our fantastic trends video,  and see for yourself.

Made From Cool

8 Nov

Danish clothing brand Jack and Jones has released a series of five short films titled ‘Made From Cool’ starring Christopher Walken. The series of films sees super slick Walken as a skilled tailor, using his bare hands to shear a sheep and cut a pattern.

Check out the campaign here

These films cleverly demonstrate the brands unique and somewhat supernatural flair at creating the perfect suit, transforming our perceptions of traditional tailoring techniques.

A Foil for the Magical

21 Aug

An exhibition currently at the Faggionato Fine Art Gallery showcases the work of Yoshihiro Suda. His work is beautiful, yet extraordinary simple. He painstakingly carves weeds out of wood, transforming the everyday into the spectacular. Suda’s work offers a space for contemplating craft and the skilled hand of the craftsman. In the gallery, Suda’s weeds sprout between paving stones, hide behind a radiator, or find a forgotten corner of the floor.

Suda Yoshihiro (

Suda Yoshihiro (

The scale of these weeds incites wonder as you must get down on the floor to inspect them as they inconspicuously ‘grow’ in the gallery space. Suda’s project is to hide craft behind the object, to stop an object looking handmade and deceive the viewer. Another craftsman playing with the everyday as the site of the spectacular is Arturo Erbsman . His polar lights and snow mesh capture the magic of snow and ice – and entice the viewer to pay more attention to the natural world.

Arturo Erbsman (

Arturo Erbsman (

Suda’s and Erbsman’s work reveal the magical in the everyday. Craftsmanship here is not admired for its skill or endeavour – instead it entices wonder and asks for your attention.



7 Aug

We’ve talked before about brands promising a story but failing to deliver. Well, this story-telling is the real deal. On a recent scoping expedition – searching for expressions of Brazilian-ness in London – we naturally headed straight to the specialist alcohol shop for a Cachaҫa run, where this Germana bottle caught our eye.

Germana Cachaҫa (

Germana Cachaҫa (

It turns out the banana leaf wrapping, whilst beautiful and rustic, is much more than a design feature. Originally, due to the small numbers involved in production, the Cachaҫa was poured into any discarded bottle close to hand. The banana leaf was wrapped around the bottle in order to disguise the brand logo. But this banana leaf has been retained in the exported version as a story-rich link to the brand’s past.

This theme of up-cycling seems to be strong in many areas of Brazilian culture, where ingenuity is a design statement. This furniture exhibition of Brazilian ‘super-cyclers’ celebrates socially responsible design that transforms waste materials into beautiful objects.  Also, the film ‘Waste Land’ documents Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s project, with trash-pickers, in a Rio landfill to create self-portraits using the discarded material they work with every day.





6 Aug

It was once the publishing house, ad agency and graphic design firm. Then it was the furniture design space and indie record label. But now, the best place to get a real sense of what the ‘it’ job is for today’s youth is romantic comedies. Nothing paints so endearing a picture of exactly what profession will make our hearts swoon – with its blend of creativity (that pays), good-intentioned love of one’s vocation and eclectic gaggle of quirky comrades – as the modern romantic comedy.

It’s seems the craft brewery is next on the list.

'Drinking Buddies' (

‘Drinking Buddies’ (

May I introduce ‘Drinking Buddies,’ a hoppy romp through late-twenties, early thirties stop-and-go-mance from Joe Swanberg. Craft brewing is unassailably cool, due in no small part to beards and flannel. And girls who love beer are probably what girls that have tattoo sleeves were five years ago. So yes, we can see why the small batch brewery would be an aspirational career move.

It seems to have a finely tuned appeal to the male audience.  At the risk of invoking a stereotype, beer is a subject close to the heart of the average male consumer.  But, additionally, the craft brewer as a character type balances the accessibility of ‘everyman’ with the potential alienation of ‘highly skilled craftsmen’ quite evenly.

We wonder, what’s next?

Coming soon – ‘Found,’ the story of a hapless Freegan forager running a faltering bistro in a faltering part of Detroit who meets a Scandi chef who has lost her Michelin stars and her way.  Turns out the only thing not locally-sourced is love…

Made of Steel

1 Aug

Hornbach is one of the leading retail companies in the DIY market. They use wicked ideas in their outrageous advertising. The latest comes from Germany, where this summer Hornbach has reinvented the hammer. They built this common household tool out of a very special material: steel from a retired Soviet tank.

From Hornbach Baumarkt's Facebook page

From Hornbach Baumarkt’s Facebook page

They promoted it with this video of the creation process (and perfectly chosen background music). 

This special origin of the tool created a huge buzz, especially as it was released in very limited numbers – 7000 hammers worldwide. While the campaign was only shown in Germany, some collectors crossed the ocean to get this piece of steel for their tool collection.

Now, these rare tools are distributed in far-flung places – from islands in the North Sea, to a cruise ship on the Danish coast, to a sex shop in the famous Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s ‘red-light district’. People who still desire this macho tool are now challenged to go on little adventures to find them.

It’s a strong example of how an iconic, historical object – embedded with a trace of its former life – can be repurposed, retaining its allure, to capture the imagination of historical enthusiasts.


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