Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

January 1, 2019

Trend Report 2019 Part One

Happy Design was the last ‘big’ trend I wrote about (you can refresh your memory here), however I predicted then that it would be short-lived, seen for the reaction it was and fairly promptly replaced by a mellowing to centre. Essentially a semi-return to the familiar. With a twist. But what’s behind this, and what will it look like? As ever, what’s going on behind the scenes determines what you actually see on the surface. Or in the sense of design trends, what will resonate in terms of the product and styles that make it to the shops. So part one of my Trend Report 2019 delves into the ‘why’ — the social trends that prompt the style — before we move on to the ‘what’ in Part Two.

The most striking thing for me about 2018 was that we saw people power realised. We now know that ‘we’ can make things happen. But with time comes reflection. What’s gradually filtering through now is a sense that action needs to happen with properly evaluated consideration for the repercussions, not just as reactive response. The next step on the societal curve then is taking responsibility. The alternative quite frankly being self-destruction!

We’ve reached a tipping point

Thus, this new phase will start with a return to the self and a degree of introspection. It starts with each of us asking ourselves, what change can I make as an individual that will have a positive effect on my life, and by association, my work and my family. Key is that it can’t be legislated, cajoled, or ordered, it has to be self-motivated. And change that starts like this will only ever impact positively on society as a whole. Important note, this is NOT a form of selfishness, this is self responsibility. The former is what’s in it for me vs the latter, how can I be more fully whole, or human. To paraphrase acclaimed American family therapist Virginia Satir whose work I find fascinating.

After all, there is clearly a growing need for large scale change. The political construct that is the EU has been shown to be deficient, as has our system of government, and that of other nations too. We watch in barely concealed disgust as our politicians’ squabble like bitter spouses, back-stabbing and scheming in pursuit of individual agendas. As a result, the very point of their employ, managing the good of their electorates, is lost amongst the bickering. Many smaller scale infrastructures aren’t working either, from our railways to the management of the NHS. Plus, organisations that rely solely (I’d add arrogantly) on historical brand allegiance, have been shown to be top heavy, stuck in the rut, unresponsive and out of touch. They will soon stumble.

On a smaller scale

Any brand, business or organisation that wishes to succeed in these post-truth times must be highly consumer responsive, adaptable, flexible and offer a unique service. They also need to be answerable. To have visible integrity sewn into the very seams of their being otherwise change will be wrought from within by their employees. Or externally by shoppers consciously spending elsewhere. People power again as swathes of society invest their time, energy and money only into brands they implicitly trust.

And I no longer believe that this calling to account will happen, as has been traditional, from the top down. Rather, it’ll increasingly happen from the bottom up. Governments will be rejected, institutions abandoned and brands spurned by both consumers and employees, if the in situ powers that think-they-be are found to be lacking. I cite the ongoing investigation into Ted Baker founder Ray Kelvin as one small current example, and let’s not forget the fall of Philip Green.

As Barack Obama very powerfully said in a fiery, and brilliant, speech at the University of Illinois in September 2018:

When there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted. When we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void. A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems.

They promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and the most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability, try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all… 

The antidote to government by the powerful few is democracy by the organised many. If you get involved, and engaged, and knock on some doors, and talk with your friends, and argue with your family, and change some minds, and vote — then something powerful happens. Change happens.” (You can read the entire transcript here).

one world, one home

Perhaps too, we can hope that the fact that we are one world, one people, has finally sunk in. Whether that’s global recognition of the plastic pollution problem, climate change linked to pollution or the need for all of us to repair, reuse and recycle if we actually want to have a future.

Besides, change must come because it’s my opinion that there’s a direct line between our always-on, resolutely screen-based world and the rising rates worldwide of cancer, ill-health and social isolation. To recall Gandhi’s famous aphorism, it’s time we as individuals became the change we want to see. In short, what we fuel and surround ourselves with creates the story of our lives. We can therefore only be the proactive author of a rewarding script if we take full responsibility for how we treat ourselves, and ultimately, by long extension, the planet. We are, after all, in this together. But what might we see change on a macro level?

4 key areas for investigation

The Science of Sleep

Increasing numbers of scientific studies repeatedly demonstrate the disastrous affects on our bodies, health and happiness as a result of poor sleep. We can not function efficiently let alone optimally, on inadequate sleep. To promote better decision making and good emotional health, the industry around sleep will explode. From holistic help through understanding to scientific help through technology. For example, Dreem is a headband made by a French company that supposedly combines biofeedback to neuro-modulation, to improve your sleep every night. (dreem.com) And books like ‘Why We Sleep by sleep scientist Matthew Walker, will become must-reads.

the cult of Coffee

Related to this will be an examination of the ethics of the coffee industry. Why? Because it is probably the only remaining socially-acceptable yet highly-addictive drug that’s commonly and freely available. Even The Sun newspaper ran a story in October 2018 titled, It’s the No1 drug on the planet. And the facts are alarming. “Coffee is now more popular than tea in the UK, with more than 22,000 coffee shops across the land, up from fewer than 10,000 ten years ago” it reported. “And consumers appear to be craving ever-higher doses of caffeine. The most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.”

And make no mistake, it is a drug. A drug that works by blocking the bodies natural wake/sleep hormones. A drug that disrupts the normal functioning of the body at a fundamental level and creates demand through addiction. After crude oil, coffee is the most sought after commodity in the world.  And it’s an industry worth over $100 billion worldwide. Seen as the lifeblood of the working world, but for how much longer?

Trend Report 2019

The seduction of caffeine: photograph by Nathan Dumlao

the bully that’s Big Pharma

Another industry that I believe/hope will come under critical review will be Big Pharma. Time to robustly question its grip on who gets what drugs, and at what price. How can it be that a single individual, Martin Shkreli, could raise the price of an HIV drug by 5000% overnight in 2015? Is it true that a cure could be found for cancer but it’s being blocked because the industry makes too much money from so-called cancer ‘treatments’? In the 21st Century, is this really the best we can do? Big questions for big pharma. And a new area for public protest?

However we need to go further than reactionary protest, as evidenced by the growing movement of people anti-vaccinations. There’s been double the number of cases of measles across Europe as so-called Anti-Vaxxers sceptical of the medical establishment refuse routine immunisations for their children. Nonsense scaremongering suggests that Big Pharma introduces viruses into the population in order to profit from vaccination revenue. As Seth Berkley, head of Gavi, a global alliance to increase access to vaccines put it, in an article in the Guardian, “It is very hard to inoculate against [the scaremongering], given there is no stable authority in the world right now. Where institutions and facts are being routinely questioned and lying is OK.”

Trend Report 2019

Does Big Pharma solve problems? Or create customers? Image via Fitlife.tv

the power of plants

Increasing appreciation for the planet pans out on an individual scale as an ever-increasing interest in all things green and garden-related, whether people have their own personal patches or not. This is driven by an understanding of the ability of plants to naturally clean our air, indoors and out, as pollution becomes an ever hotter topic. Thus the huge boom in popularity for houseplants seen in 2018 continues apace, but now prompted by their health benefits, rather than mere aesthetics. In parallel with this, gardening becomes more about the useful than the ornamental as a huge surge in popularity is seen for growing our own food, from herbs in window boxes to tomatoes in baskets.

OK, anything else?

Well, clearly the four things I’ve referred to above are all linked to wellbeing. But as people start to take more personal responsibility on an everyday level, I predict that the wellbeing sector will become less driven by exotic spa-breaks and yoga holidays, and more by a growth in accessible, affordable ways to make a difference. Fast fact: In the UK, the pilates and yoga studio industry is worth an estimated £812m, supporting more than 4,000 business and employing nearly 16,000 people.

Going forwards I think we’ll see further growth in related magazines, health awareness programming on TV,  increased concern for children’s school dinners (one step on from the sugar tax) and the continued popularity of veganism, as more and more supermarkets adjust to cater to this appetite. Hopefully alongside activists working out that shaming people with anger, aggression and  frankly ludicrous publicity seeking campaigns, does little to boost their arguments for a plant-based diet. Again, a mellowing to centre should be the goal… ie even going meat-free once a week has proven health and environmental benefits.

Plus, regardless of the implications of Brexit, the UK is predicted to be one of the fastest growing populations in Europe, set to be the largest by 2050. And that population will become more and more diverse with 30% from a BAME background by 2030. We’re aging too, as the 65+ age group will surge from 11.6 million to 15.4 million people by 2030, with the age group 85+ apparently on track to double in the same timeframe. Compare this to the 16-64 group which is predicted to rise by only 3%.

And I can’t help but think that with fabulous role models like Madonna, who celebrated her 60th birthday this year, getting older will become less something to be feared, and be seen more as the accumulation of experience, confidence and wisdom that it is. Particularly for women. After all, ageing is, in my book, quite different to getting older. The latter is simply the inevitable passing of the years, the former is what happens if you don’t take care of yourself as those years rumble by. After all, whoever heard of age-appropriate sunscreen, exercise and healthy eating? Just get on with living, have regular health checks, and ignore the numbers. And take a look at @wearewithit on Instagram.

the personal impact

Working from home

It’s estimated that 50% of the UK workforce will be working from home by 2020. On the one hand this is due to empowerment of the individual with many people rejecting employee status, preferring to be self-employed or freelance. On the other it’s about businesses reducing fixed costs by scaling back office-based staff and thus the size of buildings required to accommodate them. Nevertheless FT employment as we knew it is fast becoming obsolete. But for the hyphenated worker (eg those Writer/Consultant/TV Presenters among us), this is a Godsend representing the freedom and flexibility to work the way they choose.

It’s also female empowering as it enables a return to work around the requirements of childcare, and school drop off/pick up hours, which is still a largely female responsibility. It demands a high degree of discipline though to manage your workload without the structure of an office timetable. And with it comes a lack of paid holiday, corporate health cover and other assumed benefits as many businesses seek to re-write freelancer rights. Nevertheless, it goes hand in hand with the growth of a generation prepped and primed to take care of themselves.

The FIRE movement

Hand in hand with the above will be the worldwide growth of this American movement with an acronym which stands for ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’. Its followers aim to work hard in their 20s and 30s while maximising savings and investments with the goal of retiring early. The point being to live simply but to be fulfilled, rich in time, if poor on so-thought luxuries. It even has its own lingo. There’s practising ‘lean FIRE’ (extreme frugality). ‘Fat FIRE’ (maintaining a more typical standard of living while saving and investing). And ‘Barista FIRE’ (working part time at Starbucks after retiring, for the company health insurance).

In short, it’s about living deliberately below your means, rejecting the lure and associated pressure of consumerism and therefore taking back control of your life. And it’s happening because many of us are watching too many employers responding to the challenging times, not by strategically evolving their offer or product, but by treating its workforce like expendable headcount. Against this backdrop, why be an employee? Millennials particularly know they’re worth more than that.

strong not skinny

Tied into all of this increasing sense of self, and confidence, will be an attitude of, if we exercise it’s because it makes us feel good, not to lose weight. Diets are out and #fitnotthin and #strongnotskinny are the hashtags to follow. The industries around nutrition, supplements, meditation and active wear will also boom. In 2010 the UK wellness and fitness market was worth £17.3 billion. By 2020 it’s estimated to be worth £22.8 billion. (statista.com)

It’s reflected too in what women choose to wear. Heels are out, flats are in. Likewise trouser suits not skirts. Why? Not because of fashion but because they’re more practical, comfortable and suited to an active existence! Even make-up will be all about getting a healthy glow. Whether worked for, or in a bottle, this is the look to aspire to.

The Attention Economy

There is a limited amount of time in anyone’s day. And yet we’re all carrying around mini-computers in the form of super smart phones able to access anything we choose, night and day. However the new hipsters of 2020 have opted out of many platforms. Just as they have opted out of FT employment, eating meat and conspicuous consumption. Choice is the buzz word. Deliberation. Consideration. Thus, those that proffer an educated edit will reign supreme. Expertise and explanation is everything. Fact not fiction. As such, it’s estimated that there will be 2.77 billion users of Social Media by 2019.

But ‘Influencers’ rated by volume of audience alone will will be displaced by ‘Influencers with Expertise’. Consumers are increasingly savvy as to who is actually voicing an opinion vs just promoting a product or service because they’re paid to do so. The idea of the carefully curated personal brand will also become a given. A person’s Social Media accounts are already the first place potential employers look to see who someone really is. But by 2020, our grown-up millennials will have decades of material from which to craft their ‘story’. For bigger brands, any disconnect between their IRL presence and the online experience will be viewed as deeply suspicious. Who can a consumer trust?

basically It’s all about trust.

So what will this look like as a style for our homes? Read on for Trend Report 2019 Part Two

PS Thank you for reading this, and if you’d like to know when I next post something, you can subscribe here.

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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.