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Identifying Geographic Drivers for Discovery

By: Valerie Jacobs
Posted: November 26, 2012, from the December 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

Historically, fashion and beauty trends had to be seen in person to be imitated. They were often first observed in city centers and spread by word-of-mouth, and following the dawn of industrialization, they accelerated through travel, print media and television. There once were only a few localized centers of influence—such as Paris, London and New York—but technology has dispersed that influence globally and virtually.

In today’s 24/7 culture, trends can come from anywhere, and the instantaneous spread of ideas is redefining the role of cities as hotbeds for innovation and trend activity. As trends become more dynamic and fast-paced, they become more difficult to pinpoint and forecast long-term. While certain cities and regions are showing signs of becoming the next leading trend centers, beauty innovators need to be forward thinking and open to other areas of inspiration and influence in global trend creation.

Online Influence

On the global trek for what’s next, there is an increasingly shorter time span between what are considered new ideas versus old ideas. Technological advancements have opened up more networks of influence, as they enable greater access to and exchange of information at the click of a button. And with the pervasiveness of information, the authenticity and origin of a trend are instantly obscured.

As decentralization causes major shifts in the trends landscape, the lines of what define a “trendy city” are increasingly blurred. Influence is flowing as much from “spaces” as places, as virtual networks of influence emerge. Certain cities and regions have been viewed as influential because of the iconic associations they carry, but that gravitas is eroding. Milan, for example, has long been lionized as a go-to fashion mecca, but the once-exclusive runway shows are now globally streamed, and virtual runway shows are becoming commonplace.

On Trend

Some iconic centers for beauty innovation still remain influential at shaping global product trends, however. South Korea has become recognized as a leader in technological beauty innovation in skin care, continually pushing new developments in treatments such as lasers, photo facials and stem cell therapy.

Beaucell, a stem cell-based anti-aging skin care line hailing from South Korea, has been referred to as the “holy grail of skin care.” This regimen of creams and serums consists of stem cells from adult bone marrow and excess body fat tissue to make skin appear thicker and firmer in just a few weeks. Also, Masqueology, a new, mask-based skin care line developed in South Korea, is just one of many advanced skin care solutions that are starting to hit the shelves of Sephora and other beauty boutiques worldwide. And Seoul, South Korea’s capital and largest city, has become a hub for cosmetic surgery, where hundreds of clinics known for their cutting-edge technology are nestled in the city’s “beauty belt.”

But technology also has opened a window to many exciting and influential newcomers, inspiring a new generation of beauty innovation with their culture and tradition. India’s influence accelerated when the nation upgraded to a 3G wireless network in 2011, and their ancient practices and beauty rituals have begun influencing many facets of the beauty realm. Ayurveda, the ancient medicinal system rooted in natural and herbal remedies, was at least partially introduced to the mainstream market by Aveda, a botanical beauty brand that offers plant-based products based in ayurvedic principles. The ancient healing system has since experienced a second wave of influence, inspiring a variety of holistic beauty products, services and practices.

India’s culture and traditions have also inspired many new product trends that are emerging in the cosmetics and hair care segments. Paris-based Clarins recently introduced Enchanted, a line of cosmetics that was inspired by Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. The Enchanted Color Quartet & Liner Palette features bright and bold eye shadows, and the intensely pigmented and creamy eyeliner (kajal) that has been a part of Indian women’s beauty routines for centuries.

Another age-old beauty ritual that is driving new product development is oiling the hair and scalp. India Hair-Yurvedics, a new hair care brand from I.C.O.N., incorporates ancient practices with the restorative oils of moringa and argan to provide healing, strength, luster, well-being and tranquility to beauty consumers.

Remote Beauty

As cool hunters continue their quest for the fountain of youth, exploring areas of isolation could lead to new influential spaces. Though isolated regions are increasingly rare in our digitally connected world, they were once known to develop their own styles and became recognized as influencers, such as Austrian Biedermeier style (Europe found peace in simplicity after Napoleon’s final defeat) or American casual wear (the U.S. fashion industry was born after being cut off from European influence during World War II).