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Identifying Geographic Drivers for Discovery

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

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Bali, an Indonesian province, is a remote island that has been long considered a haven for secluded refuge, but it is now becoming more known for holistic remedies, relaxation opportunities, and its own distinct beauty routines and styles. A weekly ritual for locals is the cream bath, a traditional Indonesian treatment beneficial in optimizing hair elasticity, encouraging hair growth and repairing damaged hair. The process includes a shampoo, a scalp massage, an avocado hair mask under steam, more massage (of the shoulders and arms), another wash and scalp tonic, all finished with a blow dry. Despite the intense humidity of the island, Balinese women appear beautifully put together from their peacock-hued eyes to their perfectly coiffed hair.

Similarly, women in the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic swear by fresh garlic-infused polish to keep their nails super strong. And in the Aboriginal communities of Australia, women rely on yarrow root extract to prevent stretch marks because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Another region that is beginning to gain attention is Myanmar in Southeast Asia. This once-secretive country is opening up to the world after decades of isolation and military rule, becoming a prime target for expansion opportunities. Without having the ability to be influenced by the outside, could places like Myanmar hold the best-kept beauty secrets of the future?

Modern Meccas

Moving from once-discreet capitals of inspiration to networked hotbeds and virtual hubs, cultures merge, mend and fuse creating new inspirational territory. Hong Kong is China’s most liberated, vocal and edgy city with a broad range of cultural and generational influences. Offering more than 11,000 restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and booming indie music and literary scenes, it draws in a trendy crowd and appeals to consumer desires for a variety of experiences.

Antwerp, Belgium, is another city on the map of trend incubators. With its diversified subcultures and medieval-meets-modern style, it’s home to an array of influencers from world-acclaimed fashion designers to art lovers and diamond dealers.

As trends tend to be multiplistic and overlapping in nature, these areas of endless inspiration show signs of trends emerging as an amalgam of cultural and generational influences. Blending varying beauty ideals, values and practices could result in cross-cultural mash-ups that change the future face of beauty worldwide.

The Mix of Beauty and Power

Cultural power and influence no longer rest simply at the seat of the large, civic hubs as self-organized communities challenge the fundamental understanding of what constitutes a city. Technology has unleashed a centrifugal force that has flung ideas and memes away from cities and traditional centers of influence out to small flash communities at the fringes, each with their own distinct language, cultures and demographics. As cities shift and evolve from physical locales to virtual spaces, they are translating into platforms for new influence.

Teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, for example, is known throughout the blogosphere for her influence on the global beauty and fashion worlds. She began her online empire at the age of 13, and has now expanded her influence into traditional forms of media: print, radio and television. As social media platforms and online communities further drive decentralization, it is entirely possible that the next game-changing innovators in the beauty realm be virtually based.

Today’s technology has created a world where provenance is a luxury, and finding undiscovered or untouched sources of influence is more challenging. Understanding how trends behave and reflect cultural shifts will help identify the signs and signals for areas of influence on the horizon. The continued fascination with cultural traditions, fusions and what is “foreign” will be expected to drive global beauty trend creation and instigate future innovation.

Valerie Jacobs is a group director for LPK Trends and a design forecaster focusing on the development of trend analysis for LPK client brands. Jacobs is also a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, and is a guest lecturer for the In-Store Marketing Institute, Design Management Institute and the Industrial Designers Society of America.