Desirable Development — Paris | 09-13 September 2021
At each edition of Maison&Objet, we identify new sources of inspiration and analyse current trends and new types of consumer behaviour.
The theme “Desirable Development” allows us to highlight consumers’ appetite for ethical products and the solutions brands are offering. It’s not so much a trend as a real underlying movement that Maison&Objet is illustrating, and which seems built to last in all our homes!
Welcome to our rapidly changing world! The health crisis has raised a number of new challenges, from the economy and geopolitics to identity and, of course, the environment. As a result, says Vincent Grégoire, director of the Trends & Insights division of consulting agency NellyRodi, we’re experiencing a shift from ‘sustainability’ to ‘desirability’. After deconsumption, the trend spotter believes in the power of alternative consumption. Rather than the moralising tone of ‘sustainability’, he believes in taking a more positive approach to adopting new behaviours. “We need to grasp our responsibilities with both hands and see the glass as half full, take an active rather than a passive approach, and feel alive not just survive!” This meliorist approach - the belief that we can improve things - reconnects us to our senses and emotions. According to Grégoire, a permanent member of the Maison&Objet Observatory, in the future, we’re going to see a shift towards serenity, spirituality, solidarity and sustainability. These trends fall into four main movements.
Paradoxically, lockdowns and border closures have boosted the appeal of the close and convenient, from local neighbourhoods and streets to things that are literally on our doorstep or even inside our homes. “We know how to travel to the Moon or Mars, or around the human body, of course, but we’re also rediscovering an environment that’s less inaccessible but just as appealing,” says the sociologist, who has noted a growing desire for a new quality of life in urban spaces. Already the subject of several community initiatives, the “15-minute city” - the ability to meet our routine needs within a few minutes of our homes - instantly puts essential services within everyone’s reach. As rurbans - a conflation of ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ - move to the countryside, so the countryside is moving to the city, as illustrated by container farms - recycled shipping containers used to grow vegetables – that are cropping up on hypermarket car parks. As the sun sets on globalisation, designers are also drawing inspiration from street culture, including Hermès, which recently brought a touch of magic to the urban scene with the Carré Park skate ramp. “Desirable development is about forging a new relationship with space,” says Grégoire, “but always in a fun and approachable way.”
From anosmia and agueusia (loss of smell and taste) to the ban on touching (unless you’ve smeared your hands with hydroalcoholic gel first), contactless payment, digitalisation and virtualisation, the health crisis has put our five senses to the test. “Soon our pizzas will be tossed by robots and delivered by drones, and we’ll be shuttled around by driverless cars,” says Vincent Grégoire, who has noticed a “nostalgia for the sensory and a growing fear of being surrounded by machines. We’re fighting back by searching for a sixth sense and a new form of sensitivity. The notion of hypersensitivity is going to be one of the buildings blocks of the future,” notes Grégoire. New therapeutic and holistic solutions are emerging in the shape of soft tech objects and immersive experiences based around colours and sounds, but also as new uses: CBD stores - short for cannabidiol, CBD is a molecule extracted from hemp, which is legal and has no psychotropic effects - are an increasingly common sight. And on a more mundane level, as new ranges of cushions, armchairs and even cat trees - because pets are also part of the sensory revival.
We no longer want to consume without tracing a product or knowing where it’s from and what it contains or endure a crisis without understanding why. According to Vincent Grégoire: “Education is the key. It’s a determining factor in this idea of desirability.” This education takes many forms, including handing down knowledge from generation to generation to the craze for workshops, online conferences - TED talks, tutorials and self-learning. Brands and shops are particularly keen to play the game by developing fun solutions to educate their customers, from store-front bouldering walls at Uniqlo Park in Yokohama to the Streetball Challenge by Adidas in Manhattan, where players had to take part in a contest to try out a new pair of trainers. Swedish clothing chain Arket installed a “touch table” at the entrance to one of its shops to raise awareness of different textile materials. These initiatives are all part of the philosophy of meliorism - the idea that the world can be improved if we try. “The least-effort culture is over,” says Grégoire. “The trend is towards mutual education.”
This is true of both consumers and brands, who are adopting responsible behaviours without losing their cool. “There are many ways to consume better without deconsuming,” says Grégoire. “Barter, gifting, recovery, rental, gravity dispensers and charity spaces are new approaches recycling that are anything but dull. No one hides the fact that they go to garage sales or flea markets anymore.” And there is no shortage of good examples of alternative solutions to the “same but different” approach where companies launch new products almost the same as the old ones. Fashion designer Isabel Marant has launched her own second-hand online store, Weston has opened a ‘restoration’ workshop for worn soles, and Swedish supermarket reTuna only sells used items. “Luxury companies are also looking to address the issue of sleeping stock. They’ve stopped throwing away fabric cuttings and samples and some have started giving them to small design outfits who put them back into circulation.” There’s also a trend towards personalised, unique pieces with tiny stand-out defects that are a source of pride. Know-how and time value are making a comeback.
Technology, creation and design are opening the way to exciting opportunities. As brands move towards more responsible production methods, young designers are intuitively integrating sustainability into their approach, with major publishers and luxury brands following suit. Local craftwork and production are also back on the scene.
Follow the “Sustainable” pathway through Maison&Objet Paris, discover young, committed designers all along the “Desirable Development” circuit at Paris Design Week, and mark your calendar for a special week dedicated to this theme on the MOM digital platform!
Head over to MOM, from October 18-24, 2021, to discover brands committed to this trend.
Serenity, spirituality, solidarity, sustainability…these are the major trends of tomorrow, and they’re reflected in four underlying movements: Authentic-Proximity, when proximity becomes desirable; Super-Sens, let’s develop our hyper-sensitivity; Human Touch, let’s highlight expert skills, and Take Care on Earth, let’s take responsibility for the environment.