Quarterly subscriptions
In a world continuous choice, the ultimate indulgence now is not having to choose.
 
The subscription model is being reborn thanks to online tastemakers and well-edited quarterly collections straight from the curated popup retail playbook. This new form of eCommerce outlines a defined theme without allowing the purchases to know the what products are contained within in their shipments until they open each mailing. By preserving the element of surprise, quarterlies are quickly immerging as a decisive and eccentric component of eCommerce.
 
Here are two examples, appropriately named Quarterly and Svbscription, to give you an idea of how lifestyle, storytelling, and limited-time-offerings aim to reshape they way we think of experiential shopping.
 
{Photo: Quarterly Co. by Coolhunting}
 
Quarterly Co. wants to connect shoppers with original content and hand-selected items from influential contributors. The offerings and themes range from items for your kitchen and table (by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs of Food 52) to design objects with problem solving combinations (by Josh Rubin & Evan Orensten of Coolhunting) and range from $25-$100, per mailing, every three months.
 
Per the website:
"Each product will reflect on the person who selected it, and help inform your understanding of them. So maybe you’ll get the same kind of notebook that your favorite author used to plot her recent bestseller. Or maybe it’s the tea a musician was drinking while he penned a famous track. Or perhaps it’s a secret family cold remedy an artist used while working on a masterpiece. The point is, every object—while uniquely brilliant in its function—will also have a story, and through that story take on new meaning."
 
Quarterly Co.
Our Quarterly - #BVH01
 
To best experience the ideals outlined by Quarterly, we subscribed to contributor Joel Johnson’s theme (above). Each of his mailings will be inspired by his late grandmother, Bessie Vivian Hildebrand, and we're incredibly touched by how the first shipment (called #BVH01 to correspond with a twitter hashtag) gave new meaning to common kitchen products with a simple series of memories.

Svbscription is a luxury quarterly service targeting a male clientele. Every three months, members receive a new parcel with a unique them of curated products and experiences that intersect design, culture, technology, apparel, and entertainment. The cost of one box is $330 and a yearly subscription is $1150.
 
The latest theme explores and reconstructs the notion of the collection for the modern man with enough vagueness to leave the potential subscriber baffled. Below are photos and a description from "V4 – The Collector’s Edition".
 
Svb­scrip­tion V4
{Photo: Svb­scrip­tion}
 
Either casu­ally, for­mally or uncon­sciously, col­lect­ing is an act we per­form through­out our lives, cul­mi­nat­ing in the own­er­ship of prized objects, rare finds, pre­cious dis­cov­er­ies and vast archives of every­thing from mag­a­zines to memories. Yet in a world where we suf­fer from the the [SIC] tyranny of abun­dance, over­whelmed by choice and selec­tion, those things we do select to fill our book­shelves and minds say more about our­selves than they would have said for our fathers and grand­fa­thers. No gen­tle­men — in this mod­ern age it is no longer enough to be sim­ply gifted with a sense of good taste. With­out the right train­ing and tools, any man can fall from the heights of refined col­lec­tor to the annals of ver­bosity, over-consumption and dare we say, hoarding."
 

While most shoppers might be turned off by this type of merchandising, it's obvious from the previous versions — all of which are sold out — that the concept connects with an affluent customer willing to spend $330 on a lifestyle sans actual product photos. 

 
There are buzzwords and there are great words. And sometimes, marketers turn great words into trash.
 
For example, Premium used to be a compelling word bound for potential greatness. The petrol industry drove the awareness of premium gasoline in the 80's to denote a better grade. Unfortunately, marketers in the food industry have driven premium, artisan and specialty into the ground. If you feel that you have to put premium or World Class as a descriptor of your confections, it's mute. (And, by the way, World Class was never a great term.)
 
Often words are overused. Personally, we made the decision to remove Bespoke (an undeniable great word), from the In Your Head website messaging as part of our redesign.  We still do consider our consultancy "made-to-order", but the word became overpopulated as it relates to design aesthetics particularly in fashion. Special edition products and custom items are not bespoke unless they are made by hand for a specific client/user. The same bespoke logic applies to Couture, which comes from the term haute couture, meaning exclusive custom-fitted clothing made-to-order for private clients with one or more fittings. Track suits with catch phrases on the backside are NEVER couture, regardless of the name brand.
 
The latest death of a great word came yesterday via our inbox. A dedicated email advertising a "curated prize package" of tampons. No joke.
curated tampons
{image: DailyCandy.com}
 
We've long been fans of Curate within this blog and as an additive to some of our clients temporary installations. The word, stemming from the term Curator, had become a term that brands and collaborators used to communicate a link between cultural heritage and consumerism in a post-recession environment. For us, curating demanded that the job skills of the owner, manager or buyer had evolved beyond seasonality with unique offerings that held greater meaning, research, and care than the standard quo.
 
It's unfortunate that marketers thought otherwise...
Curating tampons is beyond gross. It's time to flush the toilet.
 
 
Approximately two years ago we found what looked like a morel in the garden and within hours Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager confirmed via @twitter that the mushroom was edible. Thanks to social media, we became pseudo foragers.
 
Like urban gardening, foraging is becoming progressively more mainstream as shoppers seek out seasonal, locally grown and sustainable foods. Culturally, the concept of seeking and hand-selecting wild edibles works well with the desire for unique experiences— aligning with popular terms like artisan, bespoke and curate. We reconnected with the author to gain a deeper understanding of how foraging and reconnecting with our agrarian past is not just another food trend, but a widely accepted part of daily life that generations today are rediscovering.
 
"My hope is that a renewed enthusiasm for foraging will help advance current debate about food issues. Foraging is seasonal by its very nature. Many foraged foods are exceptionally nutritious, much more so, in fact, than their domestic counterparts (i.e. "weeds" such as watercress, dandelions, lambs-quarters and stinging nettles are off the charts in vitamins and minerals; huckleberries are loaded with antioxidants; wild salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids; even mushrooms contain certain necessary minerals). said Langdon Cook. Foraging encourages a closer relationship with the landscape and the foods we eat. To become educated about foraging is to become educated about food. That said, it's incumbent on the forager to learn about those plants and fungi that are not edible."
 
The rise in demand of foraged edibles in restaurants has gradually increased the popularity of events, excursions, classes and blogs to inform passionate gastronomes. Below are four concepts worth checking out.
 
 
  • Forage  - One of LA Magazines's best new restaurants featuring produce from local growers. Opened in January 2010, the initial and revised foraging program encourages customers to bring in their own home-grown produce (If they like it and accept it, Forage will make a dish with it and name it after you. A blog post titled The return of foraging details all of the ins and outs).
  • Forage Foods - Calgary based take-out shop focusing on ready to eat foods made with a majority of local foods from sustainable farms opened in 2007. Specials include a wide range of pre-prepared foods, fresh baked goods, fresh produce, frozen meals, and local gourmet foods.
 
{photo: Nettletown.com}
 
  • Nettletown - Hidden in a tiny strip mall along Seattle's Eastlake Ave, Nettletown opened March 2010 (formerly the Sitka and Spruce space). A personal lunch favorite, the noodles, home-made pickles and sandwiches highlights wild and local ingredients from Christina Choi of Foraged & Found Edibles.
  • Foragers Market - Dumbo (Brooklyn, New York) is a family run market with sustainable produce and well-edited selection assortment of foods. The menu reflects more growing and sourcing of quality seasonal foods than foraged foods but we like the city grocer feel.
 
Prized treasures like mushrooms and wild greens can be harvested throughout many parts of the US but success depends on a variety of visual and seasonal hints. Much like the dumpster diving craze of the late 80's, a misstep could find you face-to-face with something extraordinarily unsafe. Talk to an expert and don't needle/nettle around.
 

{editors note 9/15/11: Nettletown closed August 28, 2011 to pursue other ventures. We wish them all the best and will definitely miss the knoepfli and good company}
These days, it seems everyone is curating: a new concept, an artisan cocktail, a farm-to-table dinner. And while we love the evolving originality of ideas, the reality is that a lot has been done, popped up, and copied. As trendspotters and trained marketers, we disregard buzzwords and 'best of' lists because good style, fresh merchandising, and an unique perspective will always catch our eye.
 
And we like to share.  So here is a small selection of boutiques from our whirl-wind trip to Los Angeles that did not include malls, Manolos or mediocrity.
 
Mohawk General Store
First things first- Mohawk General Store is more than just another 'well-curated' lifestyle store. Kevin and Bo Carney have a designed an atmosphere that feels less like a shop and more like a friend’s apartment. The expansive selection of home, clothing, jewelry and accessories- from a wide range of brands- play like an a prized record collection that you will stay up all night to hear. It's easy enough to choose cool things- but another entirely to build a sense of space.
 
mohawk general store
 
Mid-Century furnishings by Ellen LeComte of Amsterdam Modern provide a backdrop, and often merchandising fixture, for an intermix of mens, womens and home objects from brands like A.P.C, Comme Des Garçons, Rachel Comey and Clare Vivier. From raw denim to a vintage Czech Military Tote, each item has a story highlighting the designer, materials or details. Our purchases included the delicate Silk Arc on Cord bracelet by Kristen Elspeth.
 
Mohawk
 
A lot of thought and care has gone into making the space more than just another store. From purposeful merchandising to inviting and knowledgeable staff, this Silver Lake gem is the polar opposite to the "stack it high, watch it fly" philosophy driving much of LA's shopping culture.
 
 
Vivier and Bentley
The union of local designers, Vivier and Bentley effortlessly captures the complexities of low-high style that makes simplicity chic. Occupying the front part of a shared studio centered around a handpainted 'rug', the boutique showcases Claire Vivier's elegant leather handbags and Kathryn Bentley's roughly refined Dream Collective high-end costume jewelry along with artwork and mobiles from friends and neighbors. Creativity oozes from the backroom, making the space feel like a community art project gone terribly and extraordinarily right.
 
 
Mixed surfaces and materials, from butter-soft leather to angular metal, create visual contrast and make every detail feel like a lost treasure.
 
 
The collaboration feels earthy and intimate, with Ms. Bently offering us a quarter to extend our meter as we selected an antique African and beaded brass necklace from her collection. Gracious too.
 
 
Iko Iko
Prior to our visit to LA, there was one store that was recommended to us time and time again: Iko Iko. Fortunately, we popped by to experience version 1.0 before they relocate in August to West Hollywood. We love the eclectic range of things made by hand, items made within a tradition, and products that read curious and surprising.
 
 
Crafts, curiosities, and clothing lie adjacent to Japanese utilitarian objects and vintage art books. There's an underlying restraint to each product and visual presentation within the store.
 
 
Above, a selection of jewelry from Hannah Keefe hangs above handcrafted furniture and housewares.
 
 
We love the attention to detail owners Kristin Dickson and Shin Okuda bring to everything- from seemingly effortless yet methodical merchandising to poetic descriptions of the supremely talented designs and/or products.
 
There's a silver lining to every wrought overexposed retail cloud and clearly these stores shine brighter than most. Anyone can 'pick out some cool stuff' (see also curate), but it's the assembly of various parts that make a store/concept/idea visionary.
Feeling tired of buyers consistently purchasing the same labels? So is Jil Wensauser, former senior manager for Condé Nast New Markets.

Merging curation with eCommerce, Wensauser is launching WATCH-THAT-LABEL.COM to serve as a sales platform for young, up-and-coming designers around the world this spring.

"As someone with a passion for fashion and having worked in the industry for some time, I have always had my eye on new fashion labels as I travelled the globe. I have discovered so many amazing talents, which we simply have no access to in Europe. The idea for WATCH-THAT-LABEL.COM came when it became apparent that there is no outlet out there dedicated to providing a platform for emerging talent and discovering the 'rare gems'."

The first pass of emerging global designers include: Josh Goot, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Tsumori Chisato, Kaviar Gauche, Pedro Lourenco and Emilio de la Morena. Many of the pieces will be sold exclusively at Watch-That-Label.com.

{photo: Felipe Oliveira Baptista via AutoMode Tumblr}

We love how concepts like WATCH-THAT-LABEL & Moda Operandi are developing innovative platforms to bring products to hungry shoppers and in contrast to fashion buyers inability to look beyond "best sellers", "name brands" and "safe collections". Shades of vanilla might be attractive to the masses but even the most frugal Recessionista needs some sparkle and fresh blood.

 
If you are familiar with our trendscaping banter, you know we LOVE a collaboration but have grown skeptical of mainstream's ability to deliver on brand experiences (a.k.a. pop-up retail).

More often than not it seems like the message is getting diluted or someone is getting screwed in the deal. Mass retailers collaborate with up-and-coming designers in hopes that they gain street-cred from the fashion world but the deal only gives the up-and-comers a brief PR elevation. Affordable prices trump brand loyalty in many cases.

That's why we were super stoked to see photos of The Man Repeller playing dress up with The Outnet (please click on the link to see the photos/post since that's her content & we respect her rad-ness).

It works on so many levers but here are our top three to ponder...
1) The Man Repeller got to style her own looks for the photoshoot using The Outnet items. Win-Win.
2) Both parties leverage their brands love for a good deal which resonates with money conscious customers.
3) It feels authentic and curated. There is even a tab on the website dedicated to her favorite picks.

The whole thing reminds us of the good old days when Vogue had Stella McCartney as a guest editor. Kudos on the creativity & implementation!

 
UPDATE 8.1.11: The Outnet has published a video of the collaboration. Check it out below.
 
 
 
Based in Brooklyn, Market Publique aims to attract premium sellers and buyers of vintage fashion via auction sales and fixed prices. Potential sellers fill out an application form before joining and once a seller is accepted, there's a USD 0.25 charge per listed item, plus a 5% commission fee for each sale.
 

{photos: Market Publique}
 
By focusing on one niche and creating an appealing storefront for carefully selected vendors, Market Publique takes the standard online marketplace model and makes it more attractive and reliable for both buyers and sellers.
 

In addition to an online presence, Market Publique opened a pop-up retail store for Fashion Night Out that highlighted its fall collection. Here's a recap of the event.

{source/ spotted by: Bonnie Sandy via Springwise.com}

 
Products with a hand-finished look will become the new luxury and take precedence over our current disposable attitude to product.
 
Key elements include:
  • Emphasis is on artisan techniques, fabrication, production and construction (Project Alabama)
  • Modern-day craftsmanship in a contemporary context (felting, glass blowing, silver smithing)
  • Hand-worked pieces epitomize discreet modern luxury
  • Unique items and one of a kind objects become must-haves that seduce consumers into a purchase
  • "LTO" (limited time offerings) and smart-buys (1-100 pieces) allow retailers to sell through inventory and ask for premium pricing (think of signed numbered articles: 21/150 like in art)
  • Use of natural materials: wood, leather and stone
  • Precision and painstaking detail inspired by intricate pencil drawings and paintings
  • Patterns screen printed onto glass and plastics, laser-cut inlays into veneers
  • Organic and soft geometric patterns are important
  • Hand-applied and personalized all-over placement designs
  • Lifestyle: finding the “perfect” work/life balance. The new luxury is a quest for the ideal
  • Prada “epicenter” stores: a the contemplative environment of a museum with retail
  • Colors: golden sycamore, deep mahogany red, teak shades, limestone, and walnut for its richness and depth.