The Adelaide Review talks to Chris Sanderson, one of the co-founders of the Future Laboratory on the eve of his Brand South Australia presentation for Entrepreneurs’ Week.
How much of trend forecasting is gut instinct? The Adelaide Review talks to Chris Sanderson, one of the co-founders of the Future Laboratory on the eve of his Brand South Australia presentation for Entrepreneurs’ Week. As one of the world’s most renowned futures consultancies, the Future Laboratory has clients including Louis Vuitton, Condé Nast and Selfridges. Sanderson cites Faith Popcorn (globally recognised as one of the world’s foremost futurists) as an influence when setting up the Future Laboratory with Martin Raymond. “Faith Popcorn has an expression she uses called ‘brailling for culture’ and I think it’s a good simile as it really helps you to understand what is going on. The idea that you’re feeling culture, that you are using your senses and in this case touch to be able to sense what is going around you – the lumps and bumps,” he explains. At heart of the Future Laboratory’s methodology is intuition. Sanderson recognises it as the most important part when forecasting future trends in fashion, technology, culture, food and more. “For us, the ability to intuit the future comes fi rst. Which is how you employ and deploy your senses and be aware of your surroundings to understand what is going on around you. It’s about being sensitive, highly alert and attune to newness, to difference, to change.” Sanderson notes that the way trends work is that mostly people only get to see them when they become mainstream (think health goth and normcore in fashion). His job is to intersect the trend before it hits mainstream and when only a very small group of people are aware of it and engaging the trend. “When it’s still niche, when it’s still deviant and going against the norm – we look at how it is likely to impact on the mainstream in the years to come.” When you spend your time predicting the future, how often do you look back? Sanderson laughs. “I spend very little time assessing something I may have said six months ago. Having said that, when I think back to some of the issues we shared 12 years ago here in Australia in regards to the retail landscape changing, we’ve been very accurate in the way it has changed in Australia and on how digital technology has impacted on the way that consumers shop.” The Fragrance Lab was a recent project with Selfridges in London where Sanderson worked with four partners to create an immersive experience, taking visitors on a journey to match a scent to their personality. Sanderson reveals the pleasure and pain of collaborations. “Fragrance Lab was a highly enjoyable and collaborative project between four partners: Selfridges commissioned the project, providing the space and the platform, Campaign, the retail and architecture company who designed the space, and the fragrance creators Givaudan. Whilst it was very much our vision, it was fantastic to work with these partners as everyone was able to contribute in a unique way with a valid perspective which made it such an enjoyable and engaging installation.” Sanderson sees collaboration in itself as a trend. “We’re fi nding new ways of working together to problem solve – whether it be to do with housing, consumption, politics etc.” He continues, “I think the way we consume information has changed as well. Whilst clearly it’s been shown that most of us consume far more data on a day-to-day basis, are we any wiser? Many people would say probably not. We consume and use data in different ways.” One of the tenets of the Future Laboratory is the understanding that the future has already happened it just isn’t very well distributed. Within that truism is the idea that you’ve got to get out the office and search for those pockets of the future. Sanderson recognises travel as a critical aspect of his work and source of inspiration. “For me it’s often quite geographical. It’s about the idea if I know where to look I can go and fi nd the right side of town or the right side of the city that I’m in and I can see the future in motion. For me, it’s all tied up in the travel of fi nding somewhere different, where there are these pockets of people who are just starting to do something in a different way or behaving in a different way. “ thefuturelaboratory.com lsnglobal.com