This is not a manifesto

This morning I met a business associate when I was walking the dog and he asked “so what is happening now?”. And I realised that people might not be aware of what is happening over at Trendstefan. So, I decided to do this post to bring some clarity to what, why and where.

On March 14 this year I sold the facility where the permanent location was for Designgalleriet. About the same time, I also got an inheritance. The money has given me an opportunity to some take time off and think hard and long about this corner of the lifestyle industry. If I put my mind to it, I don’t have to work for two years.

This is where we are today. I work a bit, but without stress, but mainly I focus my energy on my thinking about design, culture and lifestyle. I read a lot. Talk to people a lot. Our world is in a turmoil, and I need to step aside to contemplate about this. Media is not functioning properly, retail is not functioning properly, design is not functioning properly… Where are we going? I will try to give an overview of what I think about in these areas: media, design and retail.

Media is a huge chunk. I, of course, see that printed paper is diminishing. We have a challenge when publishers are chasing revenue. I don’t think anyone has missed that proper magazines now are filled with content from advertisers or collaborations with companies. Open or hidden. This is how it is. And talking to some editors in the industry they stress the fact that they are constantly chased by PR agencies. Fewer people making more content for the publisher. Absolutely less own created content. Last week I talked to two PR agencies, and they confirm that journalists borrow less props from showrooms – since photos and content already come directly from companies and sponsors. Two weeks prior, an editor in chief openly said that there was only time to go to press events for companies who paid ads in their magazine.

From my perspective – magazines have become boring.

But is the answer social media or blogs? Not necessarily. There are so many things to say here. A lot of bloggers that were around ten years ago have grown old and simply resigned. Perhaps because lack of money? Remember, only a few people can actually quit their day job and fully support themselves from blogging.

Sweden’s, and most likely one of Europe’s, most influential blogger Frida at Trendenser says that she is lost. What blogs do you read? Do we actually read blogs anymore? Which blog do you read? The answer is pretty honestly – no one. Do we talk about transparent statistics anymore? I am of course exaggerating but so are their numbers. Anyone reading the blogs at the portals of magazines?

And we need to quickly touch on the subject of influencers. I have two major concerns with this category. Listening to radio show Sommarprat I hear Swedish influencer Bianca Ingrosso talk about her job as “inspire other people”. I love inspiring people. But inspire to do what? Dress better? Get shinier hair? I do understand influencers inspiring people to live healthier or participate in any sort of movement – but just to look pretty? Come on. Do we need that?

Do you feel inspirered?

Influencer and founder of Swedish network Influencers of Sweden – Linda Högfeldt – talks about her profession in the link. And I have no problem with the fact that they spend hours on meetings and follow up – who doesn’t? But in what way is it the job of an influencer to make my hair shinier? Dress better? Influence to do what?

The second part I am upset about is transparency. It’s like this whole debate about transparency got a huge backlash. What are your real numbers? How much money to you make? We expect H&M to be fully transparent, but a small influencer from Borås can hide from this.

I really dont want to point fingers at anyone – but when was the last time you actually checked the followers of an influencer you like? It is so easy to buy followers and activity. Even my socio-phobic nephew has 1400 followers. He doesn’t even have 14 friends…

Transparency, please…

Then we slowly move into section two of this post – the content. What do we write about? What is lifestyle or design today?

So, magazines doesn’t engage me and blogs are struggling, I can also conclude that “design” has totally left my Instagram feed. I see designers push their own work. I see companies push their new products. I see tons of ads. But I rarely see anyone post a picture of their summer house, proudly say “finally we have vacation at this place”. Whenever I see a styled product or a beautiful picture of a chair/vase/tea cup my brain automatically sees this as an ad.

Are we tired of this? I do see pictures of people on vacation, art and plants (yes, urbandesignbloggers are great).

Two weeks ago, I posted something on Facebook in Swedish that got some attention. I noted that no one was writing about the new IKEA launch or the new H&M collaboration. One or two years ago, this would have been all over my social media – but not now. I simply published this to see if anyone else had noticed this change. Some agreed, some stated that we are tired of designer collaborations.

A part of this discussion is of course, quality and content. When I did my report from Milan I stated that we are no longer interested in the designer but rather the stylist.

And today it is all about colours. Nothing new. Just new colours and combinations. A good designer doesn’t make new products – he makes colour combinations. It is honestly a bit superficial. Think of it – in a hundred years from now, what will people remember or still treasure? Very little. Extremely few things. Picture from Sight Unseen, but could of course be basically any European brand/designer. What is new in this picture – except the colours?

But still – today no one writes about new design anyway so perhaps that’s fine. Yes, I said that a bit sarcastically.

In my corner of the world I of course think about this, and how we display new things. Do fairs work? Galleries? Designgalleriet is not closed and tomorrow I will have a meeting with Pierre Sindre to talk about the exhibition we will make for Stockholm Design Week 2019.

But still. I do like fairs. A lot. This is where I meet buyers, designers, producers etc. I must say fairs are underrated. But perhaps we can look at newer ways of meeting. Do we really need brands to be in boxes and bright lights? Couldn’t we do it differently? And then of course the question is “how?”.

The third corner stone of this post is retail. We have talked about media, design and now retail. It is sort of attached to the fairs. And retail is not functioning properly. Lots of numbers are thrown at us. 25 % of all shops are expected to close within five to ten years. We are supposed to move from physical retail to digital. But where is the inspiration? If I go to Amazon and look for i.e. a new table lamp for my living room, I get 400 pages of lamps. Or if I look for “vase” at Royal Design I get 1666 vases. How do I choose?

Picture from Amazon. What do you wanna buy?

Retail inspiration “numero ono” is New York and going there in May I could only conclude that lots and lots of physical stores were closed. To be replaced by what? Of course, some of them will be meeting spots for food (we call them restaurants) but what else?

But maybe more importantly – who wants to buy anything? When design gets boring, and the inspiration is missing (from magazines or social media) – who really wants to buy anything? It’s like this whole ecosystem has collapsed and died.

And to be replaced by what? If we won’t obsess over the right carpet or branded chair – what will we do instead? And if we don’t want to buy anything – what is status? What are we jealous of? What will we spend our money on when we don’t need to buy a new table lamp? Health? Sex? Sleep? Save up so we don’t have to work? And what do we do when we don’t want to work? (picture of me an childhood friend Anna picking wild flowers for Midsummer)

And I really don’t know yet. But this is what I am thinking about. I have said I would come back with some sort of manifesto or statement in August about where we are going but I think that is too soon. More likely in January 2019. I will continue meeting key players in the design and lifestyle industry. I will still do fairs, conferences, product launches. I will watch, think and discuss.

I still don’t know what the answer is for our industry, but I am pretty sure it has to do with the word “creativity”. Not as in “innovation” but rather just creativity. Because we miss that right now.

Oh, and I haven’t even started to talk about how ownership now is changing the agenda. Will all European brands be owned by the US?

To be continued!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Birgit Torkildsby
Birgit Torkildsby
5 years ago

Her treffer du “spiker’n på hodet” som vi sier i Norge. Jeg kjenner meg igjen i mange av dine betrakninger og tanker, og det skal bli interessant å følge med på din “nye” reise. Birgit Torkildsby

5 years ago

Aye to all of your non-manifesto thoughts.
All though I am but an average Jane with Nothing more than a passion for interior to put on my merits I believe we have reached a turning point.
The term influencer is worn out and I cannot take a person who refers to them as such seriously anymore. They will end up in the Bianca Ingrosso stable in my mind.

I need personality, diversity and less ads/collabs since right now I keep seeing the same products over and over in most accounts/blogs I read and I find myself less and less intersted and inspired.

Probably need to restart magazine subscriptions in order to be inspired quite soon.

As a Swede I adore Swedish design but I also feel that we are missing out on so much in our anxiety to be mainstream and so very few dare to be personal and stick with their actual taste in decorating.

Great piece Stefan!

Johanna Freiman
5 years ago

Så bra skrivet!! Känner igen mycket i det du skriver och speciellt hur sociala medier ska inspirera idag men det skapar snarare en stress och otillräcklighet. Ska bli spännande att följa vad du kommer fram till:) Keep up the good work!

5 years ago

Spännande & tänkvärt. Har själv känt oftare att jag inte ” litar” på vad en tidning eller influenser säger eller tycker, eftersom jag har känslan av att tyckandet är köpt, att det antagligen ligger någon sorts varumärkessamarbete i botten, och då blir det ju väldigt ointressant.