Futures 100 Innovators : February

sector - food & drink
sector - beauty
category - design
category - society
sector - media & technology
type - futures 100 innovators awards
Futures 100 Innovators Awards
In our second instalment of Futures 100 Innovators, we spotlight the people democratising Web3, giving voices to disabled youth and augmenting luxury

In this month’s Futures 100 Innovators, we reveal 10 new names in our longlist and awards, featuring a global line-up of 100 innovators, disruptors, activists and change-makers.

Each month, we will profile 10 people that our team of researchers and analysts have identified as driving forward industries ranging from beauty and wellness to luxury, design, retail and travel. After 10 months, our complete Futures 100 Innovators list will be presented to a panel of industry judges who will select and award their 10 leading innovators, revealed in October 2022.

The Future Laboratory has launched an annual Futures 100 Innovators Award to celebrate those among us who are taking on those challenges that some of us may regard as unimportant, unworthy or unrighteous. They’re the people using new approaches, and sometimes counter-intuitive processes, to tackle those age-old problems of inequality, inclusion and levelling up that will still sit with us unless we innovate and imagine differently.

You can nominate your own innovators here: futures100innovators@thefuturelaboratory.com

Published by:

2 March 2022

Author: The Future Laboratory

Image: The Future Laboratory


Left: KraveBeauty founded by Liah Yoo. Right: Irisa Xiong, founder of Innermade.

Beauty : Liah Yoo

Humanising venture capitalist culture for a more sustainable beauty industry

After launching direct-to-consumer brand KraveBeauty, which helps people to focus their skincare routines in an ever-more saturated and consumption-driven market, Yoo is now turning her attention to the industry’s untenable approach to growth.

She is behind Press Reset Ventures, which has emerged to fight the rise of venture capitalist (VC) culture in the beauty sector. Indeed, many independent beauty brands come under pressure from investors to expand and accelerate beyond customer needs, or to grow with acquisition in mind. ‘I’ve seen many peer founders devote efforts to please investors rather than serving their key stakeholders – customers, employees and the environment,’ she says. Beginning with a £745,000 ($1m, €889,000) fund, Yoo will invest in and mentor new businesses focused on measured growth, inclusivity and sustainable innovations and practices in beauty.

Health & Wellness : Irisa Xiong

Offering tools and processes for people to engage their brains

In the era of Recuperative Living, people are seeking ways to heal and develop resilience in the face of trauma and adversity. To help them, Irisa Xiong has founded Innermade, a wellbeing project that encourages people to get back in touch with themselves – specifically, their thoughts and emotions.

Centred on curiosity and cognitive development, Innermade provides people with tools and guidance to begin their journey, from drinkable tonics for clarity to paper journals. The intention is that a focus on feelings, finding meaning and growth can boost overall wellbeing. ‘This project is an invitation to return to your core self – the self [that is] uninhibited by old wounds, limiting beliefs or toxic narratives… Our method focuses on process, incorporating mindfulness and guided self-inquiry to open our minds to what makes us feel at ease, aligned and inspired,’ explains Xiong.

‘People of colour deserve an inclusive approach that’s radically different from the closed-minded, repressed educational institutions that aren’t built to teach or celebrate [our] success.’
Ritesh Gupta, founder, Useful School
Tatale by Akwasi Brenya-Mensa

Design : Ritesh Gupta

Championing representation for people of colour in the design sector

In response to the lack of representation in the design industry, Ritesh Gupta is behind the creation of Useful School, an online design curriculum that focuses on people of colour. Through the school, he wants to ensure that those who design products are as present, involved and visible as those who use them. This extends as far as the fonts used by Useful School – created by people of colour – to crowdsourcing support and mentorship for students of colour entering the world of work.

Further to this, Useful School has a pay-what-you-can model for its students, democratising access to both education and future roles in the design industry. ‘Useful School is on a mission to increase representation of people of colour in creative industries, while having fun doing it,’ says Gupta. ‘We want to increase the total talent pool as well as improve chances of promotions and opening practices.’

Food & Drink : Akwasi Brenya-Mensa

Serving cultural exchange centred on food and storytelling

Turning dining into an educational cultural exchange, Akwasi Brenya-Mensa is behind Tatale, a pan-African dining space that will open at The Africa Centre in London in spring 2022. Previously, Brenya-Mensa has been travelling across West Africa, the UK, Europe and the Caribbean, hosting supper clubs where he shared and learned stories about the diaspora through food preparation, ingredients and cookery. His work celebrates heritage dishes and flavours, eschewing some oils and meats to introduce West African cookery to a more health-conscious generation.

‘I incorporate the idea of cultural exchange through food into my supper clubs, which attract and welcome a wide demographic, often including guests who may not be familiar with Ghanaian culture at all,’ he explains. ‘Seeking to bridge a generational gap in my work, I want to see discerning aunties and younger diaspora kids enjoying their heritage food and seeing it presented in a fresh and exciting way. I very much view this is as a part of my responsibility.’

Left: Harsha L’Acqua, founder of Saira Hospitality. Right: Ommy Akhe via Instagram.

Travel & Hospitality : Harsha L’Acqua

Boosting skills and career opportunities for overlooked people

An alum of Six Senses Hotels and Aman Hotels, Harsha L’Acqua is combining her experience in luxury hospitality with inspiration drawn from her father’s philanthropic career to create Saira Hospitality. This non-profit organisation partners with the world’s leading hospitality brands – including The Standard, Four Seasons and Rosewood Hotels – to give local people and those from overlooked communities access to skills and knowledge as a gateway to a career in the sector.

Having launched with pop-up programmes hosted at hotels, in 2022 Saira Hospitality will open its first permanent school in the UK, with partner hotels including The Hoxton, Nobu Hotel Portman Square and Town Hall Hotel offering life-changing opportunities for those who need them most. Crucially, Saira’s work will also help to counter the staffing crisis that has hit British hospitality during the pandemic.

Luxury : Ommy Akhe

Augmenting our experience of luxury through immersive filters

With work designed to create lasting and memorable impact, Ommy Akhe is a pioneer in the field of immersive, augmented reality (AR) brand experiences. Working out of London, she seeks to push the boundaries of what we can experience through our screens, and how we can play, manipulate and influence the appearance of luxury products online.

Beginning life as an ethical hacker before discovering Facebook’s Spark AR technology as a tool to develop filters, Akhe’s work focuses on helping brands to build awareness and audience engagement. She does this through AR filters and voice recognition software that allow netizens to instantly customise luxury products, with the intention that they will share the results across social media platforms. Featuring unofficial projects that incorporate goods from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, the pieces become reactive art forms – decorative text dances across a handbag, while shoes change colour in response to music.

‘I incorporate the idea of cultural exchange through food into my supper clubs, which attract and welcome a wide demographic’
Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, founder, Tatale

Fashion : Clint

Using hype to build an anti-establishment streetwear brand

The founder of enigmatic British streetwear label Corteiz is showing how fashion brands can build authenticity through community. Known only by his first name – Clint – the founder of Corteiz has established a cult following for the brand and its collections, which are reported to sell out within minutes. How? By refusing to follow fashion sector norms, in particular taking a democratic approach to access and interactions with his audience.

Demonstrating just how engaged a following Corteiz has amassed, in January 2022 the brand broadcast a location on its social media for its BOLO Exchange – a chance for hundreds of young streetwear fans to exchange jackets from labels such as Moncler, The North Face and Supreme for Corteiz’s own highly coveted coats. Notably, Corteiz refused to take in jackets from other Black-founded British brands by way of supporting their own growth. Further, the coats that were traded in – which Clint Tweeted were worth £16,000 ($21,440, €19,065) – were given to a London homeless charity.

Retail : Joe Wilkinson and Mario Maher

Spotlighting the retail potential of mystery boxes

Mystery boxes have been garnering interest across the retail sector for a few years, but Joe Wilkinson and Mario Maher are on a mission to propel this form of retail into the mainstream. As the co-founders of Heat, they are targeting luxury brands and aspirational customers through the benefits that their monthly mystery boxes offer: a way to sustainably sell through past season or overstock for brands, and for buyers a surprise edit of cult labels and garments wrapped up into a slick unboxing experience.

Having sold more than 15,000 boxes to date, Heat has recently scooped £3.7m ($5m, €4.4m) in funding from LVMH Luxury Ventures and others to grow how people access and experience its boxes. ‘With its mystery boxes, Heat is successfully pioneering a unique and virtuous model reconciling desirability, circularity and price accessibility,' says Julie Bercovy, founder and head of LVMH Luxury Ventures.

Media & Technology : Deana Burke

Creating inclusive real-life spaces for wealth-making in Web3

Seeking to subvert its very name, the co-founder of Boys Club is here to shake up the technology sector by building a feminist Web3 scene. Deana Burke’s ambition with Boys Club is to bring more women and non-binary people into a space currently dominated by men – who in turn, are accruing most of the wealth related to cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

To do this, Burke and Boys Club host a Discord server of more than 800 members where no question is a bad one, while its socials brim with irreverent guides to crypto-slang. There’s also welcoming real-life events, where guests ask questions, sip cocktails, share knowledge and explore the future of decentralised finance through the lens of real-world businesses run by women and non-binary people – a world away from the Crypto-cliques and gated communities found online.

Youth : Emily Flores

Helping young disabled people lead media conversations

Emily Flores is founder and editor-in-chief of Cripple Media, a platform giving space to young disabled people to write honestly, openly and accurately about themselves and the issues that affect them. Navigating subjects ranging from identity to culture and politics, advice is shared and community is forged. Creating content that represents them – and not led by able-bodied editors, healthcare professionals or adult voices – Flores wants the platform to nurture a new generation of often overlooked creatives. ‘Cripple Media is striving to train and centre young disabled media professionals to lead conversations in mainstream media,’ she writes.

Now in her late teens, Flores is appealing to mainstream media and broadcast brands to support her ambitions by hiring young disabled creatives – and making sure they are paid for their contributions. ‘Young disabled creatives can shift the lens [through which] disabled people are viewed – into something more honest, accurate, impactful and youthful,’ she adds.

‘Heat has created a shopping platform for a digital generation, and we are positioned to make an impact in this space’
Joe Wilkinson, CEO, Heat

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Want to find out more or nominate your own innovators?

In the first two instalments of our Futures 100 Innovators longlist, we get to know global disruptors and change-makers creating the future across 10 sectors.

Check out the names that have so far made the Futures 100 Innovators longlist for January here, or to suggest your own names via email.

Vote for your nominees