23 February 2023
Author: The Future Laboratory
Image: The Future Laboratory
Broadening the science of beauty
AJ Addae is the founder of Sula Labs, an R&D beauty lab that focuses on the needs of Black and dark skinned people, and her work is dedicated to helping others define themselves. With a BSc in molecular biology, her first role in a medical grade lab made her keenly aware that inclusion in the beauty industry needs to start with the people behind the brands, in the nitty gritty of formulation. Sula Labs is named after the titular character in Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel, Sula.
Sula Labs has worked with 11 indie beauty brands on product development and is partnered with almost half of the brands featured in Sephora Accelerate’s 2023 programme. Addae is currently pursuing a PhD in chemical biology at UCLA while also gathering pre-seed funding for Sula Labs, a move that will enable it to broaden in-house capabilities and create an R&D experience that appeals to even more businesses.
By ensuring that Black people are involved at the beginning of the product development process, Addae is challenging the way diversity is understood in beauty. Sula Labs is showing the industry that true inclusivity starts with ingredients, formulas and chemists that bring the needs of Black and dark skinned people to the fore.
Bacterial innovation for infants
Dr Lydia Mapstone, Dr Sioned Jones and Tara O’Driscoll (doctorate pending) founded BoobyBiome and are designing a breast milk supplement for babies without access to human breast milk.
The scientists met while studying for their PhDs in London, and with overlapping interests in chemistry, biophysics, neuroscience and microbiology, they bonded over their fascination with the bacteria that thrives in breast milk and how it shapes overall gut health. BoobyBiome has raised £1.3m ($1.5m, €1.4m) in equity and grant funding to help bring its product to market. The supplement aims to aid infants in developing robust microbiomes that decrease their risk of chronic illness in later life.
The biotech start-up’s work is valuable beyond the product it is making. From the collection and testing of breast milk samples to evaluating which bacterial strains are optimal community for infant guts, BoobyBiome is closing long-standing research gaps in furthering our understanding of microbiomes and their implications for overall health.
Dynamic design for social progress
Sara Taiyo and Abb-d Taiyo have built Driftime Media, a digital design agency that exclusively works with socially progressive companies, into a Brighton-based certified B-Corp company. They only take on projects with those who share their focus for purpose-driven work. ‘Many of the companies we work with want to save the world. We want to help them,’ says co-founder Abb-d Taiyo. Driftime’s ongoing roster of collaborators include sustainability-focused magazine Annual Digest, Oxford University Press and fine dining platform Epicurate.
The pair arrived at founding a digital design agency through wildly different paths; Sara after being a graphic design graduate who worked as an editor, Abb’d through informal education including a stint as a basketball player in the US. They now share a commitment to the idea that design has a role to play in supporting social change.
This includes their Design Declares climate emergency campaign launched in 2022 to encourage creatives and institutions to take action on the climate crisis, and Route To Impact, a Driftime programme that lets purpose-orientated organisations access award-winning digital design at an accessible price. Sara and Abb-d Taiyo are showing that progressive values can drive creative success.
Sobriety with good cheer
Millie Gooch’s Sober Girls Society is an enlightening and light-hearted community for sober women. After quitting drinking in 2018 Gooch was surprised at how quickly she was able to find sober and sober-curious women yearning for connection. Gooch recalls becoming emotional when she shipped early batches of Sober Girl merchandise, a variety of badges and pins that celebrate the sober identity, to early Sober Girl Society members. ‘I packaged about 100 orders that weekend and had to make about seven trips to the post office. I cried because I was so happy that people wanted to support what I was trying to do.’
The society hosts events for sober girls in the UK, including bottomless boozeless brunches and IRL/virtual sober sweat dance classes. Gooch’s book, The Sober Girl Society Handbook, led her to regular work with brands in and out of the non-alcoholic market, including Sainsbury’s, Brewdog and Adidas. In 2022 Gooch co-founded Sippers, an online retail platform for no- and low-abv products, and now continues her work to make sobriety accessible, fun and stigma-free.
Material metamorphoses to challenge climate change
Jun Kamei is the founder of Amphico, a UK-based design-led technology firm creating sustainability-focused leisurewear. The Royal College of Art graduate started out by creating a 3D-printed gill garment that supports underwater respiration – and then realised the garment’s waterproof and permeable technologies could be harnessed to make environmentally friendly outdoor leisurewear. It’s a technology that disrupts the difficult irony of outdoor textiles, as most clothing worn to enjoy the outdoors is often made with materials that are unfriendly to earth.
In 2022, Kamei created Amphitex, the 100% recyclable and chemical-free outdoor performance textile, which won him the Terra Carta Design Lab award. Kamei is inspired by nature’s hidden design – whether that be the thin skins of diving insects or the waterproof properties of the lotus leaf. Kamei is inventing materials that respond to the demands of climate change and make adventuring more sustainable.
Education in affluence
Kristen Shirley’s La Patiala is a digital encyclopaedia that flings open the gilded doors of luxury to everyone. New York-based Shirley is a tenured journalist and expert who wants consumers to learn about luxury brands, products and experiences without apprehension or intimidation. ‘This is for everyone that’s interested. I’ve written it to appeal to a lot of people…’ she says.
For information on luxury travel, wine, food, jewellery and beauty, scroll through the platform’s A–Z glossary of items. Or read one of Shirley’s easy-to-browse guides on luxury topics such as watches, champagne or Aspen that give readers a thorough understanding of the history, movements and crafts behind the luxury sector. La Patiala demystifies exclusive worlds, empowering consumers who are interested in navigating them with the confidence and knowledge to do so.
Forum for fashion pioneers
Antoine Gregory is the creator of Black Fashion Fair (BFF), an online directory for Black fashion designers. BFF evolved from a simple Twitter thread Gregory started, called Black Designers You Should Know, as a response to retailers telling him they couldn’t find Black designers. BFF is now a curated platform showcasing fashion’s most exciting Black designers and prioritising the discovery and development of new talent.
Over the past three years BFF has served as a retailer, publisher and database for Black-owned fashion brands, a place for Black designers and image-makers to be seen and heard. It has hosted exhibitions and helped designers land in Nordstrom, Ssense and other major stores. But for New York-based multi-hyphenate creative, stylist and brand director Gregory it’s not just about selling products. BFF is a space for Black creatives to be celebrated and validated. ‘I want BFF to become its own institute of research documentation, education and design,’ says Gregory. ‘The ultimate goal is for us to offer those types of programmes that promote access into spaces that we have historically been excluded from.’
Building VR worlds to share brand stories
Olga Dogadkina’s VR platform Emperia helps brands create immersive retail experiences. Dogadkina thought up the idea for the platform when she was consulting for Microsoft on a fashion-related project and tried virtual reality for the first time. ‘It just blew my mind’, Dogadkina recalls. ‘I thought this is what’s going to change the way people shop.’
The Russian-born, London-based, UAL graduate observed that so many 2D websites lacked the ability to provide retail and fashion consumers with the seamless experiences they expect. For Emperia, building a virtual space in full 3D – either a digital copy of a physical store or showroom – is about storytelling and taking a luxury customer on a journey.
Emperia has created virtual stores for major retailers and brands, including Bloomingdale’s, Dior, Sunglass Hut and Lacoste. Dogadkina recently raised £8.2m ($10m, €9.4m) Series A funding and branched out into metaverse projects for sports brands Paris St Germain, Inter Milan and UK football club Southampton. Emperia builds VR worlds that showcase brand stories through VR, helping them connect creatively with customers.
Gaming game strategy
When Tokyo-based Dentsu launched its gaming arm it asked Brent Koning to lead it, signalling the seriousness of the brand agency’s commitment to its gaming expansion. Brent is great at getting global audiences excited about gaming. He has two decades of experience in the industry and knows how to create and harness fandoms.
At Electronic Arts (EA) he successfully launched the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series to grow its participants to more than 20m players across 60 nations. Koning’s fresh perspective encourages marketers to view gaming audiences as part of traditional media not direct competitors. To build consumer loyalty, Koning advocates embedding gaming into all media marketing strategy. Koning is seizing on gaming’s ever-increasing influence on culture to build in authentic gaming experiences that include a wide spectrum of audiences.
Championing the young for fairer politics
Ross Morales Rocketto and Amanda Litman’s Run For Something furnishes young people with the support and tools they need to run for office in the US. Professional political organisers Morales Rocketto and Litman launched their passion project on Inauguration Day 2016. Their mission: to get as many progressives under 40 elected to office at state and local level around the country as possible. They thought they would struggle to interest 100 people, but in their first five years have recruited more than 100,000 young activists, community leaders, students, educators, small-business owners and thinkers across all 50 states to boldly step into the political arena.
Each prospective candidate that reaches out to Run for Something goes through a vetting process while every successful candidate has access to a mentorship programme and campaign experts who give them a foundation to build a workable political campaign. ‘A lot of people feel that politics is dirty,’ says Morales Rocketto. ‘And a large part of the reason our organisation exists is to demystify and overcome some of these stereotypes.’
Run For Something’s engagement of young Americans is helping build a government more representative of American people.
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