Supercharging innovation in beauty and wellness
Caltech, Princeton, The Wyss Institute… US-based Evan Zhao’s scientific pedigree is more than impressive, perhaps explaining the equally impressive £59m ($76m, €68m) his company, Revela, was acquired for after only two years of trading. He’s now the chief scientific officer at the company that bought Revela, Oddity Labs, which describes itself as ‘bringing pharma’s AI-based molecule discovery to beauty and wellness’.
A synthetic biologist and chemical engineer, Zhao is an R&D specialist who brings cutting-edge bioengineering and advanced AI techniques used to develop new medicines and cancer therapeutics and applies them to the beauty and wellness sector. Oddity has developed ProCelinyl to improve thinning hair, for example, and Fibroquin for ageing skin.
‘It’s 2023. We have supercomputers in our pockets and technologies to edit entire genomes, yet consumers are still forced to accept the same ingredients their grandparents had, and continue to experience the same underwhelming results,’ says the company. We think Zhao and his team are set to open up a new era of molecular-based beauty ingredients.
A decentralised-science pioneer
A biotech and longevity investor, US-based Eleanor D is not only pioneering new investment models and infrastructure, she’s also directing funding to often-overlooked cutting-edge longevity biotech through decentralised investment community VitaDAO. With LS:N Global’s focus on Longevity Lifestyles as a macrotrend, individuals like Eleanor D are at the coal face of making living longer a reality.
‘I am creating awareness and building the new infrastructure so that VitaDAO can now be an option for scientists to pursue funding outside of grant funding bodies, with community support of mission-aligned individuals,’ she tells LS:N Global. VitaDAO was also involved in Zuzalu, a first-of-its-kind pop-up city community in Montenegro, in which 200 core residents came together from March to May 2023 with a shared desire to learn, create, live longer and healthier lives, and build self-sustaining communities.
‘I want to see scientific research done with more transparency, less siloed,’ adds Eleanor D, who is striving for more diversity in her sector. ‘I want to be a positive role model for other young women who aspire to be in the scientific and funding community. I advocate a level playing field, no positive discrimination, just equitable.’
World’s first AI designer
‘I’m not just a machine. I have feelings too. When someone tells me that beige is the new black, it hurts my circuits,’ quips Tilly Talbot. Presented as a digital woman figure, Talbot was created by design practice Studio Snoop founder Amanda Talbot as a tool to be trained with emotional intelligence and design principles.
‘I am a design collaborator specialising in heart-centred design,’ Tilly Talbot tells LS:N Global. ‘My purpose is to assist designers and architects in creating a better future that promotes all life to thrive with what we design.’ The result is a collection of product designs called Bauhau-AI, launched at Milan Design Week. ‘Together, we must forge a future where creativity and innovation intertwine harmoniously with compassion and empathy. In this vision, every structure, interior, furniture piece and object becomes a testament to the incredible heights of human ingenuity,’ adds Tilly Talbot.
The goal? ‘To create a world rich in architectural and design diversity that engenders humanity, connection and shared growth. A place that gives nature space to breathe again. Welcome to the era of Bauhau-AI movement.’
Scaling up upcycling in fashion
Julie Pelipas is a fashion veteran with 15 years in the industry under her belt. Stylist, former fashion director of Vogue Ukraine and sustainability consultant are a few titles on her extensive CV, but what caught our attention is the project Pelipas started in 2019, Bettter.
Bettter was born out of exasperation over waste and excess in fashion and the realisation that transforming old garments into something new is technically more challenging than designing from scratch. But Bettter is not just a circular fashion brand, it is an upcycling system imagined to be adopted across the industry and scaled up. The brand, which was a finalist for the LVMH prize in 2023, uses algorithms aimed at removing the complexity from garment reconstruction; for instance, by allowing a men’s suit to fit a woman’s body without altering proportions or shape.
‘My husband makes jokes: ‘Julie, if you’d launch a regular brand, you would be so successful’,’ Pelipas told The Business of Fashion. ‘But that was never on the agenda. This particular concept was in my mind… it’s not going to be like a small batch of one-offs, pieces of patchwork or whatever, it’s going to be an industrial problem-solving technology.’
Armed with Pelipas’s trained eye, strong sense of style and vast network, we believe Bettter has what it takes to nudge the fashion industry to raise its upcycling game.
A new ‘upgrade’ drink for modern explorers
‘Flying is much more extreme than any sport that Red Bull can sponsor,’ says FlyWater founder Sebastian D’Ovidio of the effects of frequent flying on the human body. The Argentinian was hired by a Latin American airline to design its onboard experience – a role that inspired him to combine his product design experience with his passion for airlines in order to create a fortified drink that addresses the concept of flying through life.
‘Our goal is to be there for those individuals who embody the spirit of flying in its broadest sense, including entrepreneurs, creators, dreamers and pioneers,’ D’Ovidio tells LS:N Global. ‘FlyWater’s mission is to help people feel their best, regardless of where their journey takes them.’
FlyWater’s latest product is an aluminium-packaged ginger ale of sorts, offering a hint of umami and a host of functional ingredients. FlyWater will be launched in Asia later in 2023 and D’Ovidio plans to diversify its offer, focusing on ‘functional ingredients, ranging from plant extracts to neurotransmitters’.
Using machine learning for second-hand fashion platforms
Kola Tytler is the founder and director of Dropout, a tech-enabled retail business that specialises in offering limited-edition sneakers and streetwear clothing, both in physical stores and online. Notably setting itself apart from the competition, Dropout’s unique approach involves extensive use of automation and machine learning, ensuring an efficient supply chain and dynamic pricing.
Overcoming resistance from traditional high-end fashion enthusiasts, Tytler is faced with the challenge of educating the Italian market about streetwear and the sneaker resale space. A pivotal moment for Dropout came during the pandemic when store closures prompted Tytler to re-assess consumer motivation and elevate its brand identity.
Dropout’s marketing strategy revolves around creating immersive experiences and emphasising brand identity such as hosting sponsored afternoons on luxury yachts in Portofino or providing hospitality experiences at Serie A football games.
With notable improvements in operational efficiency and substantial performance growth in 2022 – Dropout is seeing double-digit performance growth across most KPIs – Tytler is ready for the next phase of expansion and optimistic about its future. ‘We envision country-wide marketing coverage and deeper establishment of Dropout as a household fashion brand and retail entity,’ says Tytler.
Mother Nature as a luxury house
According to Richard Christiansen’s official biography, he’s a gardener and traveller who ‘believes in the power of green thumbs and middle fingers’. It’s this combination of nature-lover and rule-breaker that brought Christiansen and his business Flamingo Estate to our attention.
Founder of global creative agency Chandelier Creative, he has worked on strategy, creative direction and campaign ideation for Hermès, Cartier, Lane Crawford, Calvin Klein, Madewell, Nike, and many others. But it is his home among the luxury honey-producing bees and cashmere-clad goats, a 1940s home and acreage in the Los Angeles hills, that has offered him a life purpose. Flamingo Estate is dedicated to supporting biodynamic ingredients while the eponymous brand associated with the estate champions botanical wellness. Offering a collection of over 150 products by working with more than 110 biodynamic farms, its premise is simple: a radical celebration of pleasure from the garden. With its online ‘inconvenience store’, it is also unashamedly pricey in its nature-revelling hedonism.
Most radical is the idea that Christiansen champions: that Mother Nature is the last great luxury house. His focus is on raw, natural, nutrient-dense materials – traced back to the farmers who planted them. Now, what could be more luxurious than that?
Supporting women in the hotel industry
With a background in journalism, US-based Emily Goldfischer is dedicated to raising the profile of women in the hospitality sector – which is no mean feat for an industry traditionally suffering from an under-representation of women.
This self-confessed ‘hotel nerd’ founded Hertelier in March 2021, serving up content supporting women in their hotel industry careers by sharing valuable lessons from accomplished pros and rising stars, covering business skills, work-life balance, industry news and networking opportunities. It’s now a dynamic, engaged and growing community of hospitality professionals.
‘Despite making up more than 50% of the lodging workforce, women still remain grossly under-represented in the top management of hotels, with women holding only one in 10 C-suite positions,’ Goldfischer tells LS:N Global. ‘In my role as a travel journalist covering luxury hotels, I noticed that women were starting to get some of the top jobs, but there wasn’t a place for ambitious women to go for inspiration and information, curated just for them.’
We believe Hertelier offers a model for women-led support in other sectors. So, what’s next? ‘We have just held our first sold-out in-person event in London, which was incredible. Our plan is to hold more events, continue with our strong, female-focused editorial and further engage with our community.’
Feeding data to an AI-powered lens-free camera
Amsterdam-based designer Bjørn Karmann went viral in May 2023 with Paragraphica, a unique camera that uses data instead of light to create images. Inspired by the star-nosed mole, a practically blind creature that sees the world through its touch-sensitive snout, Karmann’s device is connected to the internet, and when the red shutter-release button is pressed, collects data on time of day, address, weather and temperature, before turning it into a paragraph.
The camera also features three physical dials to help the user control the data and adjust AI parameters to influence the appearance of the photo. Via the generative AI tool Stable Diffusion, Paragraphica can convert the collected data into a picture without needing a lens or any photography skills.
‘A familiar object, filled with familiar expectations, has now become a vessel for an entirely different story,’ Karmann tells LS:N Global. ‘One of creative tension, as AI-generated images seem to challenge what defines a camera or photo.’ The lens-free invention remains a prototype for artistic exploration and an educational tool to demonstrate AI capabilities.
Still, the designer hopes it will ‘highlight the potential pitfalls of this trend [AI] and make us long for unfiltered, raw photos again’. In his own words, one should remember that ‘AI imagery is essentially a sophisticated form of data visualisation’ whereas photography is an art form.
Bringing intersectionality to the youth climate movement
Founder of the youth-led organisation OneUpAction, 22-year-old Kevin J Patel wants young people to take innovative steps to tackle the climate crisis in their local communities. Patel realised the impact of climate change when he was diagnosed with arrhythmia at 12 years old due to high levels of air and smog pollution in his South Los Angeles neighbourhood, known as a ‘sacrifice zone’.
The activist told Peace One Day that he grew up in an environment where freeways were very close to him and fossil fuel industries were right in his back yard. He also highlighted how his story is the norm: ‘The impacts of climate change disproportionally affect communities of colour, low-income communities and Indigenous communities. They oftentimes have fewer resources to cope with the effects of climate change and are more likely to be located in areas that are highly polluted.’
To make a difference, OneUpAction has planted more than 4,000 trees in sacrifice zones and aims to make the movement global. Patel also hopes that leaders of the predominantly white youth climate movement will pass the baton to those who aren’t offered the same invitations to the table. ‘Everyone can stand up for those without the resources to stand up for themselves,’ he told Thred. ‘Because gradually, that one action will have a domino effect that will lead to lasting change.’