Using biotech to re-engineer ingredients and experiences
Jasmina Aganovic is an MIT-trained chemical engineer and founder of Arcaea, a biotech beauty company that is aligning nature and science to expand the potential of ingredients in the skin, hair and cosmetics categories. Having recently raised £59m ($78m, €70m) in funding from companies including Chanel and Givaudan, Jasmina and her team of mostly women scientists use fermentation, DNA sequencing and biological engineering to create new chemical substances for skincare, haircare and cosmetics.
‘Over my career, I’ve witnessed growing challenges and limitations in the ingredients we use,’ explains Jasmina. ‘I became inspired by biology because it presents entirely new possibilities and solutions to the big problems facing our industry.’ In turn, Arcaea’s ambition is to create a future of beauty ingredients that are less environmentally impactful and resource-heavy, while also unlocking previously unimaginable products; for example, formulas that turn straight hair curly, draw from animal biology to advance SPF or help us to control body odour.
Transforming UX in the holistic healthcare category
Operating at the crossroads of technology, mental health care and alternative wellness practices, Will Simon is the former head of UX at Headspace and co-creator of several health and wellness start-ups operating out of North America. With a focus on design thinking and UX, his work focuses on apps and wellness platforms ‘that help people live better', while slotting into their daily routines or using technologies that most of us are familiar with.
One example is Mortal.rip, an app that encourages people to confront and contemplate death as part of a wider shift towards Death Positivity, stoicism and acceptance. ‘Exploring the topic of death during a global pandemic has been a deeply challenging experience,’ he says. ‘Yet somehow this kept us inspired – to create something that might help others normalise and navigate this difficult and complex subject.’ Will’s other major focus is Homecoming, a platform that gives people a full-service experience of psychedelic wellbeing, from finding a clinic or therapist to aftercare sessions. Supported by an app, Homecoming lets people check in and track their experiences.
Challenging gendered design tropes in type and branding
Based in London, Marie Boulanger is a type designer questioning how and why gender conventions impact fonts, branding and the wider design sector. Now a brand designer at Monotype, Marie’s interest in the gendering of design – and ways to break free from this – were born from her Master’s thesis, which examined how letters and type can uphold and promote gendering in design. Recognising a much larger issue at play, this led Marie to publish a book, XX, XY: Sex, Letters and Stereotypes, which seeks to challenge tropes and change opinions in what has long been a male-dominated industry.
Her argument is that, as society’s views and recognition of gender evolves, and once-complex issues around gender become more openly discussed, the design industry must follow suit. ‘Of course, there’s a massive history of how type has been used and centuries of type designers making choices isn’t going to disappear, and I don’t think it should,’ Boulanger tells Design Week. ‘But as we evolve, and the way we view gender and roles in society evolves, then the way we use type should follow.’
Combatting hunger in America with accessible technology
With pandemic-induced inflation driving up the cost of living, and political and climate impacts hampering food supply chains, Mark Peterson has created Ziscuit, an innovation he calls ‘the Kayak of groceries’, to help cut the cost of people’s shopping baskets.
Based in Atlanta, Mark and his company are working to increase food equity and access for people living in food deserts – areas where nutritious, affordable food is hard to find – or impacted by unemployment. ‘Hunger is a logistical problem. We have cheap food. We just can’t figure out how to aggregate the demand and get the food to the people who need it the most,’ he tells Fast Company. Mark grew up watching his mother cut coupons to save money on food shopping, and Ziscuit lets users find the best price for their groceries. After adding their shopping list to the platform, local supermarkets then bid to fulfil their basket at the best price. According to Mark, the tool could save some families £395 ($520, €471) per year.
Transforming hospitality through traveltainment
As creative programmer and co-founder of hospitality group Habitas, Eduardo Castillo’s role also represents a growing requirement for hotels and travel destinations to go beyond relaxation to provide enriching exchanges and experiences between guests.
Drawing on his background as a DJ and music producer, Eduardo seeks to instil in guests at Habitas’ eco-luxury resorts a child-like state of wonder, breaking them out of their comfort zones through transformative experiences. Some of these activations and experiences focus on wellbeing, such as immersive sound mediations. Others draw on a sense of adventure; at Habitas in Tulum, Mexico, people can learn survival skills with local San tribespeople. Underscoring the rise of Traveltainment, Eduardo’s role and diverse programming show how hoteliers can integrate entertainment, education and escapism into people's stays.
Developing African fashion for the global stage
As the founder of Lagos Fashion Week, Omoyemi Akerele is at the forefront of championing a new generation of luxury fashion designers and labels emerging from West Africa. She is known for showcasing the work of rising talents such as Kenneth Ize and Orange Culture, while partnering with the likes of the British Fashion Council and retail platform Moda Operandi to make the fashion from Lagos Fashion Week more accessible to global audiences.
Omoyemi is also behind fashion business development agency Style House Files, which seeks to advance Nigeria's and wider African Fashion industries. The agency helps fashion and luxury talents with everything from creative direction and market positioning to retail strategies and mentoring. This is particularly crucial in the wake of the pandemic and economic crises, with a new generation of Nigerian creatives facing larger barriers to entry in the sector. ‘Countries working together across the [African] continent is the future,’ she tells System magazine. ‘It’s vital that we create room for knowledge exchange and transfer.’
Amplifying China’s influence on the future of fashion
In her recently appointed role as Huasheng Media’s group fashion editor-in-chief, Lucia Liu is spearheading an era in which Chinese fashion, models, style and aesthetics ascend to the global stage. Working between London and Beijing, she is developing a new China-focused fashion and culture magazine at Huasheng, focused on scouting and incubating Chinese talent. Recognising which aesthetics, art and fashion appeal to local audiences, Lucia intends to use this media imprint to make China a global lifestyle and fashion powerhouse, whose culture and values will influence global audiences.
‘Through this magazine, we want to reverse [the current state of publications in China]. In the past, we would localise a Western title. We now want to make a Chinese title and internationalise it,’ she tells Jing Daily. Lucia's ambition chimes with the growing reach of Chinese brands. From ByteDance’s social media dominance to leisure and luxury labels like Anta Sports and Ning Dynasty gaining global audiences, Lucia represents the ‘glocal’ future of Chinese fashion media – sharing stories of craft, culture, intelligence and equality in ways the world has not yet seen.
Giving store interiors a hyperphysical overhaul
It’s fair to say that retail experiences have, in some cases, become bland, whittled down to functional store visits – dashing in and out to grab only what you need. Here to incite joy, pleasure and slower shopping in stores is Adi Goodrich, a spatial designer disrupting bricks-and-mortar retail through a blend of colour, shape and materiality. Championing the tenets of Hyperphysical Stores – a trend that The Future Laboratory will unveil in April 2022 – Adi imbues retail interiors with vibrant paintwork, hand-hewn furniture, bold tiling and even sculptures placed at the centre of the store.
Adi’s recent work on the Dreams lifestyle store in Los Angeles signals what bricks-and-mortar retail is set to become, brimming with imagination, a sprinkling of emotion and slowing shoppers down to better connect with brands. ‘The shop not only feels like a space that the surrealists would have designed with its seven-foot chroma blue boulder sitting under a glowing sky, but it also hearkens back to the retail stores of an era that created fictionalised journeys for customers to experience,’ she writes.
Making space for Black and Indigenous women in innovation
Based in Brazil, Silvana Bahia is co-executive director of Olabi, a social organisation giving Black and Indigenous women and girls the tools and skills to build successful careers. Silvana’s PretaLab initiative in particular helps Black and Indigenous women seize their place in the technology and innovation sectors – two industries where women of colour and their lived experiences, cultures and values are needed to ensure relevant, appropriate and inclusive products and services. ‘Preparing the company culture before welcoming the Black women who are now being encouraged to build careers in the tech sector is just as important as promoting diversity-focused hires,’ she writes.
Silvana's experience is notable in this space. Among myriad other projects, she co-directed the documentary Quadro Negro, which examined the experiences and trajectories of Black students in Brazilian universities. Her care and understanding of women’s needs – and work to shape and democratise the future of tech and innovation – is a call to action for organisations of all sizes and sectors, as social justice and equity become central to working practices.
Giving a voice and platform to South Asian creatives
With almost 30,000 followers on Instagram, Diet Paratha is a must-follow platform, resource and community spotlighting South Asian creatives, fashion prodigies, artists, photographers and design talent. Headed by creative director and consultant Anita Chhiba, its growing audience and reach demonstrates how social media is giving a new generation space to celebrate their ancestry and traditions through a creative, contemporary output. Giving a voice to the marginalised, Anita’s ambition with Diet Paratha is to ensure greater fairness and access for all in the creative and media industries.
And it’s working. Vogue India recently called upon Anita to lead its YouthQuake issue. Some 27 pages of its print title were curated and directed by Anita, and developed with an assembly of Asian creative talent. ‘For me, my most fulfilling work experience is helping create space for brown people where we haven't been allowed to show up before,’ she tells Vogue India. ‘Bringing people together and having them feel seen, Diet Paratha is more than just an Instagram page to so many of us.’
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.