From underarm hair to responsible icons - welcome to 2016

The last 12 months was all about emojis, selfies and bingewatching TV, but what can we expect from 2016?

Sussex astronaut Tim Peake's exploits are predicted to be an inspiration
Sussex astronaut Tim Peake's exploits are predicted to be an inspiration

The forecasting company JWT Intelligence has been busy predicting the biggest trends of 2016, and its report makes for some interesting reading. As well as some unsurprising entries like the rise of apps and gaming, there are also some less likely additions, none more so than underarm hair. So throw away your razors, ladies, beauty is going au natural.

Empathy: technology gets a soul

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If there is going to be one buzzword for 2016, empathy is likely to be it. There’s even been speculation that Facebook’s forthcoming “dislike” button will actually be closer to an empathy button, so people can express support for friends who may post distressing status updates without appearing to “like” them. As technology, in particular, becomes more embedded in our lives, the successful brands will be those which understand human behaviour and emotion.

Chimerica: China takes on the film industry

China is becoming more dominant in Hollywood as a source of investors and customers. Most recently, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was funded by Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba. “China is one of the biggest challenges for Hollywood studios. It is the fastest growing movie market in the world, while US box-office attendance stagnates,” explains Anousha Sakoui, entertainment reporter at Bloomberg Business. “One estimate is that China overtakes the US as the biggest box office by 2020.”

Under arm hair: beauty goes hirsute

Remember the outrage when Julia Roberts showed off her unshaven pits at the 1999 Notting Hill premiere? Turns out she was just ahead of her time - 2016 will be the year of underarm hair. Young women have been dyeing their underarm hair a rainbow of colours and posting photos on social media channels from Instagram to YouTube. You have been warned.

Responsible icons: celeb culture comes to an end

While millennial celebrities were predominately from reality TV, generation Z is demanding a new heroes. Meet the generation Z icons, who combine making music, acting and modelling with a social or political message. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, as well as 18 year old Bella Thorne, who has published her first young adult novel—about dyslexia and singer Lorde, just 19, who writes songs that deal with friendship and alienation are all likely to see their profiles rise this year.

Space: the final frontier enters popular culture

Thanks to the exploits of, among others, Sussex astronaut Tim Peake, who has just spent Christmas on the International Space Station, interest in space is rising in popular culture. The Matt Damon-fronted film The Martian, which opened in October has raked in $460m. A new Google VR tool for schools also allows students to take virtual field trips to Mars.

Online universities: education goes virtual

Online universities are set to rise as education costs soar. It is likely that the UK will take the lead from America where the traditional education system has already come under fire from leading Silicon Valley voices, like PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who compared universities to “a Studio 54 nightclub that’s got an incredibly long line outside and a very small number of people let inside.”

Self-healing materials: technology helps itself

The prospect of self-healing technology speaks to anyone who’s made do with a cracked smartphone screen. A team at the University of Bristol, UK, announced in June 2015 that it had created airplane wings that could repair themselves in mid-air, and was even contacted by L’Oréal, which registered interest in developing self-healing nail polish. A team at TU Delft in the Netherlands, scientists have also created bio-concrete that heals itself using bacteria.

Apps that nag: wearable technology goes up a gear

It started with fitness, then it was stress, diabetes, and a whole manner of health concerns. Now the latest wearable tech concept is a band that keeps track of carbon emissions. Worldbeing is an app and wearable wristband, made of recycled electrical components, that helps consumers stick to daily carbon footprint targets. “In the same way that fitness bands are an inward look at how you’re doing, a band is an outward look at how you’re doing,” designer Benjamin Hubert told the New Statesman.

The end of email: apps take over communications

Email is falling by the wayside as people turn to more informal mediums, even for business communications. Consumers are increasingly bypassing email, search and web altogether, going directly to apps for everything from hailing a car to getting a restaurant recommendation. The group messaging platform Slack, which boats that it can help teams cut email by 48.6 per cent, has recently grown more than 10 per cent per month and now has 1.7m daily active users.

Cuba: mass tourism arrives in Havana

Since the December 2014 announcement that the United States and Cuba had agreed to restore diplomatic ties, travellers have been rushing to see the last of the old Cuba even as brands are competing to be the first in. Airbnb announced in February that it would move into Cuba and Chanel plans to show its cruise 2017 collection in Havana - the first major fashion production in the country since the restoration of diplomatic relations.

The Faroe Islands: unspoilt Nordic beauty

The island chain that T Magazine calls “the next great Scandinavian destination” and a “sort of spectacular Nordic version of Hawaii” has taken a long time to achieve such praise. But by virtue of its isolation and the rising cultural cachet of all things Scandinavian, it’s now recognised as one of the more unspoiled destinations accessible to European and American travellers. In the capital, Tórshavn, diners can feast on some of the world’s freshest catches at the sushi bar Etika, while enjoying the unparalleled natural beauty of the Arctic region.

Instagram: pictures tell a thousand words

Instagram’s user base reached 400m in September and as more brands pile in, it is now featuring more diverse forms of content. Dazed magazine has taken advantage of the high character limit on Instagram captions to publish “instastories,” bite-sized articles that feature a strong visual lead. Literary magazine Virginia Quarterly Review commissions one writer each week to create three to five stories to be published on Instagram.

Natural junk: fast food reinvented

At a time when consumers are becoming distrustful of major food companies, brands are taking the bold step of reimagining junk food with a focus on natural ingredients. PepsiCo has already announced the launch of a naturally flavoured line of drinks, to be called Stubborn. We will also seeing a wave of new confectionery brands that champion natural ingredients.

Inhalable flavours: spirits hit the clouds

The breathable cocktail recently hit the London bar scene, so expect it to move north soon. Food and drink innovators Bompas & Parr created a pop-up called Alcoholic Architecture that allowed guests to immerse themselves in a cloud of gin and tonic, absorbed via the eyes and respiratory system. Meanwhile, at Café ArtScience in the US, a device called Le Whaf turns spirits into flavourful fogs that provide an interesting amuse-bouche but don’t get drinkers intoxicated.

Algae: superfoods go green

While headlines herald seaweed as the next superfood, few have yet realised the game-changing potential of algae. Thrive, the first culinary algae, hit the US market in October and could soon become the next everyday cooking staple this side of the Atlantic. The product has very low levels of saturated fat, and can be grown in tanks without the large agricultural footprint necessary to produce other cooking oils.

Chachaça: flavour of Brazil goes global

Once seen as a cheap drink for the masses, Brazil’s national spirit is going global amid rising Olympic-fuelled interest in the country. Cachaça, the main ingredient in the caipirinha cocktail, is distilled from sugarcane and ubiquitous in Brazil, where it has more than 2,000 colloquial nicknames, but has been little known outside the country until now.

Metabolism boosters: miracle cures

Superfood companies are launching new ranges of ingestible products that promise to simultaneously boost metabolism, wellness, vitality—and thus beauty from within. Botanic Lab in London already delivers plant-based tonics to customers’ doors, including Plantmilk made from “high-functioning, protein-rich, 100 per cent organic plant sources” and more are likely to follow suit.

Freckles: redheads fight back

Part of fashion’s general celebration of all things redheaded, freckles are a must-have and can be added if they don’t appear naturally. In the London Fashion Week spring/summer 2015 shows, Preen and fast-fashion giant Topshop featured freckles applied by renowned makeup artist Val Garland. For Rag & Bone and Edun’s SS 2016 fashion shows, make-up artists Gucci Westman and Charlotte Tilbury added freckles to models’ faces.

Second-hand clothing: reuse and resell

Online retailers focusing on second-hand items, have raked in investors’ cash in the past year. While Amazon struggles to break into the category and eBay offers an uneven experience, new companies in the space promise curation and quality control. Analysts estimate that the secondhand clothing market is growing by six per cent each year, a figure that could expand as more consumers discover online options.

Sound baths: music for the soul

In New York and Los Angeles, people are gathering for “sound baths,” group experiences where participants focus on the vibrations of tuning forks and singing bowls. It’s kind of a step on from traditional mediation and is targeted at young people, who are accustomed to constant stimulation, are sometimes intimidated by the total silence.

Talking toys: artificial intelligence for children

In November 2015, Mattel began selling Hello Barbie, described by the company as the “first fashion doll that can have a two-way conversation with girls.” Featuring speech-recognition technology and a wifi connection, the doll is programmed with more than 8,000 dialogue lines and 20 interactive games. The CogniToys startup has gone even further, creating a dinosaur that can respond to a child’s vocabulary, interests and other traits.

Gamethletes: gaming becomes a profession

The phenomenal rise of online gaming is giving rise to a new breed of professional gamers, commanding celebrity salaries. The League of Legends world championship final was played in South Korea last year, in the stadium built for the 2002 FIFA WorldCup. While 40,000 people watched live in the stadium, 27 million people tuned in via live-streaming sites.

Lifestyle beers: new chapters for brewers

Tapping into the changing desires of young male consumers, beer brands are softening their images and diversifying into lifestyle categories, from premium grooming collections to clothing. Carlsberg has recently launched a new grooming range which, resonating with its well-known beer tagline, it describes as “probably the best men’s grooming in the world.”

Extreme dining: artificial intelligence for children

The latest dining experiences to entice luxury consumers are extreme and about accessing remote settings amid the wonders of nature. Earlier this year, pop-up restaurant Raw:Almond was built over a frozen river in Canada and in June 2015, architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron completed a restaurant on top of Switzerland’s Chäserrugg mountain.

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