Feature: Creative blur

BY ARIANE VAN MANCIUS

Ariane van Mancius spots trends and sees traditional boundaries are blurring, with interesting results. Here she takes a look at the creative mash ups now on trend

Strange things are happening in the world of emerging trends. One sector is merging with another, boundaries are blurring and the world is becoming increasingly mixed up and creatively messy.

Go into a book shop and chances are it is a coffee shop too. Order a ride with Uber and a private car has become a taxi. Book an overnight stay with Air BnB and a home has become a hotel. Select a favourite perfume and you may discover it has a companion cocktail too. See what I mean? Boundaries are blurring and it’s really making things interesting.

In travel, gourmet dining options – as offered by Gordon Ramsay, for example – can now be collected at a Heathrow restaurant as a take-away and eaten onboard. Step aboard the Etihad A380 and, if you’ve paid enough, your aircraft seat has become a hotel room. As the catering trolley comes along the aisle you find it is now a Heineken draft beer bar or a mobile Illy coffee machine.

The world is becoming smaller, the ‘internet of things’ means we are increasingly living in a global, interconnected world where everything is readily accessible no matter where we are; and what’s trending on one side of the globe can be in fashion on the opposite continent within a few clicks of a social media button.

Big data and artificial intelligence mean technology is increasingly joining the dots on the globe and connecting us, our products and experiences. Technology has become a real force in life, and as it allows us to see and access brands and products, the sectors producing those brands and products are blurring too.

Witness, for example, how perfume, fashion and food industries have merged under the Givenchy brand. Catwalk designs are linked with bespoke perfumes and now a new collection of botanical cocktails can be matched to one of 10 scents. Guests at London’s Hotel Café Royal can sample the fragrances from behind the bar before choosing their preferred cocktail, each with a distinct colour and personality.

At first glance the trend of blurring may seem to create weirdness and confusion, but in fact the less defined things are, the cooler and more interesting they become. We are used to seeing the same thing in many different contexts. We view a new product as a ad pop-up online, then we see it in our news feed via the phone; it’s there again on TV and again in our favourite magazine. Pretty soon we are reaching for it from the supermarket shelf or the onboard trolley.

Blurring allows us to reimagine the onboard experience, to throw away – or modify at least – the onboard trayset. It has opened the door to food festivals onboard; added street food to the menu and given passengers the chance to select comfort foods onboard – from hot dogs or tapas to cheese toasties.

In the product choices we see Ben & Jerry launching a beer ice cream and Nectar Stone offering tea- flavoured ice lollies; we see prosecco and chardonnay flavoured gummie sweets and Herb n Zest offering apple champagne mustard. There is now wine offered in cans more typical for Coke by Underwood and The Drop; and spirits – from vodka and Jagermeister to Jack Daniels whiskey – served in the tetrapak once reserved for milk or juice.

In some fields packaging is now, itself, edible. We see sushi now being shaped to look like doughnuts while mini-sandwiches are crafted to look like sushi!

The line between restaurant and retailer, between sweet and savoury or between the packaged and the packaging is growing thinner. Choices are growing, getting wierder and more wonderful and it seems consumers are embracing and enjoying the blur.

They are being encouraged to mash up choices that usually come from different sectors and enjoy them sequentially and simultaneously in a single product.

This is a trend that is with us to stay. It’s a sign of the times and a sign we all need to acknowledge and enjoy playing with onboard.