Spring Summer 2016: Modern design lessons from Ancient Japan

As we look ahead with enthusiasm to a future filled with wearable technology, haptic interfaces, augmented reality and smart everything, let’s be mindful to also look back and continue to learn from innovations and wisdom of the past.

Natural dye techniques, wood preserving methods, needle crafts, slow surface design techniques, the working & tooling of natural materials, and living in harmony with nature in order to achieve wellbeing are just a few lessons from ancient Japan, along with restraint and simplicity, which we should value and explore.

Here I’ve brought together my pick of contemporary products that pay homage to Japan’s ancient craft skills.  From Sashiko and Shou Sugi Ban to the use of Indigo, these unique products have been made with passion, care and respect.  And they provide you with an insight into important design features for Spring / Summer 2016 trends for Interiors.


  1. The DALMA chair by design trio CARAPACE uses Shou Sugi Ban, an ancient Japanese technique that preserves the wood, making it robust and durable. The wood undergoes a charring process and is then washed and brushed with water to remove excess soot, before a natural oil is applied to seal it.  This technique is traditionally used for the cladding of buildings.
  2. I love the magical glow of Ryosuke Fukusada’s limited edition Wooden Light Bulb available from LEDON. The are made using the traditional Japanese Rokuro technique – the bulbs are handmade by turning pine on a lathe and carving away until the bulb is between 2-3mm thick. An LED light is then placed inside the shell. The resulting bulb looks solid when off, but when switched on, a warm glow shines through the woods grain.  Watch this VIDEO to see exactly how they are made in Kyoto.
  3. The Sashiko Leather Tray is handmade by the wonderfully talented Etsy seller Joey of SubconsciousCrafts, based in Rennes, France.  Sashiko (meaning  “little stabs”) is a form of decorative running stitch technique from Japan.  Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear, or to repair worn places or tears with patches. Usually white cotton thread stitched on traditional indigo blue cloth gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, but here Joey uses hand-stitched white thread on vegetable hand-dyed tanned leather to create this unusual tray, assembled via corner snap buttons.
  4. The Blue & White Beaker by South African-based ceramicist John Newdigate uses a very similar method to Shibori (the Japanese resist-dye technique described in point 7) but here John uses wax and cobalt oxide on porcelain instead of indigo and cotton/linen.
  5. The Mökki lamp-pot by architect-designer Caterina Moretti of Peca mimics the shape of a house surrounded by a mini-landscape that the end consumer designs. It pays homage to Zen Gardens and the art of Bonsai.  Hand carved from White Onyx & Carrara Marble and with an LED light, it is a pot that gives life, light and a sense of wellbeing.
  6. The Ki-oke Stool by OeO Design Studio fuses the fine tradition of Kyoto woodcrafting with Western sensibilities. The result is an object of beauty which also pays homage to traditional bucket making in Japan.  Handcrafted in Japan by Shuji Nakagawa, they are available in Japanese cypress (sawara) and in a limited edition of Japanese cedar (jindai-sugi) with a natural, 2000-year-old patina.
  7. The Shibori Tie-Dye Pillow from Posh Living is hand dyed and custom made especially for you when you place an order. Shibori (meaning “to squeeze or wring”) is an ancient Japanese tie-dying resist technique (the earliest known example dates from the 8th century) using methods to bind, stitch, fold, twist, gather or compress cloth so the dye (usually indigo) can’t reach certain areas and therefore patterns are created.


  • Think about ways to honor and promote the heritage and traditions of your company, manufacturing methods or products.
  • Think about ways to tell the story of the products you sell in engaging ways … not just the technical spec.
  • Think about ways to create calming, edited-down retail experiences (this applies to website design and brochures too!).

To find out more about our Spring / Summer 2016 trend forecast or ways in which we can improve your product offer, marketing or store design email Phil.

A proposition for Designers, Manufacturers & Consumers …

Let’s take it right back to what’s essential, practical and authentic.  

Let’s find contentment, pleasure and beauty in simplicity.

Let’s explore repurposing, recycling and waste materials.

Let’s appreciate craftsmanship, honesty and plainness.

Let’s value comfort, natural materials and modesty.

Let’s begin today.

leather love montage

ABOVE are my pick of beautifully made products that address our proposition at the top of this posting:

1. Worn armchair featuring untreated leather pads & goose feather back cushions by Samuel Wilkinson for Italian brand Casamania  2. FELT armchair in American Walnut veneer & gray felt upholstery by Merve Kahraman  3. Indoor Green dining table/study desk by MANOTECA made from vintage Italian exterior doors (the hinges & latch are still in place) with hand sewn pockets of recycled leather  4. Structured leather trim dress & cape by Colcci (Fall 2015 collection)  5. iPad mini sleeve handmade in vegetable tanned leather & Merino wool-felt (including a back-to-basics pencil & notepad) by Paris-based Etsy seller OSTFØLD  6. Zeus cushion (laser burnt cowhide – sourced as a natural byproduct, suedette & canvas) made by leather artisans at Art Hide

Millennials could mean the end of Trends for Interiors

Towards the end of last year Catherine Burgess, who completed a years Work Placement with Scarlet Opus, asked if she could interview me for her degree dissertation research. The title of her paper was ‘How will a consumer led society affect trends and trend forecasting?’.  Now that the paper has been completed and submitted Catherine has given permission for me to share the interview with you.  Go ahead and share the interview yourself via twitter and facebook.  Catherine asked some really thought-provoking questions.  Questions that all manufacturers and retailers of products for interiors need to be asking themselves:

js1600_cb_and_vrCB: How do you think the increasing accessibility and affordability of new technologies (e.g. 3D printing) – that are allowing people to design and make their own products – will affect the trend forecasting industry?

VR: In many ways it has the potential to be positive for the trend forecasting industry because it gives everybody the potential to be a Designer/Maker, and therefore everybody is a potential trend forecasting intelligence client.  Of course it could be argued that this new digital industrial revolution will not be driven by, or observant of, trends… but at its simplest, it means that a huge new wave of Creatives will exist who will, to varying degrees, be interested in design, colour, shape etc…  But it’s crucial that the trend forecasting industry adapts to changing needs and attitudes i.e. it must encourage, promote, connect, inform and debate more… and dictate less!

CB: Do you think that increasing global connectivity and the rapid speed in which we are exposed to new projects, ideas and innovations will affect the pace in which trends move through interiors?

VR: I actually feel that the fast pace and vastness of all this information could slow trends, because eventually it all becomes overwhelming and that is when people often take a step back and begin to make much more personal decisions regarding their interior décor, or invest in looks they believe will have greater longevity and effectively transcend trends.  Ultimately it is the potential for a move towards greater simplicity to counteract the complexity of everyday life and the huge amount of input we deal with.  Simplicity delivers clarity.  It is also worth considering that, unlike micro Fashion trends, the trends/styles/products for Interiors often need to have a greater longevity because of the greater financial investment, and consumers will only be willing to be pushed to change at a certain pace before they feel they cannot and do not want to change any faster.

CB: Have you adapted the way in which you forecast trends for the Millennial generation?

VR: We are most certainly incorporating more and more information gathered from citizen journalism e.g. blogs, tweets, instagram into our forecasting decision making.  This now forms a key part of our research and consideration prior to making our forecasts.  And we are taking an increasing interest in the common denominators gaining people’s interest, attention, admiration and even affection on Pinterest… effectively what is trending visually across people’s boards around the world is providing us with valuable insights.

CB: Have you adapted the way in which you present trends for the Millennial generation? 

VR: Yes we have made it easier to digest – not necessarily bite sized but less wordy, and much more visual.  Up until our last forecast we included audio commentary for our trend reports and it transpired that members of our client teams who were in their 20s were not listening to the audio… they simply looked at the visuals in order to take on the information they needed.  It is essentially much more of a Pinterest type of approach that we have adopted but with the guiding text and that clients find reassuring.

CB: How do you feel that the Millennial consumer is responding to trends compared to the previous Generation X consumer?

VR: At this stage they do not seem to be quite as materialistic as Gen X, partly because their ‘ownership’ does not necessarily need to be physical, it can be digital e.g. music, films etc… But they are still mega consumers and they have a huge appetite for ‘celebrity’, which means celebrity connected products can be marketed to them very effectively and manufactured trends are then created based on a pseudo desire.  But overall we see greater degrees of individual style among the younger spectrum of Millennials in comparison to Gen-Xers; a greater desire to be out of step.  They set trends rather than follow trends.  And this really relates to their strong sense of self and great confidence generally as a generation.  Ultimately they do not need or want to be told what is In, Out, Hot, Not etc…  because they are making up their own rules.

CB: How do you anticipate that the upcoming Generation Z (iGen/Digital Natives) consumer will respond to trends compared to the current Millennial consumer?

VR: We are expecting them to have even less interest in responding to and following trends.  Obviously this generation is still very young and has yet to form broad, measurable characteristics (rather than characteristics they will grow out of as they mature into their teens, 20s and 30s) but in general it is already possible to identify their high levels of online connectivity, community awareness, compassion, and accepting value system  (I recently took part in judging the business proposals of groups of children across Yorkshire aged 7-16 as part of a competition.  I was amazed by how many of these young entrepreneurs had set up twitter and facebook accounts for their businesses; how many planned to give a percentage of their profits to charities & local causes, which was not stipulated in the competition rules; how many were conscientiously using recycled, repurposed or eco packaging, ingredients and materials for their products).

CB: You have recently changed your job title from Trend Forecaster to Futurist – what are the main factors that influenced this decision?

VR: It was a carefully considered decision I took in anticipation of a time (during the reign of iGen) when I predict the role of the Trend Forecaster in its current form (predicting shades of colours, key textures and what styles will be ‘In’ etc…) will become redundant. I feel it is crucial to preemptively adapt to the new world view they will create.  Their rebellious attitude, mass acceptance of 3D Printing, ecological awareness, and perhaps even a move towards a less consumerist society generally, will mean that the following of trends, and purchasing in line with trends, could end.  I believe a new role will emerge and it is with my eye on the future of society that I recently changed my job title and have changed the marketing emphasis of the depth and breadth of the intelligence we provide at Scarlet Opus.

So what are the takeaways from this interview?  Well we’re asking ourselves how we need to change our services, product offer, marketing and attitudes with Millennial customers in mind and you should too!  What to ask yourself:

  1. Does our company culture help, attract & retain Millennials?
  2. Is our marketing visible in the places Millennials go?
  3. Does our product satisfy the wants & needs of Millennials?
  4. Do we need to call on the expertise of Scarlet Opus?

Our thanks to Catherine Burgess for granting permission for this interview to be shared.

Top 5 Garden Design Trend Tips

It’s August, the weather is glorious (mostly) and right now life is all about being outdoors as much as possible.  And that means that magazine pages are crammed full of this season’s ‘must have’ outdoor products and warn of your total humiliation if you don’t have a huge water feature in your garden by the end of the week!  Thankfully, I’m here with 5 top tips to cut through the codswallop and ensure you make sensible and sensational al fresco decisions this summer. Continue reading

Trend Preview – Re.Found Spring/Summer 2015

Today I’m excited to give you a sneak peek at one of our Spring/Summer 2015 trends: Re.Found. This will be my last blog posting whilst working at Scarlet Opus, so it seemed fitting to bring you a preview of one of the trends I was working on when I first started my placement a year ago (I can’t believe how fast time has flown by!)

Inspiration and Influence

Re.Found moves on from current trends that explore our desire to connect with nature, and our surroundings. It is based on a search for simplicity – we have a new appreciation of raw materials, ancient skills and ancestral wisdoms as we, as a society, have a growing desire to feel more grounded and protected in order to disconnect from the uncertain, online world we now live in.

The trend is far more than tribal arts and crafts, however. We become inspired by ancient tribes’ self-sufficiency, resilience and respect for nature, and for one another.

Here you can see a few of the projects and designs influencing this trend:


1. The Batumi Aquarium by Henning Larsen Architects (to be completed in 2015) is inspired by pebbles shaped by the elements; 2. A Mirror Darkly by Nick Ross is inspired by the ancient use of ceramic bowls of water as table top mirrors; 3. Arik Levy’s Rock is a collection investigating rock formations; 4. Ancestry by Bill Viola is part of a video series dealing with the concept of ancestral memory; 5. Museum for African Art by RAMSA Partners will open on Museum Mile in New York, aiming to be a beacon of African Art & Culture and a gathering place for the vast African diaspora.

Materials, Textures and Effects

The look of this trend, therefore, is bold and primitive with an unexpectedly sophisticated edge.

Textures are deep and authentic in contrast to the smoothness of modern technology that we are increasingly surrounded by. Surfaces appear as though they’ve been exposed to the elements – think wet, gritty, oxidized, heat scorched, cracked and flaking.

A key factor in this trend is ‘material mash-ups’ – designers will combine everything from metals to wood to natural stone and ceramics together to create an interesting new aesthetic.

In terms of pattern, we zoom in on nature – think of bark, rock layers and dappled light effects as well as batik wax resists, woodblock printing and bleeding and bleaching techniques in contrast to tessellated and fragmented geometrics.

Materials-Textures-and-Effects-Montage1. Anisotrop by Florian Hundt is a wood veneer that assumes different shapes depending on the amount of moisture on the wood; 2. Crushed gold surface by Fahmeed Khalique; 3. Ruched Woven Leather by Fahmeed Khalique 4. Algarve Pillow by Margo Selby; 5. Geometric floor paintings made from sand by Elvira Wersche 6. Pressed Epoxy Clay by Floris Wubben emphasizes the importance of human actions in creating objects; 7. Fragments by Lee Borthwick is inspired by untamed open spaces 8. Wall Sconce by Carolyn Kinder 9. Cracked Earth by KAZA Concrete

Emerging Products

Shapes and products are heavy and grounded displaying a bold simplicity. This includes stacked rocks, fractured blocky and disrupted shapes as well as patchwork effects that convey an urgency and necessity.

We can see products starting to emerge that convey these aesthetics, including some interesting product concepts from the recent Milan Design Week 2014.


1. Chestnut and Ash by Sebastian Cox for Benchmark uses coppiced timber; 2. Integument by Carly Vickers is a bowl representing the smooth interior and resilient exterior of seedpods; 3. Modern Stone + Flint Tools by Ami Drach & Dov Ganchrow juxtaposes ancient flint tools with modern 3D scanned and printed handles; 4. Rock by Arik Levy; 5. Salmon DrumTables by Sabina Hill use natural fish leathers 6. Big Pillar by Formafantasma is inspired by the culture of lava; 7. Pebble Stool by Ginger and Jagger imitates stacked pebbles in natural woods and hammered metal; 8. In Vein by Ben Storms is a marble table that doubles as a standing mirror.

Victoria will be talking about this trend (and many more of the season’s trends) in full detail at the seminar Design & Colour Trends for Interiors 2015 & Beyond at  Decor + Design 2014 in Melbourne at 12pm on Thursday 10th July. She will also be presenting a brief look at how we forecast design trends at Scarlet Opus. Find out more and book your ticket here!

If you aren’t based in Australia – or cant make it to the show – and would like to find out more information about the season’s trends just email Phil at phil@scarletopus.com