Wearable Technology: Blending function with fashion

When it comes to wearables, people instinctively think about smartwatches or Google glass as “techy” accessories designed for men! Contrary to popular belief, wearables are not just a man thing! A study by The NPD Group, the US market research company, revealed that women (58 percent) outnumber men among prospective buyers of wearable technology. However, wrist-bound wearables and smart glasses aren’t the only things we expect to see! Smart jewelry and fibre-optic fabrics are two categories among others that are making headway in this new industry being particularly eyed up by high-end fashion companies!

Data, data, everywhere: But “wear”, why and how to use it?

In our big data era, data is of no use if you can’t see it when you need it! Wearable technology is an electronic sensor worn by the user that captures information about motion, location, speed, visualization and more. The promise of wearable technology is bringing into your field of vision the requested data which becomes accessible anytime you decide to glance at it! In other words, it brings the power of the smartphone but this time out of your pocket! Today the biggest market in wearable technology is health and fitness. Yet, wearables can be used not only track your heart rate, blood pressure and food consumption details but in other industries including security (road safety or self-defense), mining (safer workplace), construction and energy sectors (easily seeing inside pipes and walls), retail (increased productivity by accessing information on-the-go) and of course fashion.

Chic FashionWare

Perhaps the biggest complaint about wearables was their lack of aesthetic qualities. In other words, both genders liked using them, but for consistent wearability, women wanted more options, particularly more stylish ones. Things have changed a lot and today more and more fashion designers and retailers are collaborating with the tech world and all of them having one common goal in mind: “women” ! Designer Tory Burch created a line of sleek, sexy skins for FitBit, Diane Von Furstenberg worked with Google last year to come up with designer frames for Google Glass, Rebecca Minkoff is developing a notification bracelet that lights up when you receive a phone call or text and more recently Michael Kors also expressed an interest in breaking into the wearable tech space but without getting into specifics!

Ergo, it seems that Technology has finally found its way into the fashion industry, thus raising some important questions: Will this new smart fabric technology market be led by tech giants or by fashion houses? Will we soon be wearing gadgets instead of carrying them around with us? Indubitably, women are the heaviest users of today’s most vital technologies, hence compelling companies to keep women in mind if they want to compete successfully in this flourishing industry! 

Wearable Technology: Is fashion going to revolutionise this industry? Post your comments.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Sarah Kearney : Priming the energy innovation pump

How to make philanthropists and startups work together? This is the self-assigned mission of Sarah Kearney, Founder and Executive Director of PRIME Coalition, a nonprofit, connecting philanthropists to investment opportunities addressing climate change. Sarah Kearney, a 31-year-old MIT graduate, advocates that companies aiming at reducing greenhouse gases are doing a social good thus they should be able to receive philanthropic funding. A visionary according to MIT Technology Review, she indeed figured in last year’s MIT Innovators under 35 list for urging foundations invest in clean energy!

Harnessing the power of Philanthropy

After graduating from the MIT Engineering Systems Division in 2012, Sarah Kearney who holds a Masters Degree in Technology and Policy, had a difficult decision to make: take a comfortable job or follow her dreams. Sarah finally took the second option as she was more thrilled to address the challenge for energy innovation by putting her MIT research into practice. This passion led her to found PRIME, which stands for Program-Related Investment Makers of Energy, in 2014. PRIME’s mission as she puts it bluntly – “empowering philanthropic investors with the critical tools they need to make direct, for-profit investments that address climate change”. With PRIME, Sarah Kearney, has redefined the traditional definition of charitable work and charitable giving. Ergo, she has been supporting President Obama’s call to action to encourage more private investors to fund clean-tech companies that can fight climate change.

When Philanthropists act like Venture Capitalists

How to foster social change with donations? According to Stanford Innovation Social Review, philanthropists who want to help change the world need to act more like venture capitalists. This is exactly what Kearney believes in and is achieving with PRIME. “By working with PRIME, foundations can fund the world-changing companies of tomorrow, enjoy best-in-class investment expertise without footing the bill alone, address climate change directly, and get their grants back to redeploy,” Kearney says. These days VC funding for early stage energy startups has all but dried up and therefore foundations have an important card to play. In fact, if you look at the “funding” as a grant, it is absolutely ingenious – a superior form of philanthropy – but if you look at it from the VC perspective, it is not an attractive investment. Consequently, if the grants provided by Foundations for “good causes” also happen to make a bunch of money back, well, then that’s a truly excellent upside.

Venture philanthropy (VP), could be a definition for this new kind of venture. It is based on similar concepts and techniques from VC but applying them to achieve a social, rather than a financial, return. “My MIT thesis suggested that it’s time to do the same thing for a different type of company that may not return capital in seven years, but whose product or service is critical to our society’s long-term future.” By and large, Kearney’s vision goes beyond VP as she aims at not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by vivifying the clean-tech sector with philanthropic capital but also making sure that “for-profit nonprofits” do not sound like an oxymoron anymore!

*prime the pump: stimulate or support the growth or success of something by supplying it with money

Should Philanthropists act more like Venture Capitalists? Share your thoughts!

Losing my religion…*

I thought that my next story would be about Syria and the fate of immigrants knocking at the doors of Europe. The title was almost found and the angle of the story too… But this Tuesday morning, while I was sipping my cup of tea, my Iphone started going crazy with Twitter notifications about the bombings in Brussels. I switched on the news channel to realise that it was November 13th all over again… After Charlie Hebdo, Paris, now Brussels! Was it a surprise? Well, no…  “We were fearing terrorist attacks and that has now happened” Charles Michel, the Belgian Prime Minister told reporters.

November 13th all over again…

Charlie Hebdo’s shootings, in January 2015, were the beginning of a series of deadly attacks against freedom of speech, democracy and Europe! The planet was in shock and “Je suis Charlie” banners were brandished from East to West while blue – white – red flags flaunted across the globe. Ten months later, it was Paris or rather the Parisian “Good life” that was assailed. Hundreds of innocents died and were seriously wounded but this time, World leaders personally expressed their solidarity with France during the peace march in the French Capital.

Everybody knew that this was just the beginning of a war against freedom and fear started gaining ground raising a crucial question: Who’s next? Obviously, if assailants wanted to harm the Old Continent they had to strike at the heart! It was just a question of time… And then it happened!

Cradle of Jihadism in Europe

How Brussels, Capital of Europe and headquarters of many European institutions, as well as the NATO, has today become the heart of Jihadism in Europe? The Belgian capital symbolises the power of Europe. Mocking Europe, by creating a “Jihadism Hub” only blocks away from the EU institutions, in other words, a slap in the face of our leaders! Their laxness and inability to coordinate a common action to eradicate terror has been confirmed with this latest act of terrorism signed ISIS. Who were the assaulters? Well no surprise here again… ISIS, of course, but the very same group linked to those involved in the Paris attacks last November. EU leaders knew that this was coming but were unable to stop them! The “lost children of the Republic”, as they are called here in France, have struck once again and here we are helpless and “accepting the unacceptable”!

While our leaders are still debating over the root causes of terrorism, extremists continue to lure tormented fanatics to their cause. How to prevent radicals from becoming a threat? By identifying the true underlying problems fostering radicalism which are not necessarily ‘Poverty and Ignorance’ as many experts put it but the desperation of a youth in quest for change and identity who are primarily suffering from a feeling of victimhood!

These guys were born here in Europe, they are French or Belgian and often don’t even speak arabic. They are pure products of a system (social, political) where they don’t actually fit in! One thing is for sure, Europe urgently needs to look at this chaotic situation with a new angle and find an effective antidote to stop feeding terrorism with the blood of our Youth!

* Losing my religion: losing one’s temper, flying off the handle 

Youth radicalisation: Beyond religious fundamentalism? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Crowd power: Is Crowdfunding crowding out Angel Investment and Venture Capital?

Launching a business today is not nearly as much a hassle as it was a decade ago. Innovative new technologies have unlocked fresh ways to raise money for startups, thus allowing capital to become accessible to innovators who wouldn’t have had access to it before. So now, more than ever, before engaging with potential investors, it behooves an entrepreneur to examine all the pros and cons of the various funding options so readily available. Let’s have a quick look at the “big three” funding options.

Angel Investment or Venture Capital

Why do angels exist? After all, based on sheer definitions, the two are seemingly the same thing. Like venture capitalists, business angels invest in a company’s development in exchange for a better than average return. However, what makes angel investors unique is that besides the appeal of any future ROI, they are usually motivated by altruism— the desire to see new and perhaps innovative businesses get off the ground and succeed. In that spirit, the angel investor will, typically, have a more vested interest to not just provide financial support but also advice and support to the business he or she invested in. In contrast, your average venture capitalists are more motivated by profit — pure and simple — since they’re only looking to invest in businesses that will offer security and a high return on their investments. Thus, it should come as no surprise that angel investors usually invest in smaller ventures, while venture capitalists normally invest a minimum of USD 2 million. Nevertheless, although, venture capital investments reached an all-time high of USD 34 billion in 2Q 2015, there has been a noticeable drop in deals since then in Europe and the USA. Could it be a foreshadowing of the new power of crowdfunding?

Crowd power

The concept of crowdfunding was originally looked down upon by professional investors, who saw it as entirely too idealistic. But according to the research firm Massolution’s annual report, the crowdfunding industry is on a roll: rapidly moving to overtake both venture capital and angel investing by 2016. With an estimated market value of USD 34 billion in 2015, crowdfunding has come a long, long way since its valuation of USD 880 million just five short years ago. So, just what is crowdfunding? And what makes it such a big deal? By definition, crowdfunding is the practice of raising funds from the online community in order to finance any kind of project. Counterintuitively, at least to conventional wisdom, “unconventional” industries – such as music and recording arts, films and performing arts, are not the only industries attracted by crowdfunding. Business and entrepreneurship have remained the most popular crowdfunding category, having collected USD 6.7 billion in 2014, these two sectors represent more than 40% of the global crowdfunding volume. Social causes (USD 3.06 billion) and real estate (USD 1.01 billion) complete the top five categories.

Venture capital funding and angel investing might account for roughly USD 30 billion and USD 20 billion a year, respectively, but the World Bank estimates that crowdfunding will reach USD 90 billion by 2020. That said, if the current trend of doubling year-over-year continues, it may well reach this figure by 2017! A giant new capital market is taking shape before our very eyes, so don’t underestimate the power of the crowd!

Ultimately, angels, venture capitalists, and crowdfunders all give capital in exchange for equity in a business, differing from each other mostly by the amount of stake in the enterprise they are willing to take! So, how much ownership are you willing to give up, and at what price?

Do you believe in crowd power? Share your comments!

Picture above: Courtesy Swarm Store ©

Luxury Jewellery : Ethics and Sustainability

Luxury brands, particularly those associated with jewellery, exude a seductive aura of prestige, wealth and exclusivity. No doubt because of the highly decorative, but hardly practical nature of its products, this industry wouldn’t seem prone to ethical and socially responsible behaviours. Yet, you’ll be surprised to learn that in recent years, the luxury jewellery industry has been taking such business ideals as sustainability, ethics and traceability very seriously.

Luxury and sustainability – an oxymoron?

In today’s booming luxury jewellery industry, sustainability – for a product that ultimately is dug out of the earth – seems like a paradox. You probably wouldn’t expect to find those two words in the same sentence, and many even see them as oxymorons. For the average consumer, luxury denotes pricey, high(est) quality, beauty and rarity; whereas the term sustainable means durable, renewable, green and eco-friendly. Can luxury therefore both foster values of quality and sustainability? In an industry relentlessly tormented by the spectres of environmental destruction and pollution, human rights violations, smuggling, armed conflicts, corruptions and other abuses related to precious stone mining, it is no longer possible to to turn a blind eye to these ugly truths! For many big players in this traditionally consumer-centric industry doing the ‘right thing’ has become an imperative, including educating buyers about the importance of ethically sourced raw materials.

“Positive Luxury” for happy beautiful people!

Fuelled by demand from China and India, the luxury jewellery industry, now worth €13 billion according to Bain & Co, emerges as the driving force for the overall luxury market. And, due to this steadily growing demand, it has become essential for the industry to embrace the new ethical gold standard of social and environmental principles. By placing social and environmental priorities on par with the quality of material, beauty of design and innovative technological processes, the jewellery industry has committed itself to proving that sustainable luxury is far from being an oxymoron! Legendary companies such as Cartier are striving to create a more transparent, collaborative and socially responsible luxury industry. Only recently, this renowned French jeweller even joined the Sustainable Luxury Working Group, a consortium of socially responsible firms – including Chloé, Kering, LVMH, Mulberry Group, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co – who have pledged their commitment to promoting sustainable practices in business operations.

Chopard, Tiffany & Co, Asprey and Fabergé were the first sustainability pioneers – who blazed the trail for an ever-increasing number of brands willing to commit themselves to bringing long term change to this multi-billion dollar industry. With a reputation unhappily tarnished by political and medical issues, the jewellery industry’s sincere efforts to endow its ethics and working conditions with the golden lustre of social conscience and ecological sustainability is a gain for everyone, consumer and producers alike.

Is sustainability a response to outside pressure, or rather a driver of creativity and innovation?

Hugo Boss goes Fur-Free

For several decades now, fur has been a controversial issue in fashion. Thankfully, the topic is currently not just a rallying point for protest, but subject of thoughtful debate. While in recent seasons fur has still been featured on the runway of a few prominent designers, some socially conscious and highly fashion-forward designers have chosen to side with the animal welfare cause. Among them, Hugo Boss, the iconic German luxury fashion house, recently announced going completely fur-free by its Fall/Winter 2016 collection.

Fur Furor

When it comes to fur, everybody’s got an opinion… Although the fur debate has once more been hitting the headlines, fur trade in the fashion industry has been rapidly gaining ground over the past years and continues to be an extremely lucrative business. According to figures released by the International Fur Federation last year, the global fur trade has been estimated at around USD40 billion. That’s roughly the same as the global Wifi market industry! Despite pressure from anti-fur activists, “Haute Fourrure” is once again back on the catwalk. It is stoutly defended by legendary fashion designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, whose short-term ambition is to be the single point of reference when it comes to “couture fourrure”. The iconic designer, who is also famous for his outspokenness, recently responded to PETAs criticisms with the stinging comment, “There are not too many people with an opinion I care for.” So it would seem that, at least for Lagerfeld, fur is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.

Meet the new “Boss” in Fur-Free Luxury Fashion

While fashion without fur seems inconceivable for many luxury brands, other designers are paving the way by setting a new trend of compassion in the industry. Notably, Hugo Boss has been an avant-garde leader in the fashion world by not only taking a stand against animal cruelty but by also promising to go fur-free for all his future collections. After recently complying with the program of the Fur Free Alliance (FFA), the famed house of fashion will be embracing an absolute fur-free policy by Fall this year. The fashion label is thus sending a powerful message to its counterparts that fashion without fur can be both sexy and fashionable, and at the same time humane and ethical…

Hugo Boss thus joins a growing list of fur-free brands and retailers, including Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Zara, American Apparel, Esprit, H&M, Steve Madden, Marks & Spencer, Topshop and ASOS.

In a global social environment which is increasingly driven by ethical and environmentalal concerns, the fur industry has come to be seen by many as a threat to our environment, contributing to pollution and the slow extinction of our wildlife! Today’s instant access to information, thanks to internet and social media, help customers decide where to stand. Only time will tell which side will win —at this point, all bets may be off, but at least the battle is on!

Should fur be banned from the runways? Share your thoughts.

Picture above: Courtesy of Hugo BOSS

Living in the Age of Gehryism

Ask the world’s best-known architects and architectural critics to name the most significant works of architecture of the last 30 years… Well, no surprise here… an overwhelming majority will most certainly cite, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao  !

Not just a ‘starchitect’!

A recipient of both the Priktzer Prize(think Nobel Prize for architecture) and the AIA Gold Medal, the Canadian-American architect and designer, Frank Gehry is one of the most iconic architects of our time. This fascinating yet enigmatic personality, known to initiate the design process with a scrunched-up sheet of paper, has earned his eminent position in the pantheon of contemporary architects with his most spectacular design to date in Bilbao, Spain. “Gehry is an innovator who came from outside the Establishment, an architect against the grain whose sheer genius pulled him to the red-hot center of his art,” observed the revered Frank Lloyd Wright, the creator of the original iconoclastic museum, the Guggenheim in New York City.

Adored and hated at the same time, Frank Ghery’s work has elicited controversy from  the start. His fans might hail his spectacular sculptural buildings as masterworks, traditional modernists and other opponents, however, consider his work arbitrary or gratuitously eccentric.

Regardless of criticism, Frank Gehry, is truly “Starchitect”– an inevitable fate for an architect with such radical visibility. The Simpsons fans will recognize him from cameo appearances in episodes of America’s favorite yellow family sitcom – its creators are clearly smitten! Could it be Ghery’s animated walls?

Master of Deconstructivism

Gehry’s “deconstructivist-style” – an architectural movement that encourages radical freedom of form, has been shaping the international architectural landscape now for several decades. As if by magic,he uses sculptural forms that almost defy all rules of logic and symmetry as he creates a building. Some of his most notable accomplishments include: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Weisman Museum in Minneapolis, the Nationale Nederlanden Building in Prague, Manhattan’s Beekman Tower as well as the Biomuseo in Panama City.

Despite his intensely hectic career, the world’s most famous living architect shows no sign of slowing down. At 86, his latest creation La Foundation Louis Vuitton,  inaugurated only last year in Paris, offers a fresh example of his genius! Frank is undeniably unstoppable! Constantly fueled by his passion for ever greater challenges, his next venture is to conceive a masterplan for revitalizing the Los Angeles River in California.

When questioned about his retirement, the venerable Gehry retorts: “I’m too young!” But one thing is for sure, the bar he is setting for the new generation of architects is a long, long reach…

Are you impressed by Frank O. Gehry’s designs? Post your comments below!

FOMO

Is your smartphone the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you check at night? Do you spend hours scrolling through your social media feeds? And on top of that, your social calendar is oversaturated? Yet still, do you constantly feel that you might be missing out on the best events?! Well if you answered “yes” to the questions above, then, it is quite likely that you are suffering from FOMO or Fear of Missing Out!

FOMO Phobia or Addiction to Social Media

Welcome to the FOMO era! While FOMO has, in fact, existed for centuries, its prevalence and intensity has greatly accelerated over the past few decades. Thanks to the advent of the internet, and particularly social media, today we live in an information-rich (and obsessed) society. Thus enabling FOMO “addicts”: in just a click they can scrutinize the highlights of their “friends” lives in real-time. All they need to do is rush to their Facebook feed! This addiction to social media is undoubtedly the main cause behind this 21st century syndrome. The expression has become so commonplace that it is now in the Oxford dictionary, who defines it as: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”.

FOMOitis

Phobia or hysteria? There has been a lot of research on the topic and it seems that FOMO can have a real, detrimental, impact on psychological health. Constant phobia of missing events can cause anxiety and sometimes even depression, especially for the under-30 crowd. In extreme cases, these social insecurities can even lead to violence and feelings of shame! So why can’t we just unplug? Instead of living and judging other people’s lives, why can’t we just enjoy our own? Fighting the symptoms of FOMO can be really challenging. Here are a couple of questions that you should consider before engaging on a FOMO crusade. Do I envy those having a more exciting and/or interesting life than myself? In which case do I need to change something in my own? Can I afford to embrace this lifestyle I envy? Is it just an “ephemeral” or is it going to enrich my life in the long run?

It’s a shame that our addiction to social media, and technology in general, can keep us away from living our real lives to the fullest! So, if you are in the hottest place in town and you are still wondering whether you picked the best option, then step back, take the short quiz above… Well, are you succumbing to your FOMO?

Are you in the grips of FOMO-addiction? Share your thoughts below.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

How Donald is trumping up fake excuses to build a chauvinist America!

What’s wrong with our world today? Well, I’m a news reporter and have been working in the media for a while now… Turning on the news channel every night has become a nightmare… And I bet that I’m not the only one! From ISIS, Al Quaida and Boko Haram in Eastern Africa, Kim Jong-Un, the frenzied dictator, in North Korea, migrant issues up in the air in Europe and now Donald Trump in the USA, with his trompe l’oeil campaign, to revolt not only Americans themselves but the whole world!

Making America great Again!

Yes Donald!! Let’s talk about greatness! Greatness is about those who wake up every morning to help others – with disregard to race, origin, faith or colour -without expecting anything in return! Greatness is when Women in Syria are forced to go on the battlefield to protect their children and family! Greatness is about all those people – doctors, engineers, soldiers, civilian volunteers, etc… – who have left their loved ones to go help those in need in war zones or troubled areas. Greatness is also about all those who care to build a better world by making small unnoticed actions everyday by sharing, caring, helping and working together towards maintaining peace, protecting human beings, preserving democracy and freedom!

Donald’s Trompe L’oeil Campaign

A campaign with an odd smell of “selfishness” behind a person professing Greatness! Greatness for whom? America or Trump? A campaign built on shocking measures aimed at being politically incorrect. In this day and age, how on earth is it possible that one single person is trying to divide the United States with a list of irresponsible Campaign promises? Deporting the almost 11 million immigrants illegally living in the United States but on the other hand, continuing to allow lowly paid foreign workers to come to the US on temporary works visas because as Donald Trump puts it “they are the only ones who want to pick grapes”. Wow, if this is not greatness then what is it? How can getting rid of gun-free zones at military bases and in schools bring back the American Dream?

“Start winning again! Strengthen the military so that it’s “so big and so strong and so great” that “nobody’s going to mess with us.”  Thanks for your definition of Greatness, Donald! I also have a definition of Trump, it used to mean a helpful or admirable person but it’s totally outdated these days! I also found a great definition of greatness for you to meditate on: “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”, Bob Marley.

Is Trump a threat to Humanity? Post your comments below!