At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.
Welcome to the latest Experience Radar, where we’re getting the best night’s sleep of our life on an AI mattress, chatting ceramics with Seth Rogan at his Houseplant pop-up in LA, and seeing Picasso in a bold new light in Paris.
1. Sleep Tourism Trend On The Rise
With wellness at the top of our agendas this year, sleep tourism has emerged as one of the key travel trends for 2023. Are reported by Condé Nast Traveller, hotels are moving beyond comfy mattresses and mood lighting in order to bring their guests the Holy Grail of modern living – uninterrupted REM sleep. The sleep experience is being given the luxury treatment via an array of creative approaches designed to help you nod off, from sound baths and in-room melatonin to customisable AI beds. At the Park Hyatt in New York, you can book into one of the hotel’s six dedicated ‘sleep suites’ created in collaboration with AI mattress start-up Bryte, where beds boast ‘smart’ cushions that sense and relieve the body’s pressure points, control the climate and track sleep.
Also in on the act is Swedish mattress maker Hästens, which recently opened a Sleep Spa hotel in Coimbra, Portugal, offering dreamy sleeps in impossibly comfortable surroundings. Across the pond in the US, the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort boasts a world-leading sleep therapy programme, which includes time spent kicking back in a dimly lit, glowing purple room that uses infrared tech to help release electromagnetic frequencies stored in the body; a soak in a floating bath infused with 800 pounds of Epsom salt; and time in a meditation pod that makes use of coloured light and rhythmic beats, before diving into a Bryte bed for what promises to be the best night’s sleep of your life.
2. Paul Smith Offers Fresh Take On Picasso
While British fashion designer Paul Smith and Cubist maestro Pablo Picasso may sound like an unlikely meeting of minds, the former has been enlisted to direct a new exhibition on the latter to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. As reported by Women’s Wear Daily, Smith has brought his signature stripes to the exhibition at the Musée National Picasso in Paris to coincide with Paris Fashion Week. Smashing the white-wall gallery stereotype, Smith achieved his colourful look through vintage wallpaper, posters, collages of plates and bright stripes, which he’s set against some of Picasso’s most famous modernist artworks. The show, which opened on 7 March, includes a room dedicated to Picasso’s iconic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon painting, which has been decked out in pink.
Called Picasso Celebration: The Collection in a New Light, Smith was keen to present Picasso’s paintings in fresh and unexpected ways in order to give the viewer an immersive rather than an observational, experience. Colour is key here: Picasso’s Blue Period room is drenched in bright colours to offset the sombre works, while another dedicated to Picasso’s bullfighting artworks glows blood red. Smith wanted the show to be relevant to a contemporary audience and can relate to Picasso’s constant need for reinvention. “He was always interested in new ideas and themes, which is the same for me, as you have to keep thinking and rethinking new ideas to remain relevant in fashion,” Smith told WWD.
3. Niche Pop-Ups Are Having A Moment
Forget generic activations trying to target every man and his dog: pop-ups are being given a reboot this year in order to cater to ever more niche audiences. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, the latest retail and hospitality initiatives are focused on offering unique experiences for like-minded customers and reflect a shift in consumer behaviour towards more meaningful ways to spend their time and money. Actor Seth Rogen’s cannabis company Houseplant is welcoming fans into its world via creative retreats that can be booked on Airbnb. The LA stays include a pottery studio tour, snacks, music, and ceramic-making tips from Rogen.
Over in New York, H&M has launched the second chapter of its ‘Move Studio’ as part of its rotational and themed location in Williamsburg. Described as a ‘tactile playground’ that ‘aims to democratise movement, making it fun, inclusive and stylish’, the studio encourages playful movement via a range of exercise classes, from yoga and dance to pilates While at the 13th century Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Danish brand Vipp has taken up temporary residency, allowing guests the chance to stay in a ‘livable installation’ from April to May. We love the emergence of this trend, which unites creator communities through their shared interests in order to foster more meaningful interactions and spark ideas.
4. Solo Travel Trend Takes Off
With actor Emma Watson having announced in 2019 that she’s ‘self-partnered’ and Miley Cyrus singing that she can love herself better than any man can, it’s unsurprising that 2023 looks set to be the year when solo travel goes mainstream. A growing number of adventurers are embracing the hassle-free joy of solo travel in order to pursue niche interests and fulfil personal globetrotting goals. Solo holiday experts Friendship Travel has seen a 9% increase in bookings post pandemic as lone wolves seek to roam the world now restrictions have been lifted.
The stigma surrounding flying solo has eased and an increasing number of tour operators are catering for single stays. There are many benefits of solo travel, from building self-confidence and learning new skills to becoming more resourceful. In tandem with the trend is the emergence of wellness tourism and healing holidays, in which travellers seek up their resilience and self-reliance by spending time in nature. Keen to ride the wave, Alain de Botton’s The School of Life has launched a series of four-day therapeutic retreats at 42 Acres in Somerset to help break down barriers and heal old wounds via guidance from experienced psychotherapists in a friendly and compassionate environment.
5. San Fran Musuem Shines Light On AI
A quirky new museum in San Francisco’s Mission District aims to shine a light on AI and its potential to be both a creative and corruptive force. As reported by Wired, the Misalignment Museum imagines a future in which AI starts to take the route of becoming self aware and sets about killing off humanity. The brainchild of Audrey Kim, in her vision of AI the algorithms fortunately self-correct and stop short of kick-starting a global apocalypse. According to Wired, the space is “presented as a memorial of humankind’s future near-miss with extinction”. The museum is home to a deepfake of Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking from a script generated by ChatGPT and typing Viennese robots made from Spam tins.
The aim of the venue is to spark conversations about the implications of intelligent tech. The upper floor boasts piano music composed with bacteria, an interactive play on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, and an installation that uses computer vision from Google to describe people and objects that appear in front of a camera. The project is timely, given the current whisperings in the tech industry that we’re on the cusp of seismic change when it comes to AI, and are edging ever closer to the reality of artificial general intelligence, or AGI, which Kim categorises as ‘the ability to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human can’. “AI is going to affect all of us, so the aim of the museum is to get people thinking about it and forming their own opinions,” Kim told Wired.
6. Stranger Things The Play Coming To UK
Netflix has made no secret of the fact that it has bold ambitions to turn its popular TV shows into all-encompassing lifestyle franchises, so its latest move to turn sci-fi hit Stranger Things into a stage play comes as no surprise. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the play, based on the Duffer brothers’ series, is a first for the streaming service and will make its debut at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End this year, with tickets going on sale in spring. Titled Stranger Things: The First Shadow, the play is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in 1959, over two decades earlier than when the show takes place.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, the play is a journey into the past that sets the groundwork for the future of Stranger Things, and will include younger versions of a number of key characters in the show, including Jim Hopper, the town’s police chief, alongside new characters. The spooky sci-fi series, which launched in 2016 and is currently on its fourth season, is infused with 80s nostalgia, making it one of Netflix’s most successful franchises to date. The show has spawned a series of immersive experience spin-offs that allow fans to interact with their favourite characters and play a starring role in the narrative.
7. Your Fridge Knows How You Feel
The future is already here, if our home appliances are anything to go by. It’s not enough for your cooker or vacuum cleaner to perform their primary functions any more – they’re now expected to tap into how you’re feeling and respond accordingly. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, the consumer thirst for emotional wellbeing is tricking into everyday life, and appliances are being reimagined in order to deliver optimum comfort and compassion. The language homeware specialists are using to shift their stock is changing too – Ikea is keen to encourage a shift in the perception of lighting from ‘functional’ to ‘emotional’.
Its latest lighting collection, created by Sabine Marcelis, leverages direct and indirect light designed to evoke ‘calmness, emotion, serenity and curiosity in the home’. Meanwhile, LG’s MoodUp fridge made its debut at CES this year. More than just a food chiller, the device is designed to reflect its owner’s emotional state via customisable LED door panels with 23 colour settings, seasonal settings, and even emotional pre-set settings. The gadget has sensors on its panels that can detect and react when its owner enters the kitchen, while a built-in Bluetooth speaker can connect to other devices to play music as the LED lights in the doors flash in time to the beat. Home time just got a whole lot more fun…