Excerpts from Label Networks%uFFFD Zeitgeist Report 2009
By Kathleen Gasperini

The “official recession” and current economic crisis has changed the name of the game for many brands across the board in terms of creating effective future business strategies. Recently we have been asked (more often than usual), how can one forecast in such a changing and volatile marketplace? However, those of us working in youth culture markets are often at the forefront of change and are far more familiar with the fast-past lifestyle of change than those in other markets. Change is the constant to what we study. By understanding the crossover behavioral patterns, influences, and inspiration of each new generation, you can get an understanding of some key themes that will shape the course of the future as things change.

In Label Networks’ 2009 Zeitgeist Report we take a look at 3 main themes of lifestyle choices among today’s youth culture markets of 13-30-year-olds -some of which have been on course for more than just the last 6 months to a year of the latest recession, and others that we believe will continue to prosper in 2009 and 2010, especially if the current economic meltdown continues.

Lifestyle Choices: Cross-over Culture

Hi-Lo: One of the strongest trends in youth culture is the ongoing collaboration of mixing and matching eras, old with new, technology with tactile characteristics and patterns. Some key aspects include:
Craftivism The Handmade Nation -The rise of crafting guilds in today’s high-tech world is continuing. For example, the online retailer of crafting Etsy.com has increased their sales revenue from $3.8 million in 2006, to $26 million in 2007, to $100 million in 2008. Etsy.com hosts more than 180,000 crafters or artists and carries 2 million products per day. They are also unique in that they help perpetuate the scene by hosting local crafting classes at their offices and in various workshop locations.
Crafting is a very social scene and very much a part of the social networking generation. There are also clubs of crafters that people have created such as the Church of Craft, Craft Mafia, and even crafting happy hours at local clubs and pubs. Crafting fairs are also growing in popularity such as Bazaar Bizarre (which had a 300% increase in exhibitors in 2008), the Felt Club, and Craft Con -all national crafting events.
Today’s sense of crafting is different than your mother’s sense of crafting in the 50’s and 60’s because first off, it’s post-gender -meaning that both genders participate. It’s also not about perfection as it once was but more DIY and indie and making something that’s unique and one-of-a-kind -even a form of protest. For example as shown here, Anne Campbell’s “Warm Gun” series where by she handcrafted knitted muzzles on cannons to make her statement. Hot items currently include the rise of feltadermy (stuffed felt animal heads mounted on boards as plaques) which is also known as vegan taxidermy; demento mori figures such as Emily-Strange like dolls or ghoulish looking characters or dark motifs in tea cozies, plushy dolls, Ugly Dolls which are enormously popular in the United States, and Nomsters, in Mexico and Central America which are similar to Ugly Dolls.
Part of the hi-lo craftivism includes environmentalism and not wanting to buy mass-produced products. This is the anti-consumerism statement and will grow the worse the economy becomes. To crafters, making something by hand is the most authentic thing you can do and therein lies the attraction.
Hi-lo trends also can be seen in biomimicry in textiles, building materials, apartments, electronics, appliances. This means things that are created through the inspiration of nature and this generation is attracted to aspects that follow a biomimicry pattern. You will see this even more in new apartments for young people, furniture design, fabrics, and what these fabrics can do, (i.e., change color depending on light like a chameleon or cell phone charging bags from decorative solar panels on the sides of bags).
Lo-Fi or analog as Hi-Fi art as seen with what motorcycle artist Shimba Kimura from Chabbott Engineering creates with refurbished old Harley-Davidsons. You see this with the after-market car market, drifter scene, fixed gear urban bicycles, and the rise of the hard-to-find Japanese scooters such as the Ruckus and their growing popularity.
Mixture of borrowed eras as seen with vintage, thrift, taking something old and mixing it with new to create something altogether unique and very modern or very 2009. The scene leading this trend comes from street culture in Japan especially around Harajuku and Shinjuku.

Living Virtual Lifestyles:
Young people are far more used to not only multi-tasking in real time but living in a virtual world and moving from linear to non-linear with ease.

Technology is moving in this direction based on the demand whereby things are moving from linear to web to mobile to virtual, then back to real. An example would be H&M creating designs from fans creating designs on avatars using Second Life. Top designs are chosen among winners, then made in reality in real fabrics and placed into stores and sold physically in a store, or online, or on mobile phones.
Unreal as real such as ad spoofs that resonate and usually are either highly creative or funny, such as the WESC clothing brand and their street-horsing campaign that people loved so much. WESC ended up even creating a book out of it and it became a key promotional campaign for their clothing and We Activists.
Holographic parks are in development in many major cities whereby you walk through an area that looks as though it has moving features of trees, animals, people, and sky. But the programmer can change up the look to make the experience like a “pop-up” park -one that’s unique and attracts people to come back because they know it may be different.
Musion Events are on the rise such as when the extremely popular Visual Kei band X Japan played in Tokyo in March 2008. The lead guitarist, who has been dead for years, was brought “back” via hologram and played along with the remaining players in several jam sessions. It was so popular it sold out the Tokyo Dome and they will be replicating it again at Madison Square Garden in 2009.

Interactive Lifestyles Result in New Ways of Seeing and Participating:

The best example of this comes from video gaming where by gamers don’t necessarily like to be called “gamers” but rather “interactive artists” -especially those gamers that are part of the development fanbase of creating a game. In video gaming, it’s a participatory process of creation, unlike movies or TV wherby things are created for the viewer. You don’t call people who like movies “moviers” but rather just people who like movies, as video gamers note, so why call them “gamers?”
Another example is RockBand 2 whereby you can not only create your own faux rock band, but now also create a business model with your own band merch and rockstar doll in your favorite faux rocker pose which you can order in its physical form online and sell it on your MySpace page -all basically from mastering a virtual existence.
Interactive also comes with the growth in games that promote feeling rather than competition such as Flow and Flower. We’re already seeing the exponential increase in the popularity of such games or interactive entertainment.
MMRPG as a global connector on many levels -recruiting, international friendship, globalization. China, Taiwian, Japan, South Korea lead trends in this area.
Part of this movement is the continued growth of urban graffiti and street artists as cultural heroes which have always been the case for this generation, but starting to catch on en masse with brands and agencies using such artists to create brand cred (although some have not been very successful with this and continue to lack the authenticity that such artists are supposed to provide). For example, the legendary UK street artist Banksy as shown here with his latest piece in the lower east side of Manhattan. Such artists are giving “structure” new information to become something else. A wall takes on meaning as a canvas of expression, a window into another idea. To see things differently.
Rise of DJ Culture is the interactive mix of music and lifestyles whereby DJs are the hot new rockstars taking beats and remastering works into something new. This also includes cewebrities such as YouTube sensations Hope is Emo, Lonely Girl, and the Chongalicious Girls, among scores of others, that use new media methods to create personal forms of expression and entertainment that is meant to be interactive: You can comment back or in some cases, even take that which someone has made such as Jay-Z’s latest piece for the Red Campaign, which is created in open source, and create your own version from his version and so on.

Youth culture is a DIYatribe. Their utilitarian vibe comes from not having much history (because they’re young) but often from survival, out of necessity, which can be the mother of invention. Because of this, when infrastructure crumbles, they are not always as effected and tend to be more resilient than other demographics because they have not invested the time yet and have already been creating what’s important to them. This is why forecasting from the perspective of youth culture is so vital.

For more information about the Premium Subscription 2009, which includes more from our Zeitgeist Report, plus fresh global studies to be released in January on China Youth Culture, and the highly popular Spring Report 2009, email info@labelnetworks.com (323) 630-4000.